The Banality of Trumpism
The Nazi war criminal’s wickedness – Eichmann was essentially the Holocaust’s bagman – was remarkable not because it was exceptional, but the very opposite. Mass murder delivered by a dull factotum.
Evil is easy to understand. Unlike good, it can be neither radical nor emancipatory. Evil can only be banal, and, at its worst, extreme.
To stand on 6th avenue and 54th street in Manhattan early on Wednesday morning was to watch evil. surrounded by the glittering, shining sepulchres of modern capitalism, dozens of Donald Trump supporters waved flags and chanted. Rival protestors were viciously shouted down.
Faces contorted in anger, pumped up on empty rhetoric, the mob screamed ‘USA USA’. Spittle-flecked rage was aimed at any manifestation of the ‘other’: LGBT people, minorities, immigration, Clinton voters.
‘Trump will make America great again,’ a middle-aged woman in a red hat bearing Trump’s trademark logo told me. When I asked how, she kept repeating one thing: ‘Trump loves America’.
This is what fascism sounds like: reverence for a single man – for they are always men – whose love of his country (or, more accurately, his clan) will crush all. Starting with those who dare to voice opposition.
But there is almost no talk of fascism – even by another name – on the endlessly repeating US news channels. having spectacularly failed to read the mood of the country, journalists are now busy attempting the impossible: predicting what the first bona fide authoritarian US president will do next. The group think, it seems, allows little room to call out the viciousness taking root in America.
Just as evil is banal, so are the roots of Trump’s election victory: fear, lies and disinformation.
The perma-tanned reality TV star’s takeover of the decaying husk of the GOP was achieved with a relatively small number of fervent supporters. Vote suppression was always Trump’s core strategy.
As I wrote in these pages, Trump successfully used propaganda and falsehoods to muddy the waters around his democratic opponent. And it worked.
The overarching theme of Election Day was that traditional republican voters rallied around their man while democrats stayed at home.
Traveling across the Mid West last week I was struck by the ambivalence of many towards Trump. But what was even more striking was their contempt for Hillary Clinton.
‘Well of course Hillary is corrupt…’ even her voters would say. Why? Emails. Benghazi. The Clinton foundation. Few people possessed facts but there was an endless supply of conjecture and supposition. Those, as huckster lawyer Lionel Hutz in the Simpsons says, are types of evidence.
Flabby and complacent, liberal America has sleep walked into fascism.
I watched the first few hours of the election coverage Tuesday night in a busy New York bar. Barely half a dozen people were following the results. Even once it became clear that Trump was winning most seemed unperturbed. “It won’t make much difference to my life,” said a white, 20-something tech worker.
You don’t see evil until it is upon you.
This might all sound melodramatic. It’s not. The least suitable candidate in presidential history has control over all arms of American government. Trump can now do whatever he wants – and nobody knows what that is, perhaps even the new president himself. The fabled ‘Checks and balances’ – more real than imaginary since George W Bush’s post 9/11 power grab – will do little to impede Trump.
And when he fails to “make America great again’ – which he inevitably will – the great leader and his street support will need scapegoats. And that’s when we will really see evil, red in tooth, claw and Donald Trump baseball cap.