I spent the evening of August 16 with my index finger firmly planted on that powerfully enabling “Last” button on the TV remote control, switching between a history channel and MSNBC each time one or the other broke for a commercial message. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ Hardball broadcast a scene of a long line of young white men carrying torches, repeatedly chanting “Jews will not replace us” as they marched to a park in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the commercial break, my finger forcefully pressed the “Last” button in time for me to see a long line of young white men carrying torches repeatedly chanting “Kill the Jews.” The only differences were that in the latter segment, the men wore brown shirts, swastika arm bands in 1933 Germany.
Sinclair Lewis may have had that 1933 march in his mind when he wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a political novel about a populist politician who upends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, campaigns on a platform to make America great again, is elected to the nation’s highest office, takes control of government machinery, impose a fascistic, totalitarian regime, a copy of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Some liberals flee to Mexico and Canada. Eventually, the military takes control, invades Mexico but with its leadership split, civil war erupts.
On Tuesday, August 15, after Mr. Trump’s tirade, MSNBC and CNN showed White House Chief of Staff, retired Marine General John Kelly, arms folded with his head down, eyes staring at the marble floor of Trump Tower. The next day, every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued statements condemning the Neo-Nazi demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville and emphasizing to their troops a commitment to the values of decency, fairness, equality under the law that these men and women are sworn to defend.
At the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attacks Chicago as a sanctuary city, orders his Justice Department to obtain the identities of everyone who visited a website that provided information about organizing demonstrations against Mr. Trump’s inauguration, rolls back President Obama’s executive order that allowed young Central American men and women endangered by violence in their home countries to seek a safe haven in the United States, while a Trump-appointed commission demands every citizen’s voting record in a deluded Queeg-like hunt for non-existent fraud.
Perhaps it is not that it can’t happen here. It already has.
Editor’s note – image info: Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville, https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4384/36160414070_30c0645b7b_b.jpg (public domain).