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Snyder writes: "In his committed mendacity, his nostalgia for the 1930s, and his acceptance of support from a foreign enemy of the United States, a Republican president has closed the door on conservatism and opened the way to a darker form of politics: a new right to replace an old one."

American war graves near the Dutch town of Margraten. (photo: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)
American war graves near the Dutch town of Margraten. (photo: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)


Trump Is Ushering in a Dark New Conservatism

By Timothy Snyder, Guardian UK

17 July 17

n his committed mendacity, his nostalgia for the 1930s, and his acceptance of support from a foreign enemy of the United States, a Republican president has closed the door on conservatism and opened the way to a darker form of politics: a new right to replace an old one.

Conservatives were skeptical guardians of truth. The conservatism of the 18th century was a thoughtful response to revolutionaries who believed that human nature was a scientific problem. Edmund Burke answered that life is not only a matter of adaptations to the environment, but also of the knowledge we inherit from culture. Politics must respect what was and is as well as what might be. The conservative idea of truth was a rich one.

Conservatives did not usually deny the world of science, but doubted that its findings exhausted all that could be known about humanity. During the terrible ideological battles of the 20th century, American conservatives urged common sense upon liberals and socialists tempted by revolution.

The contest between conservatives and the radical right has a history that is worth remembering. Conservatives qualified the Enlightenment of the 18th century by characterizing traditions as the deepest kind of fact. Fascists, by contrast, renounced the Enlightenment and offered willful fictions as the basis for a new form of politics. The mendacity-industrial complex of the Trump administration makes conservatism impossible, and opens the floodgates to the sort of drastic change that conservatives opposed.

Thus the nostalgic moment for this White House is not the 1950s, usually recalled warmly by American conservatives, but the dreadful 1930s, when fascists of the new right defeated conservatives of the old right in Europe. Whatever one might think of conservative nostalgia for the 1950s, it is notable for what it includes: American participation in the second world war and the beginnings of the American welfare state. For conservatives, it all went wrong in the 1960s.

For the Trump administration, it all went wrong rather earlier: in the 1940s, with the fight against fascism and the New Deal. Stephen Bannon, who promises us new policies “as exciting as the 1930s”, seems to want to return to that decade in order to undo those legacies.

He seems to have in mind a kleptocratic authoritarianism (hastened by deregulation and the dismantlement of the welfare state) that generates inequality, which can be channeled into a culture war (prepared for by Muslim bans and immigrant denunciation hotlines). Like fascists, Bannon imagines that history is a cycle in which national virtue must be defended from permanent enemies. He refers to fascist authors in defense of this understanding of the past.

Unlike Bannon, Trump is not an articulate theorist, but his utterances do give us a similar sense of when the “again” in “Make America great again” was: it seems to be the same “again” that we usually find in “Never again.” In 2014 he spoke hopefully of some future crash which would bring the “riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great”. The notion of riots as progress is rather telling: his father was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot in 1927.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump spoke of “America first,” which he knew was the name of political movement in the United States that opposed American participation in the second world war. Among its leaders were nativists and Nazi apologists such as Charles Lindbergh. When Trump promised in his inaugural address that “from now on, it’s going to be America first” he was answering a call across the decades from Lindbergh, who complained that “we lack leadership that places America first.” American foreign and energy policies have been branded “America first”.

Conservatives came to regard the American involvement in the second world war as a high mark of American morality, the work of “the greatest generation”. The current administration wants no part in this national story. In January, the White House passed over Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning the Jews. Its spokesman contrived in April to suggest that Hitler had not killed his “own people” by gas, an error of fact that reveals a deeper absence of ethics. The only way to believe that the German handicapped people and the German Jews who were gassed were not Germans is to accept the Nazi definition of race.

Conservatives always began from intuitive understanding of one’s own country and an instinctive defense of sovereignty. The far right of the 1930s was internationalist, in the sense that fascists learned one from the other and admired one another, as Hitler admired Mussolini.

The far right of today sees Russia as its model. Putin is openly admired by America’s leading white supremacists Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach (who is currently on trial for using force to eject people from a Trump rally, and whose defense is that he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of Donald J Trump”).

