As we near the first debate and move closer and closer to election day, Trump appears to be emulating an unlikely source – the husband of the Democratic nominee. As some might remember, Clinton became known as the “Teflon President,” able to skirt issue after issue and maintain his popularity even after leaving office. His escapades generally revolved around extracurricular marital affairs, which showed a change in the country’s attitudes toward infidelity. With Trump, he appears immune to a much more troubling set of crimes and misdemeanors well beyond the racist tendencies of his campaign.
In just the past couple of weeks, Trump has continued to show himself as the embodiment of hate and fear, as well as an unethical businessman. And yet plenty of Americans don’t seem to care. Among the more egregious statements and actions perpetrated by the Reality TV star include the following:
· While attitudes on abortion has remained relatively stable over the past 40 years (Gallup) , Trump has just hired Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List (might the long dead feminist and suffragette be rolling in her grave?) and one of the most vociferous anti-abortion lobbyists in America (Huff Post).
· Apologized for propagating the birther movement only to then turn the blame for the entire endeavor onto his running mate, who never promoted those lies, even as her 2008 presidential bid was undermined by Obama (Salon).
· Continues to call for mass deportation of immigrants and the building of a wall paid for by a Mexican government that has already refuted their willingness to do so, though these policies are surprisingly popular with Americans (see Rasmussen Report).
· Advocates for spreading the now defunct and heavily criticized New York City policy of “Stop and Frisk” nationwide (Stop and Frisk).
· Claims we should essentially appropriate oil from Iraq to repay us for the insurgency and cost of the war that we started preemptively, even as this is clearly illegal under international law (The Guardian).
· Finally, we have been given new insight into his business practices over the years, including using his Foundation to pay off legal problems for his for-profit companies (Salon) while also admitting he is appropriating other people’s money through the foundation for his own tax benefit (WP).
Even with most of these positions at odds with so many Americas, Trump is not only surging in the polls, he just shattered the record for small donor fundraising for a Republican (Politico). His brash, tactless, racist, sexist and xenophobic rhetoric, while horrifying most liberals and moderates alike, is resonating with many across the country who believe this attitude is what is necessary to “fix the country” and “make it great” again.
The reality as the race stands now is not, as many argue, that Americans are simply ignorant. I think it is more based on fear – the fear of the working class that the new reality is their permanent condition going forward, fear of the middle class that they are being squeezed downward (a very real fear, of course, even with the record upsurge in income last year – as 5 percent is not going to solve the long term decline in income and savings over a 30-year period), fear of terrorism and increased violence across the nation and fear of whites (particularly of the male variety) that “others” are the main reason for their declining quality of life.
As has often happened in the past, fascism rises when people are in a state of political, economic and/or social unrest, when the economy is in decline and when they feel their lives are out of their control. We saw it in the dark days of Germany after their World War I loss, in Italy around the same time, in pockets of America during the Cold War and more recently in Greece, Spain, Hungary and Great Britain. Fascism has currency and when backed by the very real currency of the power elites, it becomes a serious threat to democracy, justice and our collective futures. One can only hope that people wake up to the vacuity under the veneer of Trumpism before it is too late.
The great irony, of course, is that Trump has been part of the problem for decades now, avoiding taxes, sending jobs overseas, abusing his low income and minority tenants, skewing the political process and feeding on cruelty as entertainment. His billions, like all billionaires, come through the exploitation of others – generally those at or near the bottom of the economic ladder.