How Frightened Should We Be?

A smart guy asked me the following question: If you were a German in the 1930s and Hitler had just been elected, what should you do? We know what actually happened. Even though only a minority had voted for Hitler, most went along with the program, even as it led inexorably into ever greater crimes and disasters. What could they have done, anyway, in the face of mobs mobilized by his hate rhetoric. They apparently told themselves that he couldn't really be serious about his most frightening proposals.

I'm not saying Trump is Hitler, of course, and this isn't Germany 1933, but I do think that there is a lot to be frightened of, including Trump's appointment of a manifestly racist Attorney General and a raft of neocon militants. I also find it damn scary that his chief White House strategist recently identified himself with Cheney, Voldemort, and Satan. Earlier, he likened himself to Lenin.

Paul Krugman is obviously in the "very scared"camp.

A lot of people in politics and the media are scrambling to normalize what just happened to us, saying that it will all be OK and we can work with Trump. No, it won’t, and no, we can’t. The next occupant of the White House will be a pathological liar with a loose grip on reality; he is already surrounding himself with racists, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists; his administration will be the most corrupt in America history.

How did this happen? There were multiple causes, but you just can’t ignore the reality that key institutions and their leaders utterly failed. Every news organization that decided, for the sake of ratings, to ignore policy and barely cover Trump scandals while obsessing over Clinton emails, every reporter who, for whatever reason — often sheer pettiness — played up Wikileaks nonsense and talked about how various Clinton stuff “raised questions” and “cast shadows” is complicit in this disaster. And then there’s the FBI: it’s quite reasonable to argue that James Comey, whether it was careerism, cowardice, or something worse, tipped the scales and may have doomed the world.

No, I’m not giving up hope. Maybe, just maybe, the sheer awfulness of what’s happening will sink in. Maybe the backlash will be big enough to constrain Trump from destroying democracy in the next few months, and/or sweep his gang from power in the next few years. But if that’s going to happen, enough people will have to be true patriots, which means taking a stand.

And anyone who doesn’t — who plays along and plays it safe — is betraying America, and mankind.

I'm inclined to agree, but Trump does seem to have us grabbed by the privates.


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