The raised fist — an insult to the patriotic Americans who protested racial discrimination and the Vietnam War decades ago — conveyed the spite and bile Donald Trump unleashed in his inaugural address on Friday.
But to understand what Herr Trump was actually saying, it helps to see what David Duke tweeted out: Trump Inauguration Speech Declares War on the Neocons & Promotes Our Slogan “America First!”
Past is Prologue. The former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan conflated Trump’s attack on Washington elites with neocons, but he got the essential point: That the new president had vowed that he was issuing “a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward a new vision will govern our land,” he said. “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first, America first.”
The use of Charles Lindbergh’s anti-Semitic slogan from 1941 is no coincidence. It perfectly invokes the retrograde, authoritarian government Trump plans to establish based on the false grievance that President Obama has left behind “American carnage.”
Before a savior can be sanctified, he must first establish that the people need saving. So Trump painted a false vision of America that was purely dystopian:
Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential…
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.
(Here’s a good WashPost fact check of the speech, with a subhed that read “President Trump painted a portrait of the United States that often was at variance with reality.” Surprise, surprise).
He Alone Will Fix It. The key to restoring America, of course, is Trump himself. “I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before,” he said, as if a wedding vow.
When even the loathsome George Will declares your speech “the most dreadful inaugural address in history,” you know it was truly horrible.
Had Trump had his way, his parade would have included missiles, tanks and masses of soldiers, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The idea was thwarted by cooler heads in the military command. But that was his totalitarian vision.
“We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny,” said Trump, sending chills down the spine of anyone who ever listened to a speech by Adolph Hitler.
Fascism will not come to America in a coup. It will insinuate itself, masquerading as patriotism and nationalism. We are on the razor’s edge.