President Trump, in concert with several European leaders, including those of Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy, is intent on dehumanizing immigrants and refugees. The aim is to equate them with terrorists and criminals ready to “infest” — Trump’s word — American and European civilization, defined as a threatened white Judeo-Christian preserve.
It’s a consistent policy buttressed by insinuation and lies about the supposed threat, and designed to manipulate fear and nationalism as election-winning emotions in a time of rapid technological change, large migrant flows and uncertainty. Vermin infest, not humans.
Every utterance of Trump on immigration is meant to conflate immigration with danger. This is a direct repudiation of America’s distinguishing essence — its constant reinvention through immigrant churn.
The immigrant brings violence. The immigrant brings terror. The immigrant’s humanity is lesser or nonexistent. These are tropes about “the other” whose capacity to galvanize mobs, and wreak havoc, was proved in the first half of the 20th century. Trump does not hesitate to use them.
.. Viktor Orban, the right-wing Hungarian leader, who has said that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.”
.. The Hungarian parliament has just passed legislation that would throw people in jail for providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants.
.. Matteo Salvini, the rightist Italian interior minister
.. Before taking office, he said Italy was packed with “drug dealers, rapists, burglars,” whom he wants to send home.
.. the destabilizing impact of globalization on Western democracies; stagnant middle-income wages; growing inequality; fear of an automated future
.. the ease of mob mobilization through fear-mongering and scapegoating on social media.
.. Trump is strong because of a global nationalist lurch; that his feral instincts make him dangerous; and that he may well win a second term, just as Orban has now won four terms.
To ridicule Trump will achieve little absent a compelling social and economic alternative that addresses anxiety. The Democratic Party, for now, is nowhere near that.
.. Trump likes to go for the jugular. He sees opportunity in a Europe that is split down the middle between nations like Hungary and Poland that make no attempt to sugarcoat their anti-immigrant nativism and states like Germany that have not forgotten that the pursuit of racially and religiously homogeneous societies lay at the core of the most heinous crimes of the last century.
.. Orban is the most formidable politician in Europe today. It’s no coincidence that Trump called him last weekend. Their aims overlap.
.. Trump tweeted this week that “Crime in Germany is way up” and that allowing immigrants in “all over Europe” has “strongly and violently changed their culture.”
.. Trump (whose stats on German crime were wrong) backs Orban against Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the continuing bid to make racism and xenophobia the new normal of Western societies.
.. the greatest danger is within. A two-term Trump presidency would likely corrode American institutions and values to the point at which they could scarcely be resurrected.
At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.
.. A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn... Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism... Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees... If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.”.. All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life... It means that the primary mission of Christians in public life is not to secure their own interests or to defend their own identity. It is to seek a society in which every person can flourish. This is the definition of the common good — which is not truly common unless it includes the suffering and powerless... If there is a single reason that Republican health-care reform has failed, it is because party leaders could not make a credible case that the common good was being served... Who would now identify conservative Christian political engagement with the pursuit of the common good? Rather, the religious right is an interest group seeking preference and advancement from a strongman — and rewarding him with loyal acceptance of his priorities... They are associating the teachings of Jesus Christ — a globalist when it came to the Great Commission — with ethnonationalist ideology. This should be a sobering prospect for any Christian. But few seem sobered. Instead, the faithful give standing ovations to the purveyors of division and prejudice... When anyone or anything takes priority over the faith, there is a good, strong religious word for it: idolatry. And the word is unavoidable, as religious conservatives carry their golden calf into Bannon’s battles.
“In Kim, Trump has met his match,” I wrote. “The risk of two arrogant fools blundering into a nuclear exchange is more serious than at any time since October 1962.” Maybe Bannon wanted to scream at me?
.. “We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”
.. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.
.. Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
.. “To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we‘re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”
.. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
But can Bannon really win that fight internally?
“That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said.
.. He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
.. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness. The waters around him are rising, but he is going about his business of infighting, and attempting to cultivate improbable outside allies, to promote his China strategy.
Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
.. “To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
.. Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.
.. First, to the extent that most of the opponents of Bannon’s China trade strategy are other Trump administration officials, it’s not clear how reaching out to the left helps him. If anything, it gives his adversaries ammunition to characterize Bannon as unreliable or disloyal.
.. He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.
.. “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Spencer has stated that he rejects the label of white supremacist, and prefers to describe himself as an identitarian.
.. He has advocated for a white homeland for a “dispossessed white race” and called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to halt the “deconstruction” of European culture
.. In response to his cry “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”, a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg heil chant used at the Nazis’ Nuremberg rallies. Spencer has also refused to denounce Adolf Hitler.
.. From March to December 2007, Spencer was assistant editor at The American Conservative magazine. According to founding editor Scott McConnell, Spencer was fired from The American Conservative because his views were considered too extreme.
.. In 2014, Spencer was deported from Budapest, Hungary (and because of the Schengen Agreement, is banned from 26 countries in Europe for three years), after trying to organize the National Policy Institute Conference, a conference for white nationalists.
.. A CPAC spokesman said he was removed from the event because other members found him “repugnant”.
.. Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, called the protest “horrific” and stated that it was either “profoundly ignorant” or intended to instill fear among minorities “in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK
.. During a speech Spencer gave in mid-November 2016 at an alt-right conference attended by approximately 200 people in Washington, D.C., Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German and denounced Jews.. Audience members cheered and made the Nazi salute when he said, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Spencer later defended their conduct, stating that the Nazi salute was given in a spirit of “irony and exuberance”.
.. after leaving The American Conservative he rejected conservatism, because he believed its adherents “can’t or won’t represent explicitly white interests.
.. Despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, Spencer barred people with anti-gay views from the NPI’s annual conference in 2015
.. He was separated from his Russian American wife, Nina Kouprianova, a political analyst on modern and contemporary Russia, culture, and U.S. foreign policy. The couple separated in October 2016; however in April 2017 Spencer said he and his wife were not separated and are still together.
Do you ever get the feeling we’re all going to be judged for this moment? Historians, our grandkids and we ourselves will look and ask: What did you do as the Trump/Scaramucci/Bannon administration dropped a nuclear bomb on the basic standards of decency in public life? What did you do as the American Congress ceased to function? What positions did you take as America teetered toward national decline?
.. When I had coffee with Flake this week, he spoke about the philosophical and political corruption of the DeLay era with uncharacteristic contempt.
.. In 2016 the Republican Party, Flake argues in the book, lost its manners. “It seems it is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” And it lost its philosophy. “We become so estranged from our principles that we no longer recognize what principle is.”
Flake told me he doesn’t want his book to be seen simply as a broadside against Trump. The rot set in long before, but Trump takes the decay to a new level.
.. betrayed the Goldwater Creed:
“Is it conservative to praise dictators as ‘strong leaders,’ to speak fondly of countries that crush dissent and murder political opponents …? Is it conservative to demonize and vilify and mischaracterize religious and ethnic minorities …? Is it conservative to be an ethno-nationalist? Is it conservative to embrace as fact things that are demonstrably untrue?”
.. Frankly, I think Flake’s libertarian version of conservatism paved the way for Trump. People are being barraged by technology-driven unemployment, wage stagnation, the breakdown of neighborhoods and families. Goldwater-style conservatism says: “Congratulations! You’re on your own!” During the campaign, Trump seemed to be offering something more.