The party out of power tends to run on the idea that things are terrible. The party in power tends to run on the idea that things are fine and only going to get better.
These statements make sense. “Vote for me because I want the job” and “Vote for me because I want to keep the job” are not compelling campaign slogans.
We’re at a strange place in history right now. The party that controls both houses of Congress is making the case that things are falling apart and about to get worse, despite the fact that they wield quite a bit of power. The party that controls the White House insists we are heading in the right direction, while their candidate promises fundamental changes in direction in areas like trade.
The Democrats have got a decent case. Without writing the 2,976,912th blog post about what a terrible human being Trump is, and how he is a uniquely unqualified candidate for anything other than Assistant to the Village Idiot.
When I heard this line, I backed up the video and listened again:
It makes no sense, and is a form of twisted narcissism, to imagine that our era has any kind of monopoly on idiocy and disaster.
This statement provides a huge helping of perspective.
Trump’s rhetoric sounds like that of past dictators, and I’ve written a lot about how our times bear a resemblance to the doomed Weimar Republic.
But we’re not there yet. Trump is a demagogue that has taken advantage of a fractured party’s feckless leadership. He’s trailing badly in the polls, and there’s a compelling case for him only doing as well as he is because he opposes by a very unpopular candidate who has done a good job of sabotaging herself.
Does this mean everything is fine? Do we have nothing to worry about? Of course not. But it’s not time to despair. It’s time to take action.
According to Donald Trump, if he loses the Presidential election it will be because of a rigged election.
The New York Times has called these statements hedging. Most credible polls show Clinton with leads that indicate a shellacking in November. Claiming that the fix is in seems like a very Trumpian thing to do.
On the other hand, this looks like the beginnings of something much darker: voter intimidation. Consider what Trump said in Pennsylvania.
“We’re hiring a lot of people. … We’re going to watch Pennsylvania, go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,”
Trump has expanded on this rhetoric. In classic Trump fashion, five times has become fifteen times. He’s also asking for volunteers to sign up online to become “election observers.” If supporters of one candidate parked at polling places to “make sure no one cheats” isn’t voter intimidation, what is?
The United States has a history of voter suppression and intimidation, and one of the drivers for Trump’s message seems to be recent rulings against some states’ efforts to deny voting rights to the poor and minorities.
But yet again, Trump’s ideas bear a resemblance to the Third Reich too.
In November 1932 the NSDAP drew 33% of the vote, a drop from 37% from elections held five months earlier. While the NSDAP were gaining the highest percentages, they faced significant resistance from the other parties and the turmoil repeatedly lead to the dissolution of parliament, and new elections.
Despite reducing the number of seats the NSDAP held in the new government, the November election resulted in them seizing power. After a great dealing of political maneuvering, Hitler was finally able, with explicit consent (acquiesence?) from Reich President Hindenburg, to take over as chancellor.
This appointment immediately led to widespread violence and intimidation by the NSDAP, even before Hitler called for a new election. Voter suppression was violent and rampant during the new election in March 1933. The Nazis faired much better in the March election but still failed to gain a majority. But as we know, this didn’t slow them down for long.
The NSDAP had a paramilitary arm, the Sturmabteilung (SA, the “brown shirts”) in the 1920s, well before they took power. The infamous Schutzstaffel (SS) was originally a part of the SA before it established itself as a separate organization. Both the SA and SS were instrumental in the violence surrounding the elections in 1933.
Trump lacks such an organization, and it’s doubtful he’ll ever have one. He isn’t willing to put in the effort to build a presidential campaign, let alone a movement like the NSDAP. Throwing a sign-up form and stirring the voter intimidation pot seems to be the limits of his capabilities.
But remember the anti-government militants that occupied Malheur Refuge? Ruby Ridge? Oklahoma City? The change offered by Trump’s candidacy, not to mention his racism, has attracted armed militants and white supremacists.