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[dc]“R[/dc]ecently a friend, former student and Trump supporter emailed to chide me for saying that Donald Trump was a threat to American democracy,” a retired history professor in Kentucky wrote in his local paper.

Threat Trump Poses

The prof had called Trump “an existential threat to the constitutional republic” in a previous column. Not so, insisted the ex-student, who said he backed Trump because of his “policy, not personality.”

The prof didn’t say what “policy” his ex-student likes.

I wondered. Was it big tax cuts for the rich? Union-busting? Rolling back laws protecting worker safety on the job? Ditching laws safeguarding consumers and the environment against the greedy excesses inherent in unfettered red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism? Denying climate change? Scorning science?

"Personality?" Trump is a serial liar, a narcissist and a bully who viciously mocks anybody who dares disagree with him.

Trump stokes fear and resentment among his almost entirely white base, pandering to racism, sexism, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry.

He worships power and fawns over authoritarians, whose paranoia he shares. He calls the media—except Trump TV and right-wing radio—"the enemy of the people" and purveyors of "fake news." (Hitler and the Nazis called the anti-Nazi press Lügenpresse—"lying press"—which Trump rally goers have yelled at reporters who were present.)

Trump stokes fear and resentment among his almost entirely white base, pandering to racism, sexism, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry.

Trump's also a hypocrite who never misses a chance to tout God and country. Yet he's evidently cheated on all three of his wives. He's foul-mouthed in public, has publicly shown his ignorance of the Bible, and seldom goes to church. He literally has smiled and hugged the stars and stripes on a stage before his fans, but he assiduously avoided the draft and Vietnam via college deferments, plus a medical deferment for his dubious claim that he had bone spurs on his heels.

Of course, the former student isn’t the only Ever Trumper to try to separate the president's “policy” and “personality.”

The ex-student's alibi for backing Trump reminded me of John Hennen, another retired Kentucky history professor. "The most reasonable answer you’ll get [from an Ever Trumper] is ‘Oh yes, he’s a prick – but the economy is doing so well!’” he said for one of my musings.

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It’s like saying, "Hey, Mussolini was a dictator who shot, tortured and jailed his opponents but made the trains run on time and Hitler was a likewise a homicidal dictator and genocidal mass murderer, but he eliminated unemployment and Made Germany Great Again."

Maybe the ex-student’s stock portfolio and 401(k) are flourishing—for now--under Trump.

A lot of rich business folks are riding the Trump train. The same groups in Italy backed Mussolini and in Germany rallied to Hitler.

Mussolini and Hitler were existential threats—at first to Italy’s fragile constitutional democracy and Germany’s fledgling Weimar Republic, and ultimately to the whole democratic world.

Mussolini and Hitler were also egomaniacs and non-stop liars who believed that might military made right and specialized in crude hate speech, rabid nationalism and in marginalizing minorities as “the other.”

“By turning unspoken assumptions into hateful rally chants, Trump is not merely destroying the norms of political speech but weaponizing them,” Masha Gessen wrote in The New Yorker last July. The article was headlined, "The weaponization of national belonging from Nazi Germany to Trump." (Click here to listen to unfiltered comments from Trump rallies.)

Added Gessen:

"He is cashing in on the easy trick of saying out loud what others barely dare to think. But his supporters are also enforcing the prohibition on his opponents’ taking part in the conversation—as when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reprimanded for calling Trump’s speech ‘racist’ on the House floor.

“Trump has initiated a radical renegotiation of belonging in this country and then monopolized it. This is what happens first: a political force seizes the power to define its members as insiders and certain others as intruders. This is done in the name of protection of the motherland, which the newly marginalized are said to hate. Everything else follows.”

I fear what follows for my country in a second Trump term in which the president is again aided and abetted by a supine Republican Party led by Mitch McConnell. I’m an American Democrat. But I’m beginning to feel more than a little like a German Social Democrat in 1933, the start date for the Third Reich.

berry craig 2020

Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. He is working on his ninth book on Kentucky history--this one on Kentuckians at Pearl Harbor. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 41 years.