Video: Ali Gharib of the Guardian explains why Trump is an avatar of American fascism.
According to the New York Times, GOP elites are finally panicking over the triumphant rise of Trumpism and the long-term damage the reality show star may do to the Republican political brand. Acknowledging the Trump phenomenon as a new chapter in the history of American right wing populism rather than some mysterious new creature, the paper’s reporters quoted a “lunch bucket conservative” raging at the “Republican gentry” (emphasis mine):
“The Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me, even though we’ve voted Republican for years,” said Leo Martin, a 62-year-old machinist from Newport, N.H., who attended Mr. Trump’s Claremont rally. “This election is the first in my life where we can change what it means to be a Republican.”
Whoa, that sounds suspiciously like ‘class warfare,’ Mr. Martin! What are you, a Marxist? I kid, I kid, but the larger point stands: if Republicans have never represented you, then why are you a Republican? The honest answers involve a dialectic of power and privilege, of course, yet that is precisely the kind of conversation which conservative orthodoxy stifles from the outset. Indeed, Martin shares much in common with oppressed classes of Americans, but he does not regard himself as their peers, and this is key to understanding what Trumpism is.
Leo Martin of Newport, New Hampshire is the mythical ‘independent’ voter who was in fact just a Dixiecrat all along. He has voted Republican because conservative political voices pandered to his worst feelings: as machinist jobs were deported, he was conditioned to blame brown immigrants; as the middle class shrank, his anger was directed at the lazy black poors on food stamps. He has even been convinced that the unions which made middle class wages possible for people in his type of occupation are somehow responsible for his feelings of oppression.
While the Republican Party conditioned him to respond to dog whistles, it still kept him appropriately leashed, but now Mr. Martin is busting loose to bite the hands which have fed him so much red meat. When Martin’s rage was directed at the marginal and powerless, the billionaires profited and the political party grew strong. After indoctrinating him for many years in a corrosive ideological stew which blames ‘government’ for all his difficulties, today the Republican Party is the government at which Martin aims his anger, for they hold the most legislatures, governor’s mansions, Congress, and effectively run the Supreme Court. Yet Republicans have held the long-promised revolution just out of his reach, over and over again, one too many times, and Leo Martin won’t settle for a substitute tea party anymore — he’s out to change the real party into something more like himself. At the age of 62, Martin’s running out of time for incremental change, and he knows it.
This is the well of electoral support which Trump has tapped: white, working class Americans who refuse to recognize their own racial privilege or their class interests, though they naturally express both with a total lack of irony. The ‘party of personal responsibility’ long ago decided to bring Leo Martin to its fold, encouraged the dissonant shape of his political mind, and now faces the prospect of being held responsible for his choices.