Trump and the Social Basis of Fascism

The threat of fascism is real, but it shouldn’t push the left to vote for Clinton in states where she will clearly win, says historian Gerald Horne

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PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

In Monday night’s debate between Trump and Clinton, the talk about foreign policy was paper thin. But there were some revealing things or moments about it. Now joining us to talk about that is Gerald Horne. Gerald joins us from Houston. Gerald holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. Thanks for joining us Gerald.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

JAY: So a few things on the foreign policy side that I thought we could discuss. First of all Donald Trump who during the earlier times in this campaign was pillaring Hillary about her advocacy of regime change. In fact, also attacking Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates for advocating regime change. He was very quiet about it Monday night. He didn’t use the words regime change. I wonder if it’s because it turns out Donald Trump himself advocated regime change. To some extent in Iraq but very clearly in Libya.

HORNE: Well if you look at this US presidential election from 30,000 feet, it does not reflect very well upon the US system. On the one hand, you have Hillary Rodham Clinton who was the chief architect of the disastrous overthrow of the Libya regime in 2011 who voted in favor of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 which shows she is not a person who is learning the lessons from her mistakes. On the other hand, you have Donald J. Trump. A man who was threatened to use nuclear weapons at the slightest provocation, a random tweet might set him off.

At the same time, you have Donald J. Trump who in many ways is advocating a pre February 2014 policy towards Russia, that is to say pre-Crimea intervention towards Russia, recall that President Obama wanted a reset with Russia so that he could pivot towards China. And you have Hillary Rodham Clinton who apparently wants to confront both simultaneously and there lies a path for disaster. So it presents the electorate with 2 unappetizing choices.

JAY: So when you compare the 2 unappetizing choices what do you come down to?

HORNE: Well fortunately the ramshackle electoral college applies some options for progressive voters. As Al Gore could readily tell you, the person who gets the most votes in a US presidential election does not necessarily win. A US presidential election is actually 51 different elections. 50 states plus the District of Columbia. We know already who’s going to win in the mountain west, in Dixie, on the pacific coast, on the north east, and on the Midwest, that is to say the upper Midwest.

That’s why the candidates are frequently flying in to North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Colorado. So it seems to me in those 40 plus states where we already know the result in advance, the progressive electorates should try to send a signal to the eventual winner by casting a vote for a left wing candidate. For example, the Greens. I think that that will be a vote that is not only counted but weighed and will weigh very heavily upon any trigger happy president who is sworn in on January 2017.

JAY: And what about in the swing states?

HORNE: Well that’s hearts of a different color. I would urge and encourage the voters in the swing states to study the polls very carefully. For example, I may vote in North Carolina this year, where I’ve voted in the past 2 decades and I’m going to study the polls almost up to election day to determine whether or not it is a worthwhile vote to vote against the two party system, the duopoly, that has brought us this disaster and catastrophe.

JAY: So what exactly does that mean? If you’re in a state where Trump has a chance to win, how do you vote? I say assuming the Green Party does not do significantly better than it is. Because right now it’s polling at best, at some of the swing states, at best 2-4% if that.

HORNE: Well first of all, let me say that I think that the strategy of trying to defeat Trump by focusing on that 2-4% that’s voting for the Greens and trying to encourage them to vote for Hillary, is not a very wise strategy. First of all, we’re not talking about that many people. I’m baffled and befuddled why the progressive constituency is not going after that double digit constituency in the US working class. Particularly the Euro-American working class pledges its vote to Donald Trump. That’s who we need to encourage. That’s who we need to be lobbying. That’s who we need to be browbeating rather than browbeating the 2-4%.

JAY: But encouraging them to do what?

HORNE: Encouraging them to change their vote from voting for Donald Trump.

JAY: To voting for who?

HORNE: Well, at least vote for Clinton. Or perhaps vote for Jill Stein. Perhaps Jill Stein is a bridge too far. But at least not to vote for Donald Trump.

JAY: So that’s what I want to dig into on the foreign policy side. Because there’s been a lot of debate about who’s really more dangerous on the foreign policy side. Frankly I think you could make the argument both ways. Clinton has a terrible history of hawkishness. Help destroy Libya, help destroy Syria, and help destroy Iraq. And has played certainly a leading role in destroying Libya.

On the other hand, she does and I think in my mind this might be the deciding factor is that she does defend the agreement with Iran even though I don’t know how enthusiastic she was in the beginning and even though she tells lies about the Iranian nuclear program. She does defend the Iranian agreement and Trump has said he will tear it up and is surrounding himself, including his vice president and others, most of his advisors, who also want to tear it up and he has made nice-nice with Sheldon Adelson who is apparently giving him 25 million bucks.

So on that Iran deal, does that sort of deciding factor why one might think Clinton’s foreign policy could be at least less disastrous than Trump?

HORNE: Well I think that’s a fair point. Keep in mind not only is Donald Trump hostile to the Iranian nuclear deal. He’s told the voters of South Florida he’ll break away from President Obama’s [en tant] with Cuba. The fact that in the first few moments of the debate last night, he tore and tore to China is not reassuring. His hostility towards Mexico bids fair to ratchet up tension and pressure and hostility toward the Mexican-American and Latino population. So I whole-ly and totally understand the fear and fright on the left with regard to a Trump presidency. At the same time there’s more than one way to try to defeat Donald Trump and the way that is now being suggested which is witling down the Green vote from 3% to 1.5%, it seems to me that’s almost like a waste of time.

