“Those who do not remember the past are condemned …” — George Santayana
There were a couple of pieces written back in May comparing the then-presumptive major party presidential candidates to personages from history.
The one in The American Spectator comparing Hillary Clinton to Eva Peron is, I suspect, a bit tongue in cheek, because it quotes liberally from the lyrics from the musical “Evita” about the Argentine first lady.
After noting that both Hillary and Evita had foundations from which to draw funds, writer Gerald Skoning quotes:
And the money kept rolling out in all directions,
To the poor, to the weak, to the destitute of all complexions.
Now, cynics claim a little of the cash has gone astray.
But that’s not the point my friends.
When the money keeps rolling out you don’t keep books.
You can tell you’ve done well by the happy grateful looks.
Accountants only slow things down, figures get in the way.
Never been a lady loved as much as Eva Peron!
The writer makes other comparisons, but you get the gist.
In a more serious vein, Robert Kagan writes in The Washington Post under the headline: “This is how fascism comes to America,” suggesting Donald Trump has fascist tendencies and leanings.
“We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does,” Kagan writes. “But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. 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.”
Sounds vaguely familiar to those who’ve read about certain figures in history who were democratically elected after campaigning on fear and anger against the “others.”
Kagan doesn’t leave anything to the imagination, noting Americans’ shock at the violence of the French Revolution and comparing Trump’s rhetoric to that of Hitler and Mussolini. (Yes, that will send Trumpsters into fits of apoplexy and shouting that any such comparison is jumping the shark, if we may mix our metaphors.)
But the comparison has its points:
“National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how.
Has Trump said how he will fix anything? He merely claims he can and will. Perhaps he will wave of his magic purge?
Kagan says this is how fascism will come to America, not wearing jackboots, but by lining up behind a “television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac,” who is playing on the nation’s “resentments and insecurities.”
I suspect Kagan may be underplaying one aspect of Trump that makes visions of him wielding power with an iron fist less likely than those historic figures: Trump is first and foremost an unrequited narcissist, a potted plant that turns in the direction of sun, seeking shining adulation and attention, not power. He will let others get their hands dirty doing real work. Who those others are is the real potential problem.