Trump is a nationalist. Says the word “became sort of old-fashioned”. He suggests it’s one of those ‘good old days’ elements — not morally repulsive at all — like when America was great. He just normalized nationalists and white nationalists with fascist language. This is extremely dangerous!
(10-24-2018) Trump, at the rally for Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston two days ago: “You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? Nationalist! Use that word, use that word!”
It’s hardly news that Trump is a nationalist. Or that Trump is a fascist. And on its face it’s not even news that he just said so. He says outrageous stuff all the time, planting a seed, questioning basic democratic values, suggesting they’re optional. But let’s be clear: nationalism is bad. If you value democracy, believing that nationalism is bad is not optional. The two do not go together.
I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but let me summarize: nationalism is the notion that one’s country is better than all other countries, that the people of one’s country are better than those of all other countries. The problem lies in the flip side: nationalists by extension believe that all other countries are inferior and all other people are inferior as well. It’s not a big leap from that belief to the attitude that one’s country and people, who are superior after all, deserve more than ‘the others’. And from there it’s not a big leap to believing that ‘those others’ are less human. Hitler got almost the entire country to follow him into genocide — murder at a scale that’s only possible if you have told yourself that those others aren’t people. Trump and sons have already been saying that about various ‘others’. That’s fascist language.
So yes, the word ‘nationalism’ “sort of became old-fashioned”, as Trump put it, but there’s a reason for that. It became sort of old-fashioned like the name Adolf became sort of old-fashioned, and like minstrel shows became sort of old-fashioned. Lynching, killing people by the millions in gas chambers, slavery — all “became sort of old-fashioned”. And no, they shouldn’t be brought back. They aren’t just ‘old-fashioned’ words and practices; they are morally repulsive, universally condemned by every decent person. But by saying that nationalism became sort of old-fashioned, Trump suggests that it’s one of those elements of the good old days, like when America was great — not morally repulsive at all.
Trump is highly uneducated and incurious about the world and the country that he claims to love so much. He has a complete lack of empathy, and the knowledge and vocabulary of a seven-year-old child that watches WWF all day. But he has two things in spades: a keen intuition for mass manipulation and the ability to sense precisely how much he can get away with at any given moment, very gradually pushing things further at moments that work politically. A few months ago he said he was a nationalist and a globalist, shrugging his shoulders, as if to say, yeah, I’m saying this, but it’s just words. Now, right before the midterms, and in combination with his fear mongering about Central-American families with small children who are walking northward from Honduras and Guatemala, he’s going full nationalist.
Plenty of pundits will try to qualify it, saying that he only said he’s a nationalist, not a white nationalist. Trump himself is suddenly completely unaware of the existence of white nationalists — he swears he would never have made the connection. He apparently also doesn’t remember any of Hitler’s speeches he had on his nightstand for years according to his ghostwriter, because the word nationalist in historical context? Never occurred to him.
Even if that were so, again: nationalism would be bad enough.
However, to his base it’s crystal clear that he does also mean he’s a white nationalist, a racist, and a fascist. After all, while he admits to being a nationalist, he also describes Central-American folks walking northward with their kids on their arms as an assault on America, and he claims that there are unknown numbers of Middle-Eastern terrorists among them. Sure, because they’re brown, too. They all look alike, so who the heck knows which is which, ammaright?
Trump is a nationalist and his base knows exactly what he’s saying with that admission, just as they know exactly what he’s not saying when he’s been bashing Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, “the globalist” George Soros, Maxine Waters and CNN since 2016, and his first reactions to the bomb news today were 1) to lazily retweet his vice-president’s tweet, basically saying “Yeah, what he says”, and 2) to wait for hours after the CNN offices were evacuated and finally say that it was abhorrent before starting a pre-planned press event related to something else. In other words, he didn’t exactly fall over himself in his haste to condemn the terrorist(s) or state clearly that his words don’t mean people should go blow up liberals. Compared to all the energy he has used for years, and at every opportunity, to badmouth Democrat politicians and the media — labeling them the enemy of the people, saying they’re really bad, despicable people, etc. — his denouncement of the bombs and bomb threats was decidedly underwhelming. And it didn’t take long before he was back to blaming the Democrat politicians and the media for the situation.
Words matter, those that are spoken and those that aren’t — no-one knows that better than Trump. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he riles up his base at rallies, getting them worked up against Democrat politicians and the mainstream media, and he knows exactly what he’s doing by responding so limply to the bombs today. He knows what effect his words and his silence have. So it’s not alarmism to make the leap from Trump normalizing nationalism like he did in Houston to genocides like the Holocaust. It’s not far-fetched if it’s not clear where the big red line would be between the two.
Where would the red line be? We know Trump has no bottom, no line he won’t cross if and when it works in his favor. Right now he’s playing the innocent, arguing that he’s a nationalist merely because he’s proud of his country, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The next step will be admitting he’s a white nationalist. Again he’ll play the innocent. He’ll argue that he’s not ashamed to be white, that nobody should be ashamed to be whatever ethnicity they are, that blacks should also be proud to be black, that everyone should just be proud of their heritage. And then he’ll tell his followers: “You know what I am? I’m a white nationalist, O.K.?”.
Then, if a while later he’s confident that he has the majority behind him, or that dissenters are intimidated into silence by his white nationalists and blocked from voting in sufficient numbers by enough voter suppression across the country, the next step will be to go straight-up negative, since minorities’ opinions won’t matter anymore: “You know what I am? I’m an antisemite, O.K.? I’m an antisemite. Antisemite!”. And then: “You know what I am? I’m a n—— hater, OK? They’re n—–s! Use that word, use that word!”
Again: this isn’t alarmism. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks going over all the posts on this blog with a fine-toothed comb, including the ones I immigrated from my Resident Alien blog, which includes every post I’ve written about Trump from the moment he entered the presidential race in 2015. The reason: I keep finding out more SEO (Search Engine Optimization) stuff that I haven’t been doing or that I’ve been doing wrong, so I go back and make improvements. I have reread everything I’ve predicted about Trump from the beginning and I haven’t been wrong about a single, frickin’, thing. It’s been an incredibly painful read, like watching a rerun of a horrific but completely preventable train wreck in slow motion.
So vote in the midterms. Even just turning Congress majority Democrat will begin reining Trump in. For one thing, Maxine Waters will then chair the Finance Committee, and she’ll demand to see his tax returns. Then they can go from there.