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Trump’s Plot Against America: It Can Happen Here

When Philip Roth wrote The Plot Against America (2004), I instinctively recoiled at Roth’s fictional account of a neo-Nazi political party coming to power in the U.S. with figures such as Charles Lindbergh at its helm. When a Nazi document surfaced just recently (“Nazi blueprint for North American Holocaust acquired by Canada archive,” Guardian, January 25, 2019), that outlined the World War II Nazi plan to turn parts of North America into a Nazi enclave, probably with an effort to round up Jews and others that the Nazi regime saw as undesirable, I paid closer attention.

The Guardian published “The neo-Nazi plot against America is much bigger than we realize,” (March 3, 2019), which discusses the alarming rise in racism and anti-Semitism in the U.S.

Now with Michael Cohen’s (Trump’s former lawyer) testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he concluded that Trump and his backers may not allow a peaceful transition of power should Trump lose the 2020 election, the handwriting has been more clearly written on the wall than ever (“Michael Cohen Worries There Won’t Be a ‘Peaceful Transition Of Power’ If Trump Loses in 2020,” Huffington Post, February 27, 2019).

Trump and his followers, both rich and terminally ignorant, despite their Make America Great Again red hats of disdain for institutions and the little left of democratic traditions in the U.S., are the real “America” haters in the “room.” Trump and his father had a long history of racism in the way they managed their rental empire in New York City. Trump’s treatment of workers in his many projects was abysmal. His history of cheating contractors is legendary. The recent history of the Republican Party is one of total disdain for the few remnants of democratic institutions that remain. The nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court  (Washington Post, April 5, 2018) comes to mind, as does the recent shutdown of the federal government.

As a Jew, I am very, very concerned that a loss in 2020 for Trump and his backers could mean that a U.S. version of the Einsatzgruppen could happen here. There is easily enough hate and an ample supply of guns to loosen a segment of this society that would carry out and enjoy random and targeted murder in the streets of the U.S. Look to those with grudges and those who came out on the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right rally in August 2017, which resulted in the death of one protester. They shouted for blood and soil while chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Trump said there were some “fine people” among the white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Jews would not be the only targets of such murderous mayhem if Trump, et al. turned to violence to hold power. People of color and people with sexual orientations objectionable to religious fundamentalists, along with immigrants, would be “fair game.” As reported in the Guardian above (March 3, 2019), the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented the escalating level of anti-Semitism and racism in the U.S. The 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 are testament to the violent expression of hate here!

Those who want to conflate being a Jew in the U.S. with support for Israel’s denial of the Palestinian people their right to a state need to pay attention to a 2018 poll by the American Jewish Committee (reported in the Chicago Tribune) in which 59% of Jews polled favored a Palestinian state. Only a small fraction of Jews in the U.S. support Trump. My sense is that the number of Jews in the U.S. supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state is now higher.

To those who hold that “It can’t happen here,” this nation already has a history of actions against black people dating back to slavery and its aftermath. The Ku Klux Klan existed in various forms since the end of the Civil War and colluded violently with some local police departments in the U.S. South during the Jim Crow era. The history of the treatment and massacre of many Native Americans is yet another historical reality in just how vicious the government can be to those who get in its way in the face of expansionary policies and its solidifying of power. Smaller movements against women, gay people, and those who have taken to the streets against war are other valid examples of how violent both official and unofficial reaction to protest can be.

The government maintains, or can cull, information about dissidents from powers it has had over decades and can put into effect powers given to it by the Patriot Act enacted following the attacks of September 2001. It would not be difficult to envision the melding of government power and the violent dissatisfaction of enclaves of those filled with hate around this nation to begin a pogrom against those deemed as objectionable by Trump and those like Trump both inside and outside of the government. A fabricated so-called national emergency such as war based on regime change could be the event that sparks the final thrust toward fascism. Only a tiny fraction of Democrats in Congress would resist such a war.

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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