A predominantly one-topic blog: how is it that the most imminent and lethal implication for humankind - the fact that the doctrine of "Mutually Assured Destruction" will not work with Iran - is not being discussed in our media? Until it is recognized that MAD is dead, the Iranian threat will be treated as a threat only to Israel and not as the global threat which it in fact is.
A blog by Mladen Andrijasevic
Monday, March 7, 2016
The Return of the 1930s
Donald Trump’s demagoguery may be a
foretaste of what’s to come.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini saluting during a public address in 1938.
In temperament, he was “bombastic, inconsistent, shallow
and vainglorious.” On political questions, “he made up his own reality as he
went along.” Physically, the qualities that stood out were “the scowling
forehead, the rolling eyes, the pouting mouth.” His “compulsive exhibitionism
was part of his cult of machismo.” He spoke “in short, strident sentences.”
Journalists mocked his “absurd attitudinizing.”
Remind you of someone?
The description ofBenito Mussolinicomes
from English historian Piers Brendon’s definitive history of the 1930s, “The
Dark Valley.” So does this mean thatDonald
the second coming of Il Duce, or that yesteryear’s Fascists are today’s
Trumpkins? Not exactly. But that doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to the
parallels with the last dark age of Western politics.
Among the parallels: The growing belief that democracy is
rigged. That charisma matters more than ideas. That strength trumps principles.
That coarseness is refreshing, authentic.
Also, that immigrants are plundering the economy. That
the world’s agonies are someone else’s problem. That free trade is a game of
winners and losers—in which we are the invariable losers. That the rest of the
world plays us for suckers. That our current leaders are not who they say they
are, or where they say they are from. That they are conspiring against us.
These are perennial attitudes in any democracy, but
usually marginal ones. They gained strength in the 1920s and ’30s because the
old liberal order had been shattered—first at Gallipoli, Verdun and Caporetto;
then with the Bolshevik coup in Russia, hyperinflation in Germany, Black
Tuesday in the United States. “What are the roots that clutch, what branches
grow/Out of this stony rubbish?” wonderedT.S. Eliotin
“The Waste Land,” in 1922. Mussolini’s Blackshirts marched on Rome the same
Modern Americans have experienced nothing like those
shocks, which is one important difference with the 1930s. The French army lost
more men on an average day on the Western Front than the U.S. lost in our worst
year in Iraq. At the height of the Great Depression, real per capita GDP fell
by nearly 30% from its previous peak. At the depth of the 2008-09 recession, it
fell by about 6%, and soon recovered.
Then again, the pain you’re in is the pain you tell
yourself you’re in. Or, at least, the pain you’re told you’re in, usually by
political doctors who specialize in hyping the misery of others.
So we’re being “invaded” by Mexicans—except that for
years more Mexicans have beenreturninghome than coming here. So China is
destroying our manufacturing—except industrial employment has surgedin recent years, especially in the
Rust Belt. So the great mass of Americans are now unprotected from the vagaries
of the global economy—save for Medicare, ObamaCare, the earned-income tax
credit, public-employee pensions and every other entitlement that Mr. Trump
promises to protect.
All this generates the hysteria, the penchant for
histrionic rhetoric, the promise of drastic measures, the disdain for civility,
the combination of victimhood and bullying on which the Trump candidacy feeds,
and which it fuels. Reading through the avalanche of pro-Trump emails that
arrive in my inbox (by now numbering in the thousands), what’s notable are the
belittling put-downs (“you’re an $@%&, Bret-boy”), the self-importance (“I
make more money than you”) and the sense of injured pride (“how dare you call
me a vulgarian?”). This is precisely the M.O. of their candidate.
“In breaking the taboos of civility and civilization, a
Trump speech and rally resembles the rallies of fascist leaders who pantomimed
the wishes of their followers and let them fill in the text,” writes the
University of Maryland’sJeffrey Herfin
the American Interest. “Trump says what they want to say but are afraid to
express. In cheering this leader, his supporters feel free to say what they
really believe about Mexicans, Muslims, and women.”
This is not the politics of economic anxiety or
dislocation. It’s a politics of personal exhibitionism, the right-wing
equivalent of refusing to be “body-shamed.” Thanks to Donald, the Trumpkins at
last have a license to be as ugly as they want to be.
Mr. Trump’s bid for the presidency takes place during a
period of mediocre but nonetheless unmistakable economic and employment growth
in the U.S. But as a wise friend of mine noted the other day, what happens when
the next bubble bursts and the next recession arrives? A reasonable person can
argue that Donald Trump is more Silvio
Berlusconi—Italy’s clownish billionaire and former prime
minister—than he is a new Mussolini. Maybe. Or maybe Mr. Trump’s style of
politics is just a foretaste of what’s to come, especially if an American
downturn became a global depression.
In the work of preserving civilization, nine-tenths of
the job is to understand the past and stress its most obvious lessons. Now
would be a good time to re-remember the ’30s.