A German Historian's Thoughts On Trump, Bannon, Fascism & America

Historians in the News
tags: fascism, Trump, Bannon



Prior to Donald Trump's inauguration, there was a lot of debate about how awful we should expect his administration to be. Some people said we shouldn't expect anything because Trump's message was so inconsistent and incoherent throughout the campaign. Some people, notably Masha Gessen, said we should take his most terrifying promises seriously. Some people just squeezed their eyes tight and tried to pretend it was all a bad dream.

Well, it's been two weeks (yes, only two weeks), and thus far, things are looking pretty terrifying. A lot of people are throwing the word "fascism" around, and not in a humorous way. Is this hyperbole or grim reality? To get a sense of where we are and where we might be going, Gothamist spoke to Isabel Virginia Hull, professor of history at Cornell University and one of the foremost scholars on modern Germany. Here's Hull on warning signs, the durability of the American state, and the power of protest.

Tell me about the past two weeks.

I expected them to move very quickly, and they did, but there were a number of things I did not expect and one of them is the elevation of Steve Bannon, who is the closest thing to a genuine fascist that I've seen ever in American government—and the removal in the National Security Council of the military leaders. That's extraordinary and unprecedented.

Bannon is not a security expert. He's not an expert in government at all. That's one thing. The second thing is the fact that the Trump Administration didn't engage in a transition. They were uninterested in both the documents prepared by the Obama administration and in meeting with the heads of the various divisions of government. The third thing is the purge of the senior-most officials in the State Department. The fourth thing is the order banning Muslims—and that's what it is—the manner in which that happened, the process, which is to say a small group of advisers with no government experience keeping it secret and then launching it. That's also unprecedented.

The lack of that transition, the purge of the people in the State Department, an order clearly going out to Homeland Security not to follow court orders—that's all pretty remarkable and it indicates that these people want to remove the normal functioning of government and to replace the adepts at government—the people with experience and knowledge—with toadies who will do whatever they tell them to do.

And the fact that there is not a spine to be found among the Republicans, with the possible exception of maybe McCain and maybe Lindsay Graham and possibly Collins, this stuff is going to roll over. ...




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