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Nazis and Trumpers, redux

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The similarity between the angry, sullen masses who thrust Adolf Hitler to power, and the resentful, frightened conservatives who form Trump’s base, have often been pointed out.

Both groups are, of course, white. Both had seen their power evaporate, under forces they either did not understand, or chose to misunderstand. Both were under-educated and provincial. Both resented “change,” in whatever form, which in their eyes could only be harmful. Both felt disrespected by their nation’s urban elites. Both had cast normal moral values aside, but, curiously, purported to represent some kind of moral apex. Both were angry, sometimes violently so.

More to the point, both groups were unable to think rationally, because they were primarily driven by emotional needs. By “thinking rationally,” I mean the ability to reach sound, logical conclusions, despite whatever emotional claptrap is racing around one’s head. For example, both groups were aggrieved by what they perceived as “enemies” in their midst: Hitler’s Nazis by Jews and Communists, Trump’s white nationalists by people of color, liberals, homosexuals, immigrants. Now, all of us occasionally find ourselves thinking uncharitably towards people or groups whose behaviors we do not approve. But most of us (the sane ones, anyway) understand that, ultimately, all of us in America have got to get along, and that “getting alone” is anyhow a fundamental American value. (The melting pot, and all that.) And so we struggle to co-exist and understand our neighbors, who might make us uncomfortable, even as we acknowledge that we, ourselves, may make our neighbors squirm—which is all the more reason to get along with each other.

This kind of thinking—that we all have to get along—is what I mean by “intelligence.” (There are many kinds of intelligence, but civic intelligence consists of this value.) Churchill, in the first volume of his World War II memoir, noted that Hitler, in his rise to power, had figured out that “Intelligence in the case of the individual is not of first importance; will and determination are the prime qualities.” Churchill divined Hitler well. The Fuhrer of the German people knew, in fact, that intelligence on the part of the masses was detrimental to his rise. A thinking people, a rational populace, a rigorously logical electorate, one able to discern intellectual inconsistencies, was one that would never support him. Thus his dismissal of intelligence, in favor of sheer, brute force.

Which is exactly what we see among the Trumpists. That they are under-educated is well-known. Study after study proves this, as, for example, this Pew research from earlier this year. Now, not having a college degree is not necessarily a sign of lack of native intelligence, nor is it a badge of shame; but I would argue it is an indicator of someone who has not been taught how to think critically. At any rate, nothing could be more obvious to the rational mind than that America is a patchwork quilt of every type of human imaginable, and that we do all have to get along together, or…

Or what? Well, the “or” is what we wish to avoid, “we” meaning the rational among us. In the news the other day was a story of four California men, one of whom is from the San Francisco suburbs, who were arrested on charges of traveling to Charlottesville for the infamous “Unite the Right” hate fest, charged with plotting to incite a riot. These men are said to be members of a white nationalist group called RAM, which does not appear to have a website but has been characterized by the Anti-Defamation League (and other groups that track hate organizations) as consisting of members [who] believe they are fighting against a ‘modern world’ corrupted by the ‘destructive cultural influences’ of liberals, Jews, Muslims and non-white immigrants. They refer to themselves as the ‘premier MMA (mixed martial arts) club of the Alt-Right.’”

What are we to make of the [primarily young] white men who belong to RAM? Without knowing any of them, we can at least safely conclude, I believe, that they lack the civic intelligence of which I spoke. They do not believe in all of us getting along. Rather, they suffer from the serious delusion that they can actually take America, a nation of 330 million souls, and somehow get rid of all the non-whites, Jews, Muslims, liberals and anyone else who makes it onto their list. How they propose to accomplish these multiple eliminations can only be left to the sordid imagination, but surely, were RAM to gain any foothold of power and try to inaugurate their purges, mayhem would result: absolute chaos, massive civil unrest, street clashes, bloodshed, political upheaval of the most profound kind, the breakdown of civic society.

This is perhaps what RAM and their cohort want. They may think that, under such circumstances, their white superiority would triumph, aided by their weapons; and they may be willing to expend oceans of blood in order to accomplish their fantasy of a white America.

Of course, this will not happen. Groupings such as RAM are rare, although they may be more common than they used to be. But still, RAM is the quintessence of Donald Trump’s base. To understand that base, you need only look to Trump, and to RAM, and to the contorted, violent faces of the white nationalists at Charlottesville who, in their fury and rage, looked eerily similar to Brett Kavanaugh in his.

Agry white nationalists at Charlottesville

Angry Kavanaugh at his hearing

Angry gorilla

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