All errors should be reported to

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Trump endures another trite pseudo-intellectual cry of fascist

Historian Robert Kagan of Brookings Institute's latest column in the Washington Post offers a great insight into why the cloistered conservative commentariat keeps getting Trump wrong.

From Kagan (link is to Brookings, which re-ran it):
But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.
And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. 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. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others”—Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees—whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.
I get the feeling Kagan does not like Trump or his supporters. They have taken over a broken and foolish party that is an appendage of special interests rather than a true representative of conservatives. Unbridled free trade is the antithesis of Reaganism, which embraced both free trade and tariffs to protect our manufacturers from the very dumping that Never Trumpers ignore.

Kagan's sneers at Trump, as if Kagan is intellectually superior. Trump happens to hold a couple of degrees himself including one from Wharton and has co-written 18 books. Kagan also treats Trump as a subhuman who doesn't speak but delivers "incoherent and contradictory utterances." I doubt Kagan ever listened to a single speech Trump made.

As for his attitude, all leaders have one. Kagan denies that the policies of Washington (both left and right) have "produced national weakness and incompetence," but our nation is weak and the federal government is incompetent -- or does Kagan think everything is swell at the IRS, VA hospitals, and the EPA? As for weakness, Russian planes routinely buzz our aircraft and those of our allies without any response from our commander-in-chief.

But Kagan convinced himself that nationalism is evil, strongmen too. This leads to an illogical assumption:
This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “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 Fuhrer), 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. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who singlehandedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.
Kagan's sophomoric argument is Trump is a  strongman and you know who else was a strongman? Hitler. Therefore, all strongman leaders are Hitler.

But you know who else was a strongman leader with no particular ideology or party affiliation?


So what is the test that protects us from fascism?

Actions, not words. When a mob led by the terrorist Bill Ayers threatened to riot if Trump spoke to a rally in Chicago, what did Trump do?

Did he unleash armed thugs to beat the living daylights of Ayers and company?


Trump canceled the event.

Now for the kicker: Kagan who preaches party loyalty just changed his registration to independent.

Coming in June -- "Trump the Press: Don Surber's take on how the pundits blew the 2016 Republican race."


  1. For the most part you could replace "Trump" with "Hillary" and it would read about the same.

  2. It sounds like Mr. Kagan has an axe to grind. As for Trump's attitude, I think it's what we need in Washington, D.C. - Elric

  3. I wonder if any book or pamphlet Kagan has ever written helped make anyone's understanding of his life and times any better. I would guess not but I confess I never heard of him and have not read a word except what Don has plastered above. Somewhere in my dusty collection of tapes I have "Triumph des Willens," Riefenstahl's movie about Hitler's Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg in 1934. No doubt Kagan has seen it. If so he has either forgotten in or has no clue as to how if affects his argument. Trump has no relationship to the subject of that film, nor does the country, the age, the circumstances the culture the people etc to those documented by it. Kagan claims to be a historian, but he appears to loath DT for some reason unconnected to historical precedent involving the dreaded H man. Too bad the great AJP Taylor is gone. He was a historian who understood Mr H very well and I doubt he would find the two men much comparable, but I'm sure he would have offered a realistic if trenchant view of Trump. Kagan either cannot and has no clue, or is a cynical man trying to use propaganda in a crude way against his nemesis.
    These H invokers seem to have no trust in their own country and its citizens, its military or constitution. To them some guy is going to take over and put them all in camps, just like that. Won't Bernie come to our aid? Or Jeff WaPo? No It will be all over in a flash. I don't respect Mr Kagan. For me he has little serious understanding of the past and is himslf unserious

  4. Fascism is always predicted to land here, and always misses.

  5. Clinton's campaign is predicated upon imposing diversity and expecting solidarity.

    Here's a dictionary, woman. Look up "mutually-exclusive".

    1. Of course, that's how the United States was created, as a union of sovereign states. However, such an arrangement is fragile. It requires each party to the agreement to respect the others. The Founding Fathers thought they had found the way to achieve this through the Constitution. Unfortunately, over time those safeguards to ensure mutual respect have been discarded, overruled, ignored, and trampled on, as the states have had their powers usurped in the name of the federation they once formed. And no one has done more to promote that concentration of power in the Federal government than Barack Obama. And yet, many Liberals claim he has not been enough of a strongman to suit them. Many on the Left have said he should have gone even farther in the exercise of executive power, ignoring Congress, ignoring the Courts, and ignoring the Constitution. As is always the case, when the Left holds the White House, they think the President wields too little power; when the Right holds the White House, a strong President is a threat to Democracy. It never fails.

    2. Would it be fair to say that the States had more in common than otherwise? Which is why Union worked?

      Rather than Union in Diversity, Clinton is centrifugal.

    3. "Would it be fair to say that the States had more in common than otherwise?"

      I don't know. What I do know is that after 8 years of Obama I have come to the melancholy conclusion that the wrong side won the Civil War, not for the moral rightness of the South's cause but for the far-reaching implications of the political outcome. In the history of this nation, there is a bright line from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. After Lincoln, Obama was inevitable.

  6. I've been told that Google changed their definition of fascism so it would include right wing nationalism, and fit trumpers. Very avant garde of them. Very neocon.

  7. The fundamental element of fascism, especially before Hitler, was national socialists using the same methods of violence that the international socialists, i.e., Communists, those seeking to create on socialist empire ruled by Stalin, to stop the violence of the Communists in the face of feckless governments.

    True, the national socialists had no policies per se, although their alignment with militaristic elements of their societies did generate a foreign policy of conquest. But domestically, the fascists were simple for the imposition of socialism via widespread interventionism. Not unlike the interventionism used by FDR and the New Deal, but in the US it stumbled when the SCOTUS ruled the NRA (Natonal Recovery Administration) unconstitutional. Not to mention, the NRA chaffed the American people.

    Kagan is doing himself a disservice revealing his post-1950s miscomprehension of fascism. Now if he was the average history student, it would be understandable, but he makes claims to a more disciplined scholarship of history.

  8. The nationalism that Kagan talks about is not the nationalism that the USA has.

    Nationalism - the concept of a nation larger than the distance one can see - start regenerating in Europe during the Renaissance as consolidation of feudal dominions began. That nationalism was a "Blood and Soil" nationalism that really came to flower in the 19th century and is still going on (witness Yugoslavia's break-up, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Scotland's referendum, etc.) That isn't America's nationalism. America's isn't ethnic, it is idealized; it exists outside the body of the person.

    The nationalism that Hitler and Mussolini espoused was that of recovering past Glory and a union of an ethnic people (however that was to be defined). America's nationalism is different - all can partake of it, there is no exclusion so long as you sign on to the idea of America. The rest just becomes holiday dishes and family stories.

    Trump is calling for an America that is not defined by demographic slices that marketers love and use and abuse as they sell whatever they want to sell - soap, a politician, a political program. Trump (I believe) is calling for an America of Americanism, of big boasts, big projects, big plans, big futures. A big America, not the little America of the petty pointless endless squabbles of demographic groups fighting in a rat pit for the scraps tossed down by Democrat Party bosses.

    A cleaner, inclusive, confident, strong, capable America.

    - Mikey NTH

  9. Kagan works for the leftist Brookings Institute and writes for the leftist WaPo and New Republic. Not sure it's something to get wrecked over; Robert is probably about as conservative as Elena.

    And I wonder if Robert did so much hand-wringing over the fascism of Cult of Obama: The one we were waiting for, the one who was going to turn back the rising waters, the one who promised fundamental change. Doubt it.