Donald Trump went from clown to contender in a mere 30 days. He is now polling in at 30% among Republicans, a 12-point spread from Ben Carson who is #2. Trump still loses next to Hillary by 2 points, but her nomination is not secure.
A race of Sanders vs. Trump would be quite the sight, straight out of the 1930s. It’s the Reds vs. the Browns all over again. My own sense is that the Browns could win this. Then we have a serious problem. As much as we loathe the establishment, it could be worse.
It’s time libertarians get serious about realizing that there exists such a thing as Brown-shirted socialism. It masquerades as patriotism. It seeks national greatness. It celebrates the majority race and dehumanizes the other. It is violently protectionist. On cultural matters, it is anti-leftist (“politically incorrect”). It is unapologetically authoritarian.
Even given all this, we are mostly mystified by it. It doesn’t strike us as a coherent ideology. It seems like a string of bad policy ideas (and some not terrible ones too) rather than a real political tradition. This is because we, as libertarians, are well-schooled to fear the socialist left but have little preparation to understand the threat from the other side.
Events of the last weeks should heighten our consciousness. There really is a brown-shirt movement in the U.S. It’s been building for many years. They have their organizations, books, websites, and splits within splits. The neo-Nazis are the most extreme variant. But fascism has many other types of expression, each reflecting a special interest, but each of them leading to a special kind of authoritarianism.
That the neo-Nazis support Trump is an established fact. Notorious racist, anti-semite, and unapologetic former KKK grand dragon David Duke has endorsed Donald Trump for president. So has the mega-popular website Stormfront.org, with its overtly neo-Nazi editorial outlook.
The American Nazi Party (yes, there is such a thing, as founded by George Lincoln Rockwell) is also all-in with support: “He tells it as the majority of the population FEELS, and he’s far ahead in the polls because of it.”
When Trump was asked about all of this, his response was that he didn’t know about it, but that this is not surprising since “everyone likes me.” He said he would be happy to repudiate their support “if that would make you feel better.”
Is this just the leftwing media looking for any excuse to smear a great American? Many of his supporters think so. And this is because the American left has been traditionally reckless about flinging the labels racist and anti-semite (and so on) against anyone with whom they disagree. However, let’s remember that just because the boy cries wolf constantly doesn’t mean that wolves do not exist.
Some people say that this supposed neo-Nazi/racist/nativist group is tiny and irrelevant? That’s what I used to think.
Until recently. I was a critic of Trump early on, for his trade and immigration views. I wrote an article that ended up in Newsweek.
Then I became a target. My social feed blew up with scum of the earth suddenly taking me on as their enemy. I was the target of the most vicious hate campaign I’ve ever experienced. I wish this on no one.
In the course of two weeks, blocking accounts of neo-Nazis and their affiliated friends became a part-time job. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about a movement that is actually large and growing right in the United States. You can call it extreme right if you want to, but its views on politics are not that different in substance from the extreme left. They have different styles but they are both authoritarian to the core, lustful for power to achieve their own aims.
As regards the right-wing authoritarians, Trump is their savior.
Here is a typical example. A Twitter account (“Seth Rubenstienberg”) features a Nazi-era caricature of a Jew. It posts incendiary posts such as this one: “if whites ever manage to get another ethno-state in the future, women’s bodies should be regulated. None of this my choice bullshit.”
The account has only 216 followers. That does not sound like much. But I’ve banned at least 50 such accounts. Multiply that account by 1,000 times and you have something serious going on. And when all these people are tweeting at you at once, it can be overwhelming.
It’s been true with Facebook too. The neo-Nazis came crawling out of their holes in the ground to denounce me as an enemy of the race, a self-hating white, a “cuckservative” (their favorite term for their enemies), and so on.
They having been posting on my wall incessantly. Many of their accounts celebrate other movements with only one degree of separation from the real deal. Instead of announcing themselves as neo-Nazis, they choose other causes: white nationalism, protectionism, anti-immigration, men’s rights, the hope for theocracy, and so on.
But for me, it’s become so inevitable as to become boring. I’ve learned to smell these people a mile away. You dig a bit and you land right where we started: straight-out hate rooted in Nazi ideology.
I’ve banned one FB account every few hours for weeks now — truly offensive material.
On the one hand, it is a credit to American democracy that we have such free speech, and I would oppose any government shutdowns of such accounts and sites. The worst mistake anyone could ever make in opposition to brown-shirted politics is to shut them down by force. That only reinforces their deluded perceptions that they have hit on a fundamental truth, and are being persecuted for it.
But free speech reigns on social media, and it’s given me an education about the existence — and the danger — of this movement that I once supposed was an invention of the “liberal media.”
Here is the question I keep asking myself. I’ve been on social media for a long time. Why is this just now happening? The answer is Trump. His free-wheeling style and open attacks on immigrants and foreigners, and hard-core promotion of trade isolationism, has emboldened them as never before.
As for how important they are, consider that the most popular neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has a higher traffic ranking than the Cato Institute or Heritage Foundation. These people are not irrelevant. They are real and growing.
Why should I care? I’m a devoted follower of the economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), a genius and a Jew. He was driven out of his home in Austria because of the rise of Hitler. And why did Hitler rise? Because a population was fed up with the corrupt political system and a failing economic structure — a situation not unlike our own.
Mises was a dedicated opponent of the socialist left. His first major book on political theory (1922) took them on. But, little more than a decade later, it was not the red shirts that ruined his life. It was the brownshirts who are socialists of a type but use race hatred, misogyny, nativism, and the hope for religious and political domination as a means of control. They drove him from his home and stole his money and books. He barely escaped death.
Are we seeing the rise of a fascist movement in the U.S., and has Trump unleashed them? Is this our Road to Serfdom? Judging from Trump’s rise, and what I’ve experienced in the last week, there is no basis for pretending otherwise.
Jeffrey Tucker is Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me (http://liberty.me/join), a subscription-based, action-focused social and publishing platform for the liberty minded. He is also distinguished fellow Foundation for Economic Education (http://fee.org), executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, research fellow Acton Institute, founder CryptoCurrency Conference, and author six books. He is available for speaking and interviews via email@example.com.