Watching the debate last night, I was chilled when I heard Trump say that if he was president, Clinton would be in jail. Trump has set off a number of fascist alarms, and this was his newest one. But to make such threats openly and then to have them resonate with a significant population of Americans is what bothers me the most.
While I do believe that Clinton escaped prosecution because of her position and influence, as have a large number of other rich and powerful Americans, I do not believe that making naked threats about jailing political opponents is the right way of dealing with that issue. I’ve spoken out against the quiet jailing of political prisoners in the USA, but this is a new one. For a major political party’s candidate to call for the pitchforks and torches to go after his opponent is an appeal to mob rule. That is most certainly not the American way.
I don’t care how big a threat one may think Clinton is, America will survive. It always has. We made it through the constitutional end-runs of Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton I, Bush II, and Obama, we can survive a Clinton II. At least all those people gave lip service to the ideals of the Constitution. Trump does not. He makes open appeals to white supremacists and fascists and he does not apologize for them. I truly hope that he loses, but that does not solve the problem of his supporters.
There are people who support Trump precisely because of his sexism, racism, and fascism. There are people who support Trump precisely because of his strong-man views and the hope that he may very well sweep aside the constitutional framework of our government and change the USA into something more on the lines of what Mussolini wanted in Italy or Vargas in Brazil or Peron in Argentina. If Trump fades from view, these people will seek out another flashy personality with no love of any truth that stands in his path to power. They will seek out that man and put him forward, and they will recruit.
And this is what concerns me about a Clinton presidency: that it will do little to still the currents that are drawing Americans towards fascism. FDR was able to offer an alternative to extremism with his New Deal. LBJ and Reagan also offered up big ideas in big packages and gave presidential turns that appealed to a wide range of Americans. Clinton I was the last of the big-tent presidents. Starting with Bush II, we have had presidents that have ruled without reaching out to the opposition, and that is a bad precedent for a president.
The resulting legislative gridlock and rule by executive order plays into the hands of fascists. If they like an executive order, it shows to them the promise of a more powerful leader. If they do not like an executive order, they howl murderously about how they have no more rights – but they will gleefully toss all those rights aside to get someone in office that will put their opponents in their places, no matter what. A Clinton II presidency will only make the fascists look for a more presentable proponent of their ideas. What we need is another FDR, LBJ, or even a Reagan to bring all of America back together to the negotiating table. Failing to do that will only strengthen the ranks of the fascists.