SYNDICATED COLUMN: It Happened Here began with the global economic crisis.

All around the world, millions of people who had nothing to do with the stock market crash — who didn’t earn enough money to save, much less invest, that much less speculate — lost everything nevertheless. They lost their jobs, then, in short order, their homes. They were scared.

The failure of democratic governance transformed their completely understandable fear into savage, uncontrolled anger.

Presidents and parliaments dithered. Part of the blame lie with the Constitution. It provided for a strong executive branch. Rather than grease the skids of government, it prompted members of the congress to dig in their heels, blocking every initiative they could because it was the only way to stay relevant.

The politicians knew they had a terminal systemic crisis on their hands, but they couldn’t agree how to respond. So they didn’t. The misery deepened.

Gridlock reigned.

The economy recovered. A little. Not much. But almost all the gains fell into the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected. Almost everyone else felt left out. They seethed.

Seeing opportunity amid the armies of the alienated and dispossessed, the perennial almost-candidate of the nationalist, nativist far-right began campaigning in earnest. Breaking all the rules of conventional campaigning, he drew huge crowds with a simple message:

Believe me.

Trust me, he assured his audiences, and I will make the country great again.

He was short on specifics and liberal with insults. Idiots, he called the incumbent politicians. They were losers — losers whose stupidity had betrayed a once-great country.

“People from this country can’t find a job. They can’t earn a decent living,” he ranted. “Foreigners must be expelled so our people can work!”

Forward-looking leaders within the establishment parties worried about the growing popularity of this strongman in the making. His intentions, after all, were dangerously radical — and they’d been published years before in a bestselling book. He was, he said himself, a “militarist.” Wars, fragmentation, scapegoating were all in the cards if he were allowed to come to power. But the parties weren’t motivated to respond. The system couldn’t save itself.

Some establishment analysts thought he was a flash in the pan, a buffoon whose appeal would fade in good time of its own accord. “The ranting clown who bangs the drum outside the…circus,” The Guardian called him.

The future tyrant’s natural ideological opposition couldn’t get it together. During key elections, they split their votes between the socialist Left and moderate liberals. Ultimately, however, historians blamed the Right most of all, for failing to rein in one of their own.

Traditional conservatives had played a dangerous game for years, using political “dog whistles” to appeal to citizens’ bigoted views of foreigners and ethnic minorities. As the economy worsened, this approach became more effective. Conservatives doubled down, setting the stage for what came next.

What the old guard didn’t understand was, that given a choice between half-hearted racism and the genuine article, the electorate would choose the authentic candidate. “He tells it like it is, and we need that now in a president,” 44% of voters told a major newspaper.

The conservative establishment faced a choice too: support a candidate of the left, or forsake true conservatism in favor of a fascist. To a man, they went with the fascist.

A tone of increasing violence accompanied the demagogue’s rise in the polls. Not only did he personally condone violence against his movement’s political opponents, his party offered its lawyers to defend partisans arrested for beatings in its name. Even his close associates were implicated in violent assaults; when they were, the Leader stood by them. “I think it’s a very very sad day in this country when a man could be destroyed over something like that,” he said.

The aging president was reluctant to issue an outright condemnation. “Troubling,” he called the gathering storm clouds.

The Leader’s authoritarian movement attracted a plurality of the vote — yet he wasn’t popular enough to consolidate a simple majority. Had his opponents set aside their personal ambitions and ideological biases, and united in favor of the national good, he could have been denied the chancellorship.

Alas, twelve years later, all would be ruins.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

10 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: It Happened Here

  1. Confusing set of links, there, Ted. ‘spect it’s intentional. There are a lot of similarities, obviously.

    • I think it’s supposed to be a game. “Oh! Will this be a Hitler or Trump link?” I had fun anyway.

      • I was hoping it would give you random answers. The Trump book one time & Mein Kampf the next time you click on it.

      • I’m impressed. That would have been even more fun though I wouldn’t know how to pull it off.

  2. Godwin!

    Trump is a LONG way from that predecessor. For one thing, Republican rules (unlike Weimar rules) make it very difficult to win with a plurality that falls short of a majority.

    For another, Trump has slain more hobgoblins than Gandalf (of course, I mean R W Emerson hobgoblins). Unlike his predecessor who claimed defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory by ethnic minorities and other traitors, Trump says, on the one hand, that the MENA wars started by the Bushes and by Obama were ALL stupid. The Bushes and Obama should never have started them nor continued them. Of course, he then said we should use nukes to win the continuing MENA wars. Another hobgoblin–both stopping before we get further behind AND nukeing until they all glow–bites the dust.

    Then there’s the election. Most women will never vote for Trump. A very large percentage of women over 40 will vote for President Clinton, as will most women under 40 who bother to vote (but I expect a low turnout of women under 40). African Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics will support President Clinton in large numbers. Old white men will do just as they did way back when, but they no longer have the demographics to install another of their dearly belovéd fascists, crash or no crash.

    Mr Bors is much closer to reality than Godwin, and it looks like another Maggie is mighty close to inevitable.

    What’s American for the British Falklands? Syria? Iran? North Korea? Russia? China? All of the above?

    • Dude, where you often get me is more closely related to Poe than Godwin. One of these days I’ll flame you into the ground on the mistaken assumption that you’re serious. (about the US liberating Iraq f’instance)

      Keep it up – it keeps me on my toes.

