By Pam Martens and Russ Martens and cross-posted from Wall Street on Parade
Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman is raising a question in the pages of the New York Times this morning that has been on the minds of Europeans since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election on November 8: has America fallen?
Krugman’s column came two days after we had heard the following story from a friend: a few days after the November 8 election, a young man in his twenties got into a cab in New York City heading for John F. Kennedy International Airport. The cabbie asks why the young man is leaving. The student explains that he has been attending a university in New York City but his parents in Germany had called and ordered him to come home immediately. Their exact statement to him was: “leave immediately, America has fallen.”
What could cause this kind of reaction from parents in Germany? Prior to Trump’s election win, he had promised the following: to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico; to launch mass deportations of millions of illegal immigrants; to put Muslims living in America on a registry list and ban other Muslims from entry into the country. Just a month before the election, Trump had to admit and apologize for a video showing he had said the following about his treatment of women: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything — grab them by the p—-.”
To many Europeans, it felt like Americans had just elected a xenophobic man on a power trip with no respect for human rights to be Commander-in-Chief of a powerful military. It brought an instant, anxiety-producing reminder of how fascism became unbridled in Europe in the leadup to World War II.
In Krugman’s column this morning, titled “How Republics End,” he writes as follows:
“Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.
“But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.”
In November, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine headlined an article: “How Much Mussolini Is There in Donald Trump?” The writer, Dirk Kurbjuweit, subjects Trump to a 14-element fascism litmus test developed by writer and scholar Umberto Eco. The fascism elements that make Trump’s rise to power particularly worrisome under the Eco test are these:
a “distrust of the intellectual world”;
“seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders”;
“the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”;
an appeal to nationalism;
“the followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”;
“transfers his will to power to sexual matters”;
amplifies the message that those in power in government are “out of touch” with what “the people” want;
“All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a talk show.”
Under the Eco test, the writer Kurbjuweit warns that “eight of the criteria apply, five do not and one cannot be determined yet.” Kurbjuweit also warns: “Eco did not provide guidelines for interpreting the results. But he did write: ‘It is enough for one of them to be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.’ ”
Let that sink in for a moment. One element is cause for concern and Trump meets the test for fascism on eight separate elements…