JAY: Why do you think progressive forces and such have so little influence amongst that section of the working class that supports Trump? Although I have to add my barber, his father he was telling me, 33 years in the military supported Sanders and now supports Trump. It’s a complicated mix of why people are supporting Trump.

HORNE: Well it’s very complicated. We’d have to take a stroll down memory lane. We’d have to go into the corners of US history and talk about the United States was formed as a slave holder’s republic despite the propaganda to the contrary and there was a kind of [falstry] [embargins] between the Euro-American poor and working class and the Euro-American ruling elite to loot and plunder the Native Americans and then stock the Native America’s former land with Africans and that kind of trend has continued down to this very day. Facilitating [falstry] [embargins] and corrupt bargains between the ruling elite and the working class. The fact that some supported Sanders and now support Trump, only suggest to me a kind of political illiteracy. That is to say I guess what they’re suggesting is they want a disruptive factor which is why they voted for Sanders then Trump. But the fact that they’re now voting for Trump, it seems to me is beyond contempt.

JAY: I think another step to that, the fact that half, it seems if the polls are to be believed, half of the people who are registered to vote and it’s very important how many of the poor of the country are not registered to vote and so are not taken into consideration in this kind of polling and I know as many as 40% of people don’t vote in presidential elections. I don’t know the numbers on people who are not registered but it is significant. But the fact that half the people that can vote might vote for Trump does it suggest that there’s a serious social basis for fascism in the United States. Perhaps to an extent that we have never seen before.

Absolutely there is. I mean any country that was born on a platform of extending, expanding the enslavement of Africans post 1776, then fought a civil war supposedly to abolish slavery and pivoted towards US style apartheid. Any country which has had such a sorted history obviously carries within it the seeds towards fascism or a distinctive kind of neo fascism. That’s the danger we face in 2016 and that’s why so many people are so upset with the prospect perhaps of a Trump presidency.

But I don’t think we should lose our wits and scurry towards the easy option which is just encouraging everybody from the Atlantic to the Pacific for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Once again, I think we need study the polls wherever you’re voting and make a decision based upon what you’ve ascertained. Let me make one more point. If you look at the right wing journals and organs already they’re looking at a second vote which is the most important vote which is the vote in the electoral college in December 2016.

They tell us in the right wing blogs and journals that the electors of the electoral college are not sworn to upholding the vote that takes place in November 2016. That is another issue that it seems to me is alluding the grass of many progressive constituencies and voters.

JAY: So what? Expand on that. What’s the point you’re trying to make there?

HORNE: Well let us say that the right wing is basically organizing amongst the members of the electoral college. Let us say that when the electoral college meets in December 2016, they’ve lobbied efficiently whereby the electoral college will say we recognize, perhaps, that the democrats won the presidential election but as we interpret the law and we interpret the constitution, the electoral college is not sworn to uphold that particular vote. As we interpret constitutional history, the electoral college was specifically established to prevent a so called wrong decision. I mean that’s the sort of discussion that we need to be having and we need to be forestalling.

JAY: But that’s highly unlikely isn’t it? Especially given the preponderance of the elites seem to be supporting Clinton including much of the Republican elites.

HORNE: You are correct. As a matter of fact, you’ve hit on a very important point which I think might be helping to push working class voters toward Trump. Which is the fact that the mainstream press, the New York Times, the Washington Post in particular, are bitterly hostile to Donald J. Trump. I would say even to the point of distorting what is thought to be or what was thought to be straight ahead news coverage.

I think because the elite press has taken such a turn, such a partisan turn, the working class constituency which knows that the elite press does not have their best interest at heart, might be turning reflexively to Donald J. Trump. To your main point I do think it is unlikely that the electoral college would overturn the results of the November vote. At the same time, the strange political times, I don’t think we could rule anything out.

JAY: Now the 1930’s when capitalism was deep in crisis, there was a significant support for outright fascism in Europe and of course in Italy and Germany and eventually took over much of Europe. Direct fascism was the answer to the crisis. In the United States, there was a real battle over what was the answer for the crisis in the United States. There were certainly those that loved Adolf Hitler in the United States including Henry Ford and a whole section of the American elite. But the New Deal won out.

The idea of a compromise with the working class and trying to create the conditions for a revival of the economy based on state intervention, Keynesian kind of expansion of stimulus and so on and so on. More or less trying to forestall deeper radicalization of the American working class and not impose a direct kind of police state militarism and so on. Do you think the conditions are different now in the sense that there are more of the elites willing to go down that kind of road, which I think is representative not so much by Trump’s rhetoric but by his alliance?

HORNE: Well first of all the 1930’s needs to be distinguished from today. Insofar as in the 1930’s you had a surging labor movement, particularly in the steel workers’ union, the autoworkers union, the rubbers workers’ union in Akron, Ohio. You had left wing political parties with membership in the double digits in terms of the thousands. Today we’re facing the industrialization today one of the strongest basis for Trump’s support rest in coal mining country in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. So I’m not sure if we can be reassured by the fact that in the 1930’s the United States was able to escape a unique form of neo fascism. I think the danger is actually greater in 2016 than it was in 1936 for example.

JAY: Alright thanks for joining us Gerald and we’ll continue this discussion as the election proceeds.

HORNE: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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