“No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.” — Buenaventura Durruti
I don’t particularly enjoy talking about politics. It is sensitive and usually divisive, for very good reason. A person’s politics encompass their core beliefs in a way that no other individual topic does.
But I have a story to tell.
I was recently informed by a friend of mine – by recently, I mean several days ago over lunch where we were the youngest people in the room by at least 25 years – that I tend to get loud when I know something can be offensive, especially to the Boomer generation. This is true. I turn my music up when I drive past retirement homes. I probably even drop F-bombs more frequently when I know people are listening to me.
Apparently, I actually made a woman turn around and leave the restaurant where we were eating the other day, declaring that she was uncomfortable, before she’d even ordered.
What can I say, though? I’m a Millennial living in a small town where the demographics are skewed significantly against me: something like 50% born before 1955, and registered Republicans at a 2:1 advantage for the county, based on the most recent data I can find. Being a card-carrying Democrat under 30 kind of makes me unique here.
Here’s where the story really starts: my friend and I were sitting in this restaurant a few days ago, eating our sandwiches and having one of our usual meandering conversations, when a man, who was apparently a journalist of some type, interrupted. He asked if he could get a sound byte on what we thought the most important news of the year was, with the caveat that he would have to have our photo to accompany the quotation. With that stipulation, we both refused. He thanked us for our time and continued walking through, looking for someone else’s meal to ruin.
As soon as he was out of earshot, I asked my friend if she knew what the first thing was that came to mind for me when he’d asked.
“No, what?” I could see the concern on her face, given her knowledge of my tendency to be explicit in my thoughts.
This was why I couldn’t give an answer. Even though I work overnight and have contact with very few people on a daily basis, I still work in hospitality, and serve as some sort of representative for our town. What I think is the most important news of the year would not go over well with our guests, my management, or our population at large. And I have cats to feed; I cannot afford to be stupid in print.
I looked her in the face and said, “The Fourth Reich.”
And then proceeded on a five-minute tirade about how Donald Trump is going to destroy our country.
I don’t have any data on how many of my conservative Baby Boomer neighbors support Trump, but I think it would be fair to say it’s more than a few. I can see why Trump appeals to the everyman. He’s a businessman – a closer – not a politician. He speaks his mind loudly and without censure or apology. He wants America to be the greatest country it can be. And for the Boomers, who have acquired more wealth than any other generation in the history of the world, and who, at least in my neck of the woods, lean largely conservative, I can see how this is seen as an asset.
The problem is that all of these, when looked at by any measure beyond face value, are terrible traits for a president.
Beyond “office politics,” Trump has absolutely no experience in legislature. However, as a CEO, he never has to hear “no” for an answer, because, as a multi-billionaire, he can throw as much money as he wants at anything he wants until he gets it. The presidency does not work this way. Lawmaking is a democratic process which requires multiple levels of voting. Foreign policy cannot be handled by an off-the-books business deal. And God forbid we give this man the title of commander-in-chief: ordering airstrikes on people who disagree with your policies comes with many more consequences than filing a SLAPP lawsuit.
And his ideas for “making America great again” are rife with racist, nationalist, and bourgeoisie message. Ban Muslim travel to the US? (What of our millions of Muslim citizens?) Build a wall across our border with Mexico? (How, exactly, does he plan to force Mexico to pay for it?) Reduce corporate tax rates to only 15%? (Is he going to fund our nation with his own money, like he is this campaign?)
Donald Trump is truly comparable to Adolf Hitler, who started his political career by being named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938 before descending into his own anti-Semitic, fascist tailspin. Both appealed to the common people of their nation with bravado and a call to patriotism, with promises to improve the welfare of their people. Both, ultimately, gave their nation a scapegoat for their country’s state of affairs: Hitler, the Jewish people, and Trump, immigrants – Mexicans and Muslims. They presented themselves as powerful leaders for a populace starving for change, and the parallels between the two cannot be ignored. (I feel it may be obligate to mention here Trump’s most recent rally in Florida.)
What’s interesting to me is that we have, in this election cycle, essentially a miniaturized version of World War II-era politics, and while Donald Trump is busy becoming the 21st century version of the Führer, Bernie Sanders is hearkening the progressive socialist role of FDR. But the fact that this fight is taking place over the bid for candidacy, and ultimately the White House, rather than between nations, truly frightens me.
(Here is your obligatory reminder that Roosevelt is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents of these United States, who saw our country through the Great Depression as well as WWII, served an unprecedented four terms in office [after which time the Constitution was amended to instate presidential term limits], and implemented over a dozen socialist programs generally referred to as the New Deal, including Social Security.)
Bernie has led an admirable campaign, boasting one of the most consistent track records in the race. He has also openly denounced corporately-funded campaigns, and decimated multiple records when it comes to individual donations. And while conservatives will belittle his Millennial following with the notion that “kids just want free stuff,” they fail to take into account the parts of his platform which don’t offer free college tuition, namely: providing a living wage (here’s a brief history of minimum wage in PA – the current minimum still keeps a two-person household below the poverty line); combating climate change (2015 was the hottest year on record, and it’s not stopping); fighting for racial justice (blacks and latinxs are almost 6x and 3x more likely to be arrested than whites, respectively); ensuring women’s rights (women still earn little more than half of men in the same position, despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and our reproductive rights are still, apparently, up for debate, 43 years after Roe v. Wade) and ensuring LGBT+ rights (when a significant number of states lack laws on discrimination for housing, employment, and even hate crimes against LGBT+ people).
The claim against Bernie is that his ideas are too radical, or that he won’t be able to produce the money needed to fund his proposed programs. Fortunately, Bernie has his fundraising plans all mapped out. The only thing he needs is the support to get him the Democratic nomination. After a surprising upset last night in Michigan, it’s beginning to look like anything is possible, despite Hillary’s lead of 205 delegates. More than half our states have yet to vote, and with some big numbers still at stake, Bernie is not out of the race.
If you’ve yet to register, Pennsylvania residents have until March 28th to do so to be eligible to vote in our primaries on April 26th, and you can do so online. Remember that PA has a closed primary system, which means you must be registered to the party for which you’d like to vote – register Democrat to vote for Bernie.