As the political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov has shown, Russia supports the extreme right in Europe and the United States in order to disrupt democracy. Nowhere has this been more successful than in Russia’s support of the Trump campaign. Conservatives would see the danger of a president whose major sponsors are abroad.

One of the reasons why the radical right was able to overcome conservatives back in the 1930s was that the conservatives did not understand the threat. Nazis in Germany, like fascists in Italy and Romania, did have popular support, but they would not have been able to change regimes without the connivance or the passivity of conservatives.

The last time around, the old right chose suicide by midwifery, and it seems to be doing so again. If Republicans do not wish to be remembered (and forgotten) like the German conservatives of the 1930s, they had better find their courage – and their conservatism – fast.


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-90 # babaregi 2017-07-17 13:10
Do you really think Socialism is the way to go just because Trump is bad?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ol0hVnFtI
 
 
+24 # reiverpacific 2017-07-17 17:53
Quoting babaregi:
Do you really think Socialism is the way to go just because Trump is bad?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ol0hVnFtI

Silly question.
YES!
It's the ONLY form of viable populist democracy.
Get with it, get on board, or be cast into the outer capitalist, conservative doctrine where there is a-wailing or a gnashing of teeth, and ye of the faithful are devoured slowly over "Vaster than Empires and more slow", by those you support and nourish.
 
 
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-17 18:32
I watched the video and it was not at all persuasive. Trump is bad and more socialism is the way to go. The problem is that we will never have anarchism. Anarchism is a good moral position for everyone to hold but it is too late not to have societies that are very big and very complex. That means there will be some central management regiime.

No one supports corrupt, inefficient, or criminal government as we have in the US. Trump. Clintons, Obama are all corrupt politicians. they should be sent to jail.

But very many people do really want efficient and high quality national retirement system (social security), a universal healthcare systems, good public schools, good roads and highways, beautiful national parks, social or government support for basic research in medicine, science, humanities, socially supported art/music/theat er, an honest judicial system, helpful police, and many more. All of those things are socialism. They are the things people want and they will never be done by the free market or by anarchism. The can only be done by all of the citizens working together.
 
 
-2 # babaregi 2017-07-18 15:19
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
I watched the video and it was not at all persuasive. Trump is bad and more socialism is the way to go. The problem is that we will never have anarchism. Anarchism is a good moral position for everyone to hold but it is too late not to have societies that are very big and very complex. That means there will be some central management regiime.

No one supports corrupt, inefficient, or criminal government as we have in the US. Trump. Clintons, Obama are all corrupt politicians. they should be sent to jail.

But very many people do really want efficient and high quality national retirement system (social security), a universal healthcare systems, good public schools, good roads and highways, beautiful national parks, social or government support for basic research in medicine, science, humanities, socially supported art/music/theater, an honest judicial system, helpful police, and many more. All of those things are socialism. They are the things people want and they will never be done by the free market or by anarchism. The can only be done by all of the citizens working together.


Not persuasive to you, you mean.
 
 
+5 # economagic 2017-07-17 19:06
Do you really think?
 
 
+16 # sbessho 2017-07-17 20:21
"Do you really think Socialism is the way to go just because Trump is bad?"

Insert "Hitler" for "Trump" and you have the popular political argument that resulted in the third reich.

In answer to the question, "Yes, Socialism is the only thing that will save us from fascism in the US. Socialism means spreading out the risk among all of society and communally paying for the things we think everyone should have: education, health care, security, transportation. Not an overkill military that only enriches the 1%.
 
 
+7 # Farafalla 2017-07-17 20:32
Socialism or barbarism. You choose barbarism.
 
 
+20 # Michaeljohn 2017-07-17 21:03
Quoting babaregi:
Do you really think Socialism is the way to go just because Trump is bad?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ol0hVnFtI


That's odd .. I didn't see any mention of socialism in the text; are you implying that the alternative to the extreme right is socialism? I think Snyder is positing that Republicans should return to true conservative roots, not the facist line that Bannon dreams of, which they seem too cowardly to denounce.
 
 
+2 # lfeuille 2017-07-17 21:50
No. Because Socialism is good. Trump has no effect on that.
 
