Special to The Greanville Post | Commentary No. 44: “Orlando, Trump, Identity-Group-Hate-Politics, and the Republican Party”
Orlando: Yet another mass shooting, but this one in larger numbers than any previously in the nation. It happened, as is well-known, in an LGBT night-club. It has been widely (although not completely, see Frank Bruni in the June 15 New York Times and The Times editorial of the same day) reported as a “terrorist attack.” This is very convenient for much of the news media and certainly for the Repubs. For the latter it gives them yet another opportunity to lay all over President Obama for “doing nothing,” not even calling it by its right name (as if that really meant something, and oh, by the way, if he did use “radical Islam,” Fox”News” would find something else to hang around his neck), without of course offering any policy alternatives, other than calling it “radical Islamist terrorism.”
Well, let’s dispose of the “terrorism” thing, in the political sense that is, first. If Mateen was in fact a political terrorist, “inspired by radical Islamists,” he surely didn’t know much about them. For when he made his famous warning call to 9/11 he referred to being incited by ISIS and Hezbollah. The problem there is that the former is a Sunni organization while the latter is Shiite, and they don’t even talk with each other. In Iraq and other parts of the ME they have often fought each other in the most brutal and barbaric way, from the neighborhood level to widespread sectarian strife to that of nation states (the Iraq-Iran war, for example).
No, as more evidence about Mr. Mateen and his life and times becomes available it is becoming increasingly clear that he was very likely a closeted gay man filled with self-loathing and rage, which the homophobic prejudice that is clearly present in certain elements of Islam (just like certain elements of Christianity which, in this country, have become all too apparent in the wake of Orlando) certainly could have helped to create within him. But the Repubs., and certainly their current leader, just love to talk about “terrorism” (created of course in perfect bipartisanship by Democratic and then Republican policies alike going back to the US-supported insurrection in Afghanistan and the arch-criminal assaults on Iraq and Syria and Libya) and blame it all on Barack Obama, who, incidentally is by now, considering all the wars and coups he has instigated and supported, not to mention his abject “pivot to Asia”, which could land the world in a huge nuclear conflict, one of the most aggressive and hypocritical imperialists in modern times.
SIDEBAR ENDS HERE. REGULAR TEXT RESUME BELOW THIS LINEBut then let’s get to Trump. (Boy, have I dealt with him a lot in my columns, going back to last fall [e.g., “Hair Trump or Herr Trump?”]. I really thought, like many other observers, that he would be sinking himself really soon, and I would soon be done with him. But like a bad egg he has just kept on popping up. And who can resist writing about him, because he is such a significant obviously negative in U.S. history and politics — with staying power. And oh yes, the hair? Now there’s talk that it’s a weave job, not all his, or even in part transplanted. But it’s his politics, not his hair, that’s the real problem.)
Trump is now expanding on his theme of identity-group-hate politics, this time, of course, aimed at Muslims. We’ve heard the “ban Muslim immigration” thing before. But he has borrowed Ted Cruz’ proposal to patrol “Muslim neighborhoods” and set up watches on mosques. Further, he has accused the “Muslim community of harboring Mateen, and maybe other “foreign terrorists” as well. That Mateen was born here, like the principal shooter in San Bernardino, is beside the point for Trump. That his father emigrated to the U.S. during the Reagan Era, fleeing the U.S.-created civil war in Afghanistan, is beside the point. He is one of THEM. And “we have to find out what is going on.”
When Ted Cruz talked like this, not too many people, media or otherwise, paid much attention, and it wasn’t long before he dropped the idea. But Trump is different. First of all, on paper he has his party’s nomination. Second of all, as many have pointed out, he is a man of slogans, not policies; of rages, not problem-solving. Third of all, he doesn’t know much about much of anything, and to date has shown no interest to learn. Fourth of all, he is currently a generally failed businessman (see the casino business and all the Trump branded products that have gone by the wayside), who lives off the rental of his name and properties that he built quite some time ago. Trump in fact is one of those celebrities who s famous by being famous. But fifth of all, he has a following, that while it is a minority of even Republican voters, it is very loud, very white, feels very threatened by just about everyone who isn’t, and which is as ignorant or even more so than he is.
