The Opposite Of FDR's 1933 Inaugural Address About Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself
After Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, Meghan McCain tweeted that the GOP is dead. A few minutes later, Elizabeth Warren was Stephen Colbert's guest on The Late Show (video above) acknowledging that “People are angry, and they have good reasons to be angry. Incomes are flat, expenses are up, young people can’t make it through college without getting crushed by debt, seniors can’t stretch a Social Security check to cover food and rent. Let’s be really, really clear. Donald Trump does not have the answers." She told the CBS audience that she thought the Trump show "was the nastiest, most divisive convention that we've seen in half a century. That speech tonight, he sounded like some two-bit dictator of some country you couldn’t find on a map. He sounded like a dictator of a small country rather than a man who is running for the highest office of the strongest democracy on the face of the earth... What Donald Trump says is, ‘there’s a problem out there and what you have to understand is, it’s all about each other. What you need to be afraid of is every other American.'"
And it wasn't just cutting edge progressive Democrats, like Warren who noticed this. When Eric Cantor was the House Majority Leader, Rory Cooper was his communications director. Judging by his tweet Thursday evening while Trump was screaming, Cooper doesn't seem inspired, uplifted or impressed with the dark, angry speech either.
Unless you spend your days listening to Hate Talk Radio and Fox News, you probably didn't recognize the ugly, dystopian picture of America Trump created in his speech, hailing "himself as an American Caesar, sacrificing a life of private ease to enter the public arena and save a republic sunk in decadence, and betrayed by its corrupt and mendacious elites."
Trump, as a strongman populist, does not traffic in complexity. He described simple reasons for the country’s woes, based on the wickedness or stupidity of officials and liberal politicians, amounting to a government-wide “rollback of criminal enforcement.” As for illegal immigrants, he growled, they are being “released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.” He named an “innocent young girl” killed by an illegal immigrant who had been released from custody, calling her “one more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”Jon Schwarz, writing for The Intercept always pointed out how Trump and his speechwriters used fear to weaponize his dystopian message... and went back even earlier in history than Caesar: "Trump had just one message for Americans: Be afraid. You are under terrible threats from forces inside and outside your country, and he’s the only person who can save us. The scariest part is how Trump subtly but clearly has begun melding together violence against U.S. police and terrorism: 'The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities,' he said, 'threaten our very way of life.' This is the favorite and most dangerous message of demagogues across all space and time. After all, if we know our external enemies are deeply evil, and our internal enemies are somehow their allies, we can feel justified in doing anything at all to our internal enemies. That’s just logic...This use of fear to destroy democracy is so old that it’s described exactly in Plato’s Republic, written in Ancient Greece around 380 B.C. Tyranny, says Socrates in The Republic, is actually 'an outgrowth of democracy.' And would-be tyrants always in every instance claim to be shielding regular people from terrible danger: 'This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.' ... As The Republic explains, leaders like this inevitably end up 'standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.' This is how liberty 'passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.'"
Repeating a signature policy that opponents call a fantastical lie, and adding new quasi-magical benefits that it would bring, Mr Trump proudly vowed to build: “a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”
His Caesarism is not modest. He presents himself as a strongman saviour, with the unique combination of wealth, insider knowledge, adamantine toughness and compassion for the common man to sweep aside the rotten status quo, and stop the mighty from oppressing those who cannot defend themselves. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he said, smirking and mugging at the thought of his corruption he has seen, before delivering the punchline: “Which is why I alone can fix it.”
In unscripted speeches at the rallies that carried him to the presidential nomination, Mr Trump became notorious for playing fast and loose with facts and for offering policies, such as an entry ban on Muslims, that threatened to shred the constitution. This speech in Cleveland was carefully, even at times brilliantly constructed, bearing the hallmark of skilled writers and well-honed legal minds who captured the essence of Trumpism, then buttressed it with cherry-picked statistics, polished anedotes and deft nods to the constraints of law.
...Once the red, white and blue balloons have dropped, and memories of an often chaotic and fractious convention fade, opponents starting with Mrs Clinton will pick over this policy and all the others in Mr Trump’s imperious, sweeping address. They will correctly note that his talk of restoring hope was mere gilding. Underneath this was a speech, and is a presidential campaign, built around thick beams and struts of fear, distrust and grievance. But it was skillful. Mrs Clinton should fear a Donald Trump whose demagoguery is so well-crafted.
This was a speech that contained its own pre-emptive strikes against critics, sceptics and fact-checkers. Mr Trump warned his supporters that-- though he and they saw chaos, despair and stupidity in high places with clear eyes-- vested interests in big business, big government and the establishment media would rush to tell them that they were wrong and foolish. Put another way, Mr Trump told his supporters that doubting him makes them dupes of the elites, while believing him uncritically is a mark of sophistication.
The Cleveland speech ended with a nifty, if not wholly truthful flourish. Mr Trump claimed that Mrs Clinton asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge: “I’m With Her”. That is nonsense: the phrase is a Clinton campaign slogan found on bumper stickers, not in a blood oath. But Mr Trump offered a clever alternative. His pledge, he told the crowd and millions watching at home, is “I’m with you.” Still more simply, he went on: “I am your voice.”
Republican primary voters have already spoken by choosing Mr Trump as their presidential nominee. If in November a majority of general election voters hear their voice in Mr Trump’s words, it is not just the American republic will be changed forever. The world should fear this man who sells himself as a new Caesar.
Americans would do well to watch closely what the populist democratically elected in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is doing to his country just as Trump is building his own case. Trump has been constantly compared to Mussolini, Hitler and Putin for the last year. Not many Americans know who Erdogan is, but if they did, they would recognize Trump and Trumpism in full flower.
Yesterday David Brooks was again warning NY Times readers about a Trumpian dystopia, a world without rules-- "a world in which families are mowed down by illegal immigrants, in which cops die in the streets, in which Muslims rampage the innocents and threaten our very way of life, in which the fear of violent death lurks in every human heart. Sometimes in that blood-drenched world a dark knight arises. You don’t have to admire or like this knight. But you need this knight. He is your muscle and your voice in a dark, corrupt and malevolent world. Such has been the argument of nearly every demagogue since the dawn of time. Aaron Burr claimed Spain threatened the U.S in 1806. A. Mitchell Palmer exaggerated the Red Scare in 1919 and Joe McCarthy did it in 1950. And such was Donald Trump’s law-and-order argument in Cleveland on Thursday night. This was a compelling text that turned into more than an hour of humorless shouting. It was a dystopian message that found an audience and then pummeled them to exhaustion."
Brooks concluded with more warning: "This is less a party than a personality cult. Law and order is a strange theme for a candidate who radiates conflict and disorder. Some rich children are careless that way; they break things and other people have to clean up the mess."