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Failing the Trump Test: Cops for Fascism

Donald Trump just picked up his latest big endorsement: from the New England Policeman’s Benevolent Association, “the fastest-growing law enforcement organization in the northeastern United States” (according to the NEPBA’s website).  Addressing the group in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, last Thursday, Trump told his audience that their support represented the most important honor he could possibly receive.

This is saying something, coming from a candidate who has already picked up the coveted endorsement of public figures such as Hulk Hogan, Mike Tyson, Ann Coulter, Dennis Rodman, Mike Ditka, Michael Savage, Lou Ferrigno, and the founder of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Dana White.

Already boasting two Hulks and a crew of professional fighters, Trump’s increasingly virulent campaign just picked up some more muscle.  The NEPB represents some 5,000 cops spread across 200 locals, from Massachusetts to the crucial primary state of New Hampshire.

The police union’s endorsement comes just days after Trump made international news for endorsing an indefinite ban on Muslims entering the United States.  Trump’s call has been widely and harshly criticized, even as it has added to his lead in the Republic primary polling.  It is but the latest, and perhaps the most shocking, in a long list of xenophobic headline grabs from a campaign that kicked off by labelling Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug-users, and rapists.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest recently stated that Trump’s islamophobic comments “disqualify” him from becoming President of the United States, representing a violation of the Constitution that the President must swear an oath to uphold.

And yet, despite this worldwide outcry, one of the largest policeman’s unions in New England has come out in Trumps’ corner, giving him rousing ovations for his comments attacking “political correctness,” his support for supplying police with military-grade hardware, as well as his promise to make his first order of business after taking office the passage of an executive order giving the death penalty to anyone who kills a police officer.  “Police and law enforcement,” he stated, “I will never, ever, let them down.”

What does it mean that an organization supposedly charged with enforcing the Constitution of the United States publicly endorses a campaign that calls for the mass deportations of immigrants and a blanket ban (and registry and even possible detention) of all muslims?  That an organization authorized to carry weapons, to pull people out of cars and to stop and frisk them on the streets–an organization endowed with the right to use deadly force–joins ranks with the campaign of an increasingly open racist bigot?

The NEPBA’s official motto is  “Representing New England’s Finest.”  Perhaps it should now be changed to ”Representing New England’s Fascists.”

Here are two question-sets that I would  like to pose:

1) If the NEPBA is the first police union to endorse Trump, will it be the last?  How far behind are other such groups?  Beyond outright endorsements, how common are Trump-ist views among the ranks of America’s police?

2) If Trump’s racist and proto-fascist comments are enough to disqualify him from the Presidency, shouldn’t police who endorse his unConstitutional, violent, xenophobic agenda similarly be disqualified?  How can we allow people holding such views to walk through our communities, funded by our tax dollars, armed and with the license to harass, detain, injure, or to kill?

Let us disqualify these Trumpist police.

Let us confiscate their badges and guns immediately.

***

It is no doubt disturbing to see hateful, fear-mongering views like Trump’s migrate from the margin to the so-called mainstream of American politics.  Many worry about the legitimacy and encouragement that his campaign gives to right-wing and white supremacist organizations and individuals.  Reports of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate crimes as well as violence against Black Lives Matter protesters stream in, suggesting the way that Trumps’ inflammatory, ignorant rhetoric helps to catalyze actual violence against innocent people.

Perhaps most worrisome is the way that his campaign may serve as a right-wing rally point, bringing together and unifying the disparate fascistic fringe elements that are scattered across the USA.  Long after Trump’s campaign crashes or burns (or is cashed in for a new ‘reality TV’ show), his true legacies may remain: an expansion of ‘mainstream’ discourse to accommodate openly fascistic proposals (like Muslim ID cards and detention centers), a drawing of new hard-core white nationalists into political life, and  unification of existing hard-right forces across the country. The talk of walls and of camps is upon us.  As is the mingling of cops and white nationalist militias.

But let’s not get panicky.  Just as dangerous for the Left is the way that the fear of Trump threatens to drag down our political aspirations, pulling us into line so that the “lesser evil” Democrats can hold the stage, at a historical moment when fundamental, even revolutionary, social change is more necessary than ever (see for instance, climate change).

