The Past in the Present

Am still shaking my head over the new administration’s discriminatory ban on Muslims entering the United States. It was no surprise after the hateful rhetoric of the election season, but announcing it on Holocaust Remembrance Day? And not mentioning Jews in a statement about the Holocaust? I wish I could call these actions tone-deaf, but they feel more intentional and sinister than that, even if the more apt historical parallels are the U.S. rejection of Jews fleeing Nazism and the internment of Japanese-Americans as an entire class of people during the Second World War.

Tyranny of the Minority

From the historian who brought us Ordinary Men:

But Hitler was a fixated ideologue with a strong party organization, while Trump is an opportunistic narcissist driven above all by the need for adulation. Hitler was the “little corporal,” the man of the people, who feigned austerity, while Trump is a billionaire who flaunts his wealth and luxurious life-style. Ultimately, Trump seems far more a hybrid of Berlusconi and Putin, potentially merging kleptocracy and autocracy, than the reincarnation of an ideologically driven, war-mongering, and genocidal dictator.

I would suggest that a major source of our unease — beyond Trump’s personal unfitness for the presidency — is not that Trump is going to attempt to construct some fascist-style dictatorship, but rather that the trends that are manifested in his triumph represent a threat to our democracy that has arrived from an unexpected direction. That is what has left me, in any case, bewildered and unprepared.

Christopher R. Browning, “Dangers I didn’t see coming: ‘tyranny of the minority’ and an irrelevant press,” Vox, January 18, 2017

I recommend reading Browning’s whole piece. See also the earlier comments by the sociologist and political scientist Theda Skopol, “A guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party, from the ground up,” Vox, January 5, 2017, which is about much more than the Democratic Party. She understands something that conservatives of various stripes have long acted on, but which Democrats have ignored to everyone’s detriment.