    • I think Trump’s point is that we shouldn’t be going to war all the time, but *if* we do, we should aim to win by utilizing all means at our disposal. That’s how war is supposed to work. You don’t bother unless you are prepared to unleash hell. Instead, we half-ass it and become entangled for indefinite periods of time, which of course is by design.

      And Trump arguably has the most diverse supporters in terms of political beliefs, political involvement, race, age and otherwise.

      As for myself, I’m a white millennial who had not voted in six years and never in a primary until now. I had never wanted to declare a party before.

  3. I don’t think this is like Wiemar Republic Germany.

    They had universal healthcare, I believe.

    Strap in for the ramble. …

    There’s a few key differences. The major one? Donald Trump never suffered. Hitler, who is, I hope, crisping nicely in hell right now, had a life of enormous privation as a young man. When Hitler failed, he went hungry. When Trump failed? He declared bankruptcy and kept right on living the high life. If you’re in a plane and it drops 500 feet, it doesn’t matter that much when you’re at 30,000 feet. If you’re at 499 feet, it matters a lot more.

    The reason I bring it up? It’s a two-factor analysis.
    Put the person on the spectrum of wealth. Bill Clinton started with nothing. Dubya started with everything. Donald Trump started with everything. Hillary Clinton started with a lot. Bernie Sanders started with nothing.

    Now. Factor Two: Their failures and successes.
    Of the people mentioned, Bill C., Dubya, Donald Trump, HRC and Bernie Sanders, only two can claim that their successes (and failures) were their own. They did it on their own abilities mostly.

    Look at the other three. Dubya? Failed at literally every single thing he ever did. Daddy arranged it all, and even then, Dubya couldn’t do it right.
    Donald Trump? As has been pointed out, if he’d simply put the money into stable investments, he’d have the same amount now as he did from investing it himself. This isn’t really a tremendous accomplishment. When you have $40 million, it’s a lot easier to make money than it is when you have $40.
    The there’s HRC. She went to law school. That’s something. For a woman of her era to go to law school? Yes, that is an accomplishment. But everything after? It’s like some sloppy version of a blend of Bill C. and Dubya. She succeeds at things (Whitewater, the cattle futures, etc.) but they tend to blow up in her face. It’s like she knows the mechanics of the dropped-wallet scam but can’t play the part of the hook. What she wants now, finally, is to run the biggest, bestest scam ever, on the most rubes possible.

    So think about how that changes you, as a person, when you fail or succeed, and how you fail or succeed.

  4. Any one ever noticed how the economic/political elites of our solar rock enjoyed Orwell’s 1984 so much (which was published right after WWII ended) that they’ve literally, figuratively, and emphatically transformed the book into their own manual on how to tyrannize a planet? Only the names have been readjusted.


  5. The ongoing media/blog premise is that Trump will bring fascism to Amerikkka. This is an extension of “Godwin’s Law” that has served primarily to squelch any public discussion about the fascism that already permeates the society. Trump is merely a product of Amerikkka’s “kindler, gentler” brand of fascism not an “innovator.”

    The US did not triumph over fascism in WWII. It merely effected a hostile take-over in the boardroom.
    This election is NOT about preventing the introduction of fascism but, rather, about recognizing its vibrant existence and beginning to eradicate it.

    Below are the 14 characteristics of fascist societies compiled by Laurence W. Britt. They apply as thoroughly and comprehensively to the present USA as they did to the “genuine” fascist regimes of the 20th century he studied to formulate them: Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Chile.

    My own illustration of each characteristic is included, except for #8 which is Britt’s.

    Fascism Anyone? by Laurence W. Britt
    Free Inquiry Magazine, Volume 23, Number 2 (Spring 2003) (unfortunately behind pay wall)

    1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. 
“Exceptionalism” anyone?

    2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. See Bush II reign of terror, murder of increasing numbers of unarmed blacks, torture and unabated routine domestic spying, etc.

    3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. Pivot deftly from Commies to Muslims.

    4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. The largest and most deadly military in world history. It has failed, like Hitler, to destroy Russia, but, unlike Hitler, is still trying.

    5. Rampant sexism. The assault on pregnancy prevention and abortion is not about saving lives but retaining and exerting power and privilege.

    6. A controlled mass media. Controlled, and talented: can YOU lick ass while completely supine?

    7. Obsession with national security. Indeed, security as an excuse to eliminate human rights, enumerated or otherwise.

    8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. (Unedited) Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

    9. Power of corporations protected. Even so far as legally declaring them persons – with religious convictions, no less.

    10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since Saint Reagan the slaughter has accelerated and “economists” wonder why real wages peaked in the mid 70’s!

    11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Anti-science anyone?

    12. Obsession with crime and punishment. So obsessed that incarceration is a “profit-making” venture and, if not on its own, then highly subsidized.

    13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. At the federal level, there are an estimated 20-30 lobbyists for each and every congressperson. The annual national total spent on lobbying is $30 billion.
    For reference, recent, successful presidential campaigns have cost about $0.7 billion.

    14. Fraudulent elections. You think? – 2000 and 2004 presidential not to mention reich-wing hysteria over “voter fraud” as cover for their own election fraud and voter suppression infrastructure. Anyone remember the seditious undermining of negotiations of incumbent seeking re-election by GOP operatives in 1968 (Viet Nam peace talks) and in 1980 (Iran hostage crisis)?