It’s been over 50 years since Ronald Reagan’s famous “Time for Choosing” speech. And while almost everything Reagan said in that speech was wild, ridiculous, over-the-top hyperbole and set-up-a-straw-man-to-knock-down oversimplification, I want to quote one passage that I think remains highly relevant today, the morning after neo-fascistic demagogue Donald Trump all but clinched the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.
Today, just as in 1964, Americans must choose — between “individual freedom consistent with law and order” or “down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.” Except that, in stark contrast to Reagan’s bogeyman of the “left” representing the ultimate path towards said “ant heap,” today the mortal threat comes from Reagan’s own Republican Party.
Although, actually, the stinking, rotting corpse we smell this morning is not really Reagan’s Republican Party anymore, other than in name. Former Republican Party of Virginia Executive Director and conservative blogger Shaun Kenney puts it very well in his column, #NEVERTRUMP:
Once upon a time, there was a party that believed in free trade, free minds, free speech, and a free society.
That party was the Republican Party — the party that gave us Goldwater, Reagan, and Paul.
Donald Trump exemplifies nothing of the Reagan Revolution that the rest of us grew up with, fought for, and believed in...
Today, the conservative movement is under siege from within its own party…
Frankly, I do not know how I will vote in November. I do know this. I will never vote for Donald Trump.
When I said I would not vote for Donald Trump, I meant it. As a Catholic, my conscience cannot assent to Donald Trump’s platform. As a conservative, my conscience inimically resists the idea of supporting someone who opposes everything Reagan believed in, fought for, sacrificed for. What Trump wants is not the shining city on a hill; it is Fortress America…
…We do not destroy class socialism with national socialism — we destroy it with freedom, because that’s how Reagan did it.
Is Donald Trump a “national socialist,” aka a Nazi, as Shaun Kenney argues? I don’t believe in exact historical parallels, but Trump certainly bears a frightening resemblance to the worst of human history — Mussolini, Hitler, fascism, Nazism, all of that horror. As I wrote back in November, Trump partly or fully meets all 14 of Umberto Eco’s criteria for the “Ur-Fascist.” Those traits include:
- “cult of tradition” (“make America great again”);
- “cult of action for action’s sake” (listen to any of Trump’s speeches, it’s all about how he’ll take bold, aggressive action…no details or anything, of course, but he’ll do stuff, even if it’s utterly disastrous);
- “exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference” (that’s a good chunk of Trump’s appeal, such as it is — tearing people apart, stoking bigotry and fear, etc.);
- “an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning” (again, just listen to any of Trump’s speeches for more than 30 seconds and your brain will start to melt into mush, it’s almost Palinesque in its word salad of idiocy);
- glorification of violence, torture, struggle…all very much in Trump’s toolbox.
So yeah, Trump is a fascist, or a very close approximation thereof. Which means that the question this morning for Republicans here in Virginia and across the country is very simple: will you support a fascist for president of the United States, will you oppose him, or will you stay out of this all-important battle?
This question applies to rank-and-file Republicans, of course, but it’s most pressing for Republican elected officials, leaders and those on the ballot this November (or running statewide in 2017). That’s right, I’m looking at you: Ed Gillespie, Rob Wittman, Glenn Davis, Bryce Reeves, Rob Bell, John Adams, Chuck Smith, Tom Garrett, Bob Goodlatte, Barbara Comstock, Randy Forbes, Dave Brat, Bill Bolling, Mark Obenshain, Bill Howell, Kirk Cox, Tommy Norment, Ryan McDougle, Jill Vogel, etc, etc.
For all of those folks, and many more (Ken Cuccinelli? Dave Albo? Tim Hugo?), the question is, what’s it going to be? Support a “national socialist,” as Shaun Kenney puts it, “someone who opposes everything Reagan believed in?” Or oppose him with everything you’ve got? Yes, just as in 1964, today t’s a “time for choosing” – freedom or the “ant heap of totalitarianism” – and we’ll be watching closely to see which choices you make.