Any aware person knows Donald Trump is a lawless miscreant: an authoritarian who can’t see beyond himself, a sociopath incapable of empathy, and a pathological liar. Since his presidential defeat, he has toyed with a coup d’etat by encouraging his followers to invade and occupy the U.S. Capitol. On Jan. 6, they obeyed and after much tumult, were repelled.
It is very easy and convenient to place all blame for this outrage at Trump’s feet. But without obeisant followers, he’d be impotent. So who are these people who empower him by doing his bidding, and why? To simply brand them idiots and thugs is facile and misleading — just as it would be to so impugn those masses of Germans who marched to Hitler’s drum.
There must be some larger, unacknowledged issues that prompt people to act as they do. The violence unleashed on the U.S. Capitol clearly stems from anger, as does all violence. And there is much to anger us. These were not the wealthy money managers and corporate executives who scaled the Capitol walls, but those derogatorily referred to as “rabble” — the poor and disinherited. Even before the COVID-19 virus further devastated our economy, these people were scrambling to make ends meet, if indeed they did. Capitalism, which has created the greatest inequality in its history, had failed them — as it had failed those Germans-turned-Nazi who, in the midst of the 1938 Depression, rampaged the country, smashing the windows of Jews on Kristallnacht. Frustration demands an outlet, and, unless its true cause is discerned, the victim is most often innocent.
What is little acknowledged in society’s reporting of events, is the insoluble conflict between capitalism and democracy — the former creating by its very nature an elite ruling minority, and the latter demanding social equality. When capitalism fails to meet the needs of the masses and is under threat, it coalesces to form an oligarchy — rule by an elite that, perforce, undermines democracy by imposing fascism. Clearly, this is the dynamic that propelled the authoritarian Trump into power; he promised to relieve economic hardship by “Making America Great Again,” as Hitler promised to reverse economic destitution by restoring the imagined ascendancy of the Aryan “Master Race.” While Trump predictably failed, and was voted out of office, he refused, as a true fascist, to relinquish power; hence, the onslaught against democracy by his fascist followers, as symbolized by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the citadel of democracy.
Unlike European events of the 1930s, the imposition of fascism in America has failed, and through the rejection of Trump, democracy still reigns. But what of those countless millions who goose-stepped behind him? They still exist, no doubt seeking the next savior who’ll lead them to the Promised Land. And they will remain a fascist threat until we provide that Promised Land through a new and equitable economic system that precludes angry, disenchanted and disinherited masses that would undermine the very pillars of democracy itself because they are simply not sustaining them.
Andrew Torre lives in Londonderry.