Trump has used a variety of conspiracy theories (starting with birtherism), free-standing facts (yes, U.S. manufacturing is in the tank along with all the decent-paying jobs that went with it, but that is primarily the result of Repub./right-wing Democratic policy), and racism (the Mexicans, etc.) But now he is going down a distinctly different path: “it’s THE MUSLIMS (foreign and domestic) who are the problem” (furriners donchaknow). “We don’t know what’s going on.” (Must be a conspiracy out there.) “It’s got to be stopped” (so let’s turn on the Muslims, as a group).
Obama made a strong anti-Trump speech in which he outlined just what I have outlined above. But then he said it’s wrong “because that’s not the American way.” Unfortunately, that’s wrong. Because it is the “American Way” and has been from the beginning, and most especially the Republican Way. The first group that can be seen as an identity group to be hated and “to be dealt with” were not immigrants. The Europeans were, but the Native Americans stood in the way, were treated the same way in propaganda and were eventually killed and-or gotten out of the way (with the final Indian Wars of the 1870s-80s waged by Republican governments). Then, among the immigrants who were not English, in the 19th century came the Irish, the Germans, the 19th century Asians (see the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1885), the Eastern Europeans, the Jews, and the Italians (see the Immigration Act of 1924 aimed at the latter three groups). From the beginning of the Republican Party in the 1850s there has been a nativist element in it, starting with the anti-Irish the “Know-Nothings,” an element of the original Republican coalition. (Democrats have done this sort of thing too. See FDR and the World War II internment of the Nisei.)
But Trump is now moving into new territory, even for Republicans, and that is what has got some (but clearly not all — see Jeff Sessions of Alabama) of the leadership upset. As I said previously, with the attack on “the Mexicans” he has already ripped the hood off the dog-whistle racism that has been a staple of Repub. politics since Nixon and the Southern Strategy. But the attack on “the Muslims” is of a different order of magnitude. For he is clearly linking it to “national security,” and like many an authoritarian figure before him, as many other observers have said, fear is his currency. Does “watching the mosques” lead to “watching the neighborhoods?” Does that lead to “show me your papers?” Does that lead to wearing a yellow star and crescent? This is the very slippery slope on which Trump has placed his party, if not the U.S. nation as a whole.
This is what the Republican Party now has to look at very carefully. As the U.S. economy declines, as, literally, the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer, fascism is likely in the cards for the nation someday. (See http://www.greanvillepost.com/2015/11/11/fascism-in-the-21st-century-part-i-briefly-its-20th-century-background/, http://www.greanvillepost.com/2015/11/22/fascism-in-the-21st-century-part-ii-a-21st-century-adaptation/, and my book: http://www.puntopress.com/2013/03/23/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/.) But Trump is quickly developing an identity-group-hate politics, using the time-honored fascist Big Lie technique (Hillary Clinton wants to admit millions of Muslim immigrants to the U.S.) to push it. If this goes unchecked, and let’s say Trump wins after a huge “terror attack,” one that makes 9/11 look small, two weeks before election day. Then: a far-right Supreme Court and then an Emergency Powers Act (see Article I, last paragraph of Section 8 and Article II, Section 2) that the Court upholds. And the guess what? (Again, see my book.) Yes, as Sinclair Lewis wrote, it CAN happen here.
As I said, sooner or later the U.S. ruling class is going to have to turn to some form of fascism in order to maintain its control of state power. But the question for the current Republican Party leadership is: do you really want to see the possibility for enabling that eventuality to be put into the Oval Office, now? Are you that hungry for power? Are you really so wedded to enacting your total program of Reaction, now? Just remember, the German Right, headed by ex-Chancellor Franz von Papen, really thought that they could control Hitler, once he became Chancellor. We know how that turned out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News.com; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine.us. Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad.
Dr Jonas’s latest book is Ending the “Drug War”; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach (Punto Press, 2016)