This is a message to supporters of Donald Trump. I don't mean the ones who supported him months ago. Those supporters really wouldn't get this.
I am specifically talking about the supporters who once could not fathom Trump as the Republican nominee, but now are "falling in line" and "getting with the program." I am speaking directly to you. This will make perfect sense to all of you. I envision you regretfully nodding while you read this, wishing you had not become the very thing that makes today's topic even possible.
The topic is fascism in America.
Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution wrote a disturbing column titled "This is How Fascism Comes to America," published May 18 in The Washington Post. It struck a chord. It was being shared, tweeted and cited by Republicans, particularly those who see Trump for what he will truly always be.
Search for the column and read it. Twice.
My summary of it is that the presumptive GOP nominee has no allegiance to the party or its platform, and since the party didn't embrace him when he thought he needed them, he never will. That's one problem. But here is another one. Kagan writes: "His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger."
Most Americans will agree that the primary force behind Trump's campaign is the angry voter. Adding that element to his complete lack of ideology, and we now have the two main ingredients for a fascist regime in this country. Kagan is not the originator of this theory, and Trump is not the original subject of it.
The word "fascism" derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. We all know that fascism is bad, but if asked to explain what it means, most of us can't. There are reasons for that, starting with its near eradication from the planet with the end of World War II.
Umberto Eco wrote in his famous 1995 essay, "Ur Fascism" ("Eternal Fascism"): "Italian fascism was certainly a dictatorship, but it was not totally totalitarian, not because of its mildness but rather because of the philosophical weakness of its ideology. Contrary to common opinion, fascism in Italy had no special philosophy." Eco was an Italian novelist, philosopher and semiotician. Semiotics is the study of meaning-making, and is closely related to linguistics.
In his essay, Eco listed 14 traits that a fascist exhibits. In an eerie way, this list accurately describes Donald Trump. The inspiration of the essay was based on the dictator that defined the governing style from Eco's homeland and early childhood, Benito Mussolini.
And we all know how Mussolini's reign ended. Well, maybe all of us don't know, but I am betting most of the Republicans who vowed to oppose Donald Trump with all of their might earlier this year do.
Ironically, the fundamental difference between Mussolini and the more infamous Adolph Hitler is that even Hitler had a policy platform.
Like Mussolini, Donald Trump has no platform.
The strength of a fascist regime comes from the middle class, its support of the leader and then its blind reliance on that leader for illogical solutions to obvious problems. And for the first time in modern times, there are large numbers of Americans willingly signing up for that program. The worst part about it is that the people I am writing to this week are Americans who know better.
Is it really more important to these Republicans to be victorious for their party regardless of the peril that victory might bring to our nation? This peril was clearly recognized here by them just a short time ago. The candidate has not changed one iota since the nomination deck was cleared a few weeks ago, but somehow otherwise smart people have decided that they can now magically tolerate him.
Kagan's timely and contextual column is spot on. I am glad he published it and even happier so many people around the country are reading it. Eco warned us in a far more comprehensive manner more than 20 years ago of the same thing.
I have written before that there are worse things in the world than losing an election. Losing a nation's soul is certainly one of them.