Donald Trump long ago stopped being a joke and began representing a serious threat to our country. From the beginning, I argued that his campaign could be characterized as fascist, and that in this he represented not an aberration within the Republican Party, but a trend.
This week, Trump decided to dispense with the pretense at decency and embrace one of the more obvious attributes of fascism in general, and Nazism in particular. In an effort to seek scapegoats for economic and international crises, Trump turned first to Latinos in the U.S. Now, in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris, he is turning his hate on a new target, American Muslims.
In a recent interview, Trump declared that he would do “unthinkable” things to monitor U.S. citizens on the basis of their religion. Asked whether “registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion” would be options, Trump replied that these would all be options.
Suggesting that American Muslims should carry a form of ID referencing their religion clearly evokes the darkest moments of Nazi Germany and its persecution of German and European Jews.
But the bigotry and Islamophobia that this represents is nothing new for Trump and his supporters. Months ago, an audience member at one of Trump’s rallies said, “We have a problem in our country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one”. Trump did not take the decent approach of calling the man out for his Islamophobia, and simply responded, “Right”.
The audience member escalated, calling for ethnic cleansing when he said, “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”
To this, Trump replied, “We’re going to be looking at that.”
So here we have the spectacle of a presidential candidate, in a country dedicated to the notion of inequality, to a separation of church and state, and to republican democracy, saying that he will “look into” both a form of ID designed to distinguish members of a religious community from the general population on the basis that they constitute a threat to our country, and a policy of somehow “getting rid of” members of that community, through unspecified means.
But Trump is in good company within his party.
One of the GOP’s “reasonable” candidates, Marco Rubio, said that he might pursue a policy of shutting down Mosques in the United States. Ben Carson equated Syrian refugees, fleeing a catastrophe created in part by the foreign policy of the United States, with “rabid dogs”. Chris Christie said that even orphans under the age of five, from Syria, needed to be kept out of the U.S.
In addition to preaching hatred, ignorance, and paranoia, these politicians are failing to recognize the relationship between their own party’s behavior over time, and particularly its promotion of an aggressive, imperial foreign policy, and the actual threats the U.S. faces.
Scapegoating U.S. citizens of particular ethnic or religious groups is disgusting, wrong, and commits the Republican Party to the abandonment of key laws and protections in our country and on a path to committing some very dark deeds.