 
+6 # librarian1984 2017-07-18 07:14
It was the way to go BEFORE Trump was bad too.
 
 
+4 # Jim Rocket 2017-07-18 08:32
Even Milton Friedman said "You don't want too much socialism but you don't want too little either".
 
 
+9 # elizabethblock 2017-07-18 09:26
If by socialism you mean government programs that help and protect people who are not super-rich - not only Social Security and Medicare, but clean water, food that won't make you sick, environmental protection, national parks - then yes. Of course. And that seems indeed to be what the radical right calls socialism. They call Canada a socialist country!
 
 
+1 # mozartssister 2017-07-19 07:46
Complete misunderstandin g and misrepresentati on of the article.
 
 
+63 # Moxa 2017-07-17 13:26
"If Republicans do not wish to be remembered (and forgotten) like the German conservatives of the 1930s, they had better find their courage – and their conservatism – fast."

An interesting take, but it assumes that the Republicans represent ANYTHING worth preserving, which they don't.
 
 
+6 # economagic 2017-07-17 19:19
I will probably get pounded for this, but there are still some sane people in the Republican party who are actually conservative in the sense described above. We don't hear about them because they are too -- well, conservative, in the unfortunate sense of not wanting to make waves or to call attention to themselves. They are civilized, in the best and worst senses of that word. They have for the most part remained silent as their party was hijacked, first by anti-government nut-cases like Newt Gingrich, then by neoCONS who were happy to let the poor little rich boy with issues front for them, then by teabaggers who had legitimate gripes but were too ignorant to understand even who was which, much less who was screwing them and how.

And by the ignorance of the teabaggers I mean ignorance of politics and political divisions, and of society and of economics in its genuine sense which textbook economics dismisses or actually attempts to suppress. What--and who--is the economy for, anyway? Some of the teabaggers were and are quite intelligent and expert or otherwise accomplished in various fields, just not in the kinds of knowledge that T-Rump and the Koch brothers want to relegate to the memory hole.
 
 
+1 # Jim Rocket 2017-07-18 08:36
Excellent post. The term RINO is an epithet to denounce non-fanatics. No wonder they're keeping their heads down but I wish they wouldn't.
 
 
+5 # babaregi 2017-07-17 21:38
Quoting Moxa:
"If Republicans do not wish to be remembered (and forgotten) like the German conservatives of the 1930s, they had better find their courage – and their conservatism – fast."

An interesting take, but it assumes that the Republicans represent ANYTHING worth preserving, which they don't.


You may not think that they represent anything worth preserving but their donors do. The Deep State is a system that is 'Alive' and feeds on us, the Host.
 
 
+13 # margpark 2017-07-17 17:40
Conservatives used to be decent people who just didn't approve of hasty progress. Then they became moderate Republicans who are now all gone. There are probably a few decent Republicans in the country but that bunch in Congress have gone so far right that Eisenhower would be an extremely left liberal Republican.
 
 
+13 # GDW 2017-07-17 17:59
Europe and Canada have plenty of socialist programs. Our public school system is an example. Health Care would be another. Don't mix Fascism in automatically with social programs. It works well around the world. We are devolving into feudalism
right now. Corporations are closer to fascism then anything else.
 
 
+11 # angelfish 2017-07-17 18:21
Trump is just the Poster Boy, his only desire is to Fleece the American Public while getting his name in the History books. It's the Rogue ReTHUGlican Party that's doing the Ushering! Big Business RULES and the rest of us go begging! I am SO glad to have reached my "three score and ten" so I don't have much longer on this Mortal coil. I'm heartsick for those who must carry on and deal with these self-serving Mutants. God save us from the Knuckle-dragger s!
 
 
+2 # economagic 2017-07-19 22:01
For more on who is ruling, and how and why, see:

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/44709-the-deep-history-of-the-radical-rights-stealth-plan-for-america

I have only gotten through the Introduction (a summary), but I just heard the author speak, a history professor at Duke specializing in American social movements. It is a good story well told, superb background for people able and willing to wade through historical details and some arcane economic theory (well broken down for the general reader). But for action steps at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the length, I strongly recommend "On Tyranny," by the author of the article above.
 
