Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A chaotic ‘American Spring’

Calling Donald Trump, a contender for the US presidency, a fascist is vindicated by the definition of the term, writes Yassin El-Ayouty

Al-Ahram Weekly

The man is an impostor — an impostor in the village. This is the English translation of the title of my Arabic-language novel, An Impostor in the Village, which was published in Cairo in 1948 and reprinted in 2014. Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump’s village is America.

From his lips gush bombast and abuse. An old adage says “loose lips sink ships,” and Trump’s lips are sinking the Republican Party. This is the “grand old party” (GOP) of the great liberator President Abraham Lincoln. At the age of 16, I travelled to Lincoln spiritually from my Egyptian village of Kanayat in Sharqiya Governorate.

That was by trudging three miles in 1944 to the provincial capital of Zagazig where I went to the public library to read a book about Lincoln. I was captivated by that bearded and humble man who managed to free the slaves in America through the bloody victory of the North over the South and was then assassinated in 1865.

Lincoln’s assassination is being repeated today, but this time the assassination is of his party. The assassination is being carried out by a buffoon called Trump whose fascism is worn on his sleeve by calling for the building of a wall between the US and Mexico, ridiculing blacks, women and minorities, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US, even if they are returning citizens, and using his book The Art of the Deal the way Hitler once used Mein Kampf.

Trump has accepted, by avoiding a clear disavowal, the endorsement of David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan. He has called for the bombing of the families of suspected terrorists to avenge terrorist attacks. He has praised Mussolini as an effective leader, and he has called US President Barack Obama an “America hater,” an alien born outside the US, a non-Christian and closet Muslim.

The list could be much longer. Trump is an inciter of the mob whose calls of “Let us make America great again” are nothing but a call for a Spartan America whose wars will be endless and whose grabbing of the natural resources of other states (oil, for example) will be the fruit of a policy of “winner takes all”.

 One finds in Trump the makings of a dictator, an anti-Republican quasi-conservative, and a man who has succeeded in turning his own party against him. Here are some samples of his bombastic reflections on his self-declared superiority.

Of Hillary Clinton, the prospective Democratic Party nominee for president, he has said “She’s been there [n Washington] for so long that if she hasn’t straightened it out by now, she’s not going to straighten it out in the next four years.” Of Mexico he has said, “Mexico is sending to America its criminals and rapists across the borders.” He wants to torture people accused of terrorism, and as former US senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota has declared, in Trump “you’ve got a con man and a bully who is moving forward with great speed to grab the party’s mantle to be its standard bearer. That’s almost incomprehensible.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has gone on the attack. Spear-heading a belated Republican effort to stop the Trump express, he has called Trump “a phony, a fraud and a con man.” Using the street language of which Trump is a master, Romney has pointed out that Trump University is a fake institution graded by its students at 98 per cent but by reputable evaluators at D-.

He claims that his Trump Resorts, part of his real-estate empire, is for everyone. But can everyone afford $100,000 in annual membership dues? Trump’s foreign policy is summed up in one phrase: “[US] military might so great that no one would dare mess with us.” Asked who advises him on foreign policy, Trump’s answers have been evasive, and he has ended up by saying, “It is I who shall decide.”

Trump has been pressed on his dealings with foreign leaders if he becomes president. His response boils down to the limited language of the real-estate broker that he is. “I deal with all kinds of people. Nobody can close deals like Donald J Trump.”

Yet Trump is oblivious of central facts. Dealing with foreign leaders requires circumspection, in-depth knowledge of the issues on the table and versatility in the art of compromise. Of all this, Donald is innocent, especially in connection with the art of getting to a “yes”. This admission was unknowingly made by his protruding lips when he said, II do not settle”.

Thus, on establishing peace between the Arabs and the Israelis, Trump looks at the issue through only one prism: that of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. This is largely due to the fact that Trump has no expertise in foreign policy. He is not a learner, let alone a practitioner. Never mind that Trump has made a sizable segment of his fortune in the Gulf.

Trump’s barrage of attacks on the problem of America’s trade deficit denies Japan, China, India, and even Mexico their sovereign rights. They have the right to put national interests above other considerations, except whatever is required by the rules of free trade.

Trump has bogusly claimed that the entire world has leaders who are smarter than Obama. He has wrapped racism and chauvinism in one package. “I shall bring back to America the jobs that have been off-shored,” he says. How?

Calling Trump a fascist is fully vindicated by the definition of the term. Fascism is a political philosophy or movement or regime that puts race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic form of government headed by a dictatorial leader. One of its basic characteristics is the forcible suppression of the opposition. Trump is all of the above.

He describes his supporters as “a movement”. He calls his opponents, like Marco Rubio of Florida, “little Marco” and “a liar”. Ted Cruz of Texas is “a choke artist”. To him, Hillary Clinton could be incarcerated for using a personal server for her emails, some of which “might have been classified while she was secretary of state”.

He has threatened Paul Ryan, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, by saying that when he is president he will make him “pay a heavy price” if he stands in the way of his governance. Upon hearing this, the speaker laughed, and he has every reason for that. In the US, impeachment proceedings against an errant president begin in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s supporters are mainly members of the enraged US lower-than-middle class. They are under-educated (“I love the not-so educated,” Trump screams to thunderous applause) and angry at the so-called “Washington establishment”. Such anger and rage fuelled both fascism and Nazism. Another quotation from Trump in this year of the angry American voter, aching for the emergence of “a strong leader,” is, “Our country is being run by incompetent people. And I won’t be angry when we fix it. But until we fix it, I’m very, very angry.”

On anger, Jennifer Finney Boylan of Barnard College in New York has hit the nail on the head. She laments, “I see a land where to be a citizen means to specialise in the venting of spleen ... Apparently, it’s vitriol itself, rather than any particular strategy for the future, that’s propelling the electorate.” She concludes, “We seem to be mistaking petulance for righteous wrath.”

Coming back to my theme of the impostor in the village, Trump plays on the theme of fear. His call for transformation is nothing less than “transfearmation”. Conspiracy is his conduit to presidential politics. He speaks not the language of establishment politics but the language of the gutter, a proximity to the “know-nothing” multitudes. So his themes shift nearly daily to whatever the street can absorb. From “Making America Great Again,” to placards carried by young women proclaiming “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump”.

Trump denies the science of climate change. He claims he knows a two-year-old who developed autism from a vaccination. His hatred for Muslims is pervasive. He has even gleefully publicised a false rumour that circulated on the Internet about a US general executing Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. Trump’s assertion that Muslims in New Jersey cheered the fall of the World Trade Centre towers in 2001 was equally false.

Such is Trump’s danger to the security of the US that the stalwarts of his own party, the party of Lincoln that is now in the process of collapse, are stampeding to “stop Trump”. The impostor in my novel uses faith for sordid ends. This is also the case with Trump, who is using democracy for sordid ends. He is a showman selling snake oil. A chaotic American Spring is upon us, the results of which are still unknown.

The writer is a professor of law at New York University.

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