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is eager to run *against* the likes of Donald Trump, in hopes that the hot air the celebrity bigot generates can put the missing wind in her sails.  Further, Trump’s nationalist xenophobia and sensational contempt for basic decency threatens to weaken or even to split the Republican Party, scaring off moderates and second generation immigrant voters for good, while laying the basis for a mass party more like the surging National Front in France–a short-term silver lining on an ominous cloud, to be sure.

And there’s one more Clinton-corpora-crat bonus: Trump’s flashy brand of fascism helps keep Bernie Sanders’ challenge to her own establishment politics off the front page, marginalizing serious reform proposals that threaten established interests far more than Trump’s do (see for instance, combatting climate change).

No doubt the leadership of the Democratic Party will seize upon the fear of Trump to lower Left horizons, once again making the cloud of the “lesser evil” look like a beacon worth fighting for. With an opponent like Trump, who could blame Bernie himself if he circles his would-be socialist wagons to protect the Clinton camp, right? Hmmm….

Perhaps though there is another reason that the establishment–Democrat and Republican alike–is nervous about Donald Trump.  Not just about what he says, or what his campaign represents, but about the backlash that he may provoke among the masses of people, if he doesn’t shut up soon.

We might do well to recall the events of 2006, when the extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed to center stage by the Sensenbrenner Bill helped to catalyze the largest mass demonstrations that this country has ever seen.  Facing right-wing legislation that threatened to further criminalize illegal immigrants, provoked by know-nothing racist politicians akin to Trump who spoke of them as parasites rather than as hard-working human beings, the international working-class of this country and its many allies turned out in the millions on May Day to say that Enough was Enough.  Walking out of workplaces and taking to the streets, shutting down business as usual in many cities, the immigrant working-class could see their own power on display.  It was a power that quickly cast the Sensenbrenner bill into the dustbin of history and that could squash Donald Trump like a hotel bug. A power that, if organized and focused, could defeat any police or so-called security forces that dares to threaten our brothers and sisters with harassment, detention, or deportation, whether it is an Elephant or Ass giving the orders from the White House.

Might Trump be our Sensenbrenner?  Might his outrageous campaign help to catalyze a mass anti-fascist movement in this country?

The first signs of mass outrage and mobilization can now be seen.

Mayors across the US have proposed that Trump himself be banned from their cities until such a time as they can figure out the precise threat that he represents.  In the United Kingdom, a petition calling for Trump to be barred from entry for his professed hate speech has gathered over 475,000 signatures, the largest number ever for such a petition, well past the floor of 100,000 required to push Parliament to discuss it. Trump’s recent appearance in New York City, and even his speech before the NEPBA in New Hampshire, have been shadowed by hundreds of outraged protesters, many of them describing Trump as a fascist.  Speaking in less technical terms, Philly Mayor Michael Nutter recently put into words what so many have been thinking privately about Trump: “He’s an asshole.”

***

As forces like the New England Policeman’s Benevolent Association fall in behind Trump’s asshole line, those of us who reject Trump’s agenda, must seize the initiative, calling into question the legitimacy of those who fail the Trump test,  disqualifying those who are clearly unfit to rule.

Furthermore, let us challenge the racism and islamophobia that has structured American foreign and domestic policy long before Trump became a front-runner, seizing the more radical opportunities latent in this moment.  After all, in some ways, Trump merely brings out into the open ideas and values that have been built into the fabric of US society for a very long time. If we truly object to anti-immigrant and Islamophobic fascism, we have a lot of work to do. Work that goes beyond defeating Trump.

If we object to banning Muslims from the US (Trump), shouldn’t we also object to the extrajudicial killing of Muslims abroad via Drone strikes (Obama-Clinton), or the indefinite detention and torture of Muslims (or anyone) at various US black sites around the world?

If we object to Trump’s proposals to deport all 10-20 million undocumented persons in the US, shouldn’t we also be objecting to Obama’s “liberal” policy, which deported around 3 million people, more than any other US administration?

Perhaps we did need a real asshole like Trump to help us get our shit together.  But let’s make sure that when we go after Trump, it’s not just the man, but the racist and fascist ideas and values he represents that we target, wherever they can be found. From the local police station to the White House, let’s apply the Trump test.

More articles by:

Joseph G. Ramsey is an activist and writer living in Boston. He is a contributing editor at Red Wedge, a co-editor at Cultural Logic: an electronic journal of Marxist theory and practice, and a contributing board member at Socialism and Democracy.

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