 
-11 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-17 18:40
"The far right of today sees Russia as its model. Putin is openly admired by America’s leading white supremacists Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach"


Oh, and so this author believes these far right wing nuts? They don't know what Putin is about. They only want to be against the American establishment represented by the big media, CIA, and the Democratic party.


"his acceptance of support from a foreign enemy of the United States, a Republican president has closed the door on conservatism"

Hard to imagine a more ignorant comment than this. Just to set the record straight:.

1. Russia is not a foreign enemy of the US. It is a valuable ally. One faction in the US, the neo-cons, are trying to change that an start a war of aggression against Russia. But the neo-cons don't represent American people or the government.

2. Trump did not accept support from Russia. that is an unproven allegation. So far absolutely ZERO proof exists and very many lies and fake news has made normal people believe that the whole Russiagate is a fraud, just propaganda.

3. This author shows he has no idea what conservatism is or was.
 
 
+10 # REDPILLED 2017-07-17 19:38
It is foolish and dangerous to keep depicting the OTHER major nuclear threat (Russia) as "the enemy".

Trump is terribly wrong on nearly everything, but he is right to think we MUST become co-operative with Russia, regardless of its support for Trump.

Not only has the U.S. meddled in far more foreign elections than Russia has, but the dismal record of U.S. coups and overthrows of democratically- elected governments since WW II alone should make us gag at U.S. hypocrisy.

We make Russia and China our enemies at our peril, and at the peril of the whole planet. What do we have to gain by this insanity?
 
 
+8 # Observer 47 2017-07-18 08:56
Very well-reasoned response, Red. You make good sense. In WWII, the U.S. counted the USSR as an ally, even though it had a communist government. Why? Because Hitler and Mussolini were greater threats to the world. Now, the greatest threat of all exists: the sixth extinction, due to man-made climate change. The most powerful nations on earth MUST make common cause.
 
 
+7 # sbessho 2017-07-17 20:12
"As the political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov has shown, Russia supports the extreme right in Europe and the United States in order to disrupt democracy."

Keep this in mind when you encounter arguments that claim Russia is our friend or that Putin is only trying to advance his own nation's economy and wants to work with the US.
 
 
+4 # hectormaria 2017-07-17 20:52
Why is it that no one is considering present-day religious practices in Russia? We know that communist USSR was a secular, non-believing country and I'm sure Putin, being part of the old guard, is still a non-believer. Yet, our evangelicals are in love with this guy but are afraid to scrutinize Putin's real religious practices: Could it be because Putin hates homosexuals and that is enough for them?
Still, why are religious conservatives unconcerned and/or afraid to do evaluate Russia's religious practices? Is it because they know that calling oneself a Christian is easy, but being a good, practicing one is very difficult, And, they avoid anything that may put their own beliefs to a test?
 
 
+12 # Ken Halt 2017-07-17 21:09
Democratic socialism works very well in other countries (who have perhaps a more informed and involved citizenry) such as Scandinavia and Germany. Both the standard of living and the quality of life is better in these countries than in the US, with no lack of meaningful freedoms. Our Revolution could be a non-violent way forward to reclaim US democracy. Much better that way than with pitchforks and fencerails.
 
 
+3 # elkingo 2017-07-17 21:39
Setting off Trump et al FROM conservatism - Brilliant! Brings to the fore an enlightened conservatism I'd never thought of. If anti- fanatical scientism is a conservative virtue, then I endorse it! I must be part conservative.

But: Make America Great Again = Amerika Uber Alles. We were great when we destroyed Hitler. Before and after, not so much.
 
 
+5 # David Starr 2017-07-18 08:27
I'm finding it hard to believe that conservatives "were skeptical guardians of truth." My impression of conservatism has it representing the worst aspects of tradition: homophobia, racism, sexism, anti-government .
 
 
+10 # Docmc 2017-07-18 09:09
It is called full fledged fascism and with the racism and brutality, Nazism may be a better term.

Yes, a form of socialism is the answer. All we have to do is look at the successful, healthy, free and prosperous countries; then look at the oithers–includi ng the USA.

Capitalism is an early step to fascism.
 

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