Trump has been accused of racism and pandering to the Alt Right. However much his Charlottesville response may have failed to isolate its criticism of the white supremacists at the rally, he has little motivation to be loyal to this faction. Their voting power is vastly overrated by the left, and they remain toxic and isolated by most of the right. Trump’s crime is more that he refused to humble himself to the politically correct that is addicted to identity politics. With a Jewish daughter and influential son in law it strains any common sense that he seeks to placate racism or anti-Semitism.
“White supremacist” is hurled so commonly that it has become meaningless. Any speaker from the right on any campus venue is thus labeled. It ignores great strides made by minorities since the Civil Rights era and insults every voter who tilted right. One does not recover from the humiliating loss of Hillary Clinton by insulting those who rejected her.
But the more challenging charge against Trump is the authoritarianism he espouses. In the short book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century the author Timothy Snyder illuminates several common authoritarian traits of Trump and Hitler. Typically, Hitler comparisons end rational discussion and are used to end debates, but a few of these are worth addressing.
The willingness to make untrue statements is worrisome. More worrisome is the willingness to accept them, or to discount them when they are legitimately refuted. But accepting false information that fits a narrative is certainly not limited to one man or one political tribe. Perhaps the false information is not just an easily proven falsehood, but one that is intentionally misleading by reporting only a part of the story. We may be as mistaken from accepting that information deemed ‘partially true’ from the fact checking services than we would be by accepting a statement that is demonstrably false. Because part of the truth is more widely accepted, it may cause more harm.
Trump’s assault of the press also gets Snyder’s attention. Trump may threaten the press and he may refer to them as a monolithic evil, but there is a distinction to be made between a responsible and a free press. Unverified stories that had to be retracted by CNN and others only give Trump’s accusations credibility.
Attacks on the press did not begin with Trump. Obama disparaged and attacked Fox News as blatantly as anything Trump has advocated and took steps to investigate a journalist from Fox in 2013. To all those on the left who loved to call Fox News Faux News; how are you any different from Trump? Is it only OK to attack the media that challenges your narrative?
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.
The press has inserted themselves as a partisan into the political fray long before Trump. Trump has refused to ignore their partisanship and has responded far more aggressively. The war with the press is not a one-sided affair.
An objective press is critical, but Trump’s attacks are not Hitleresque. He has not threatened to shut down the press and this country would never stand for it. Snyder ignores the substantial differences between the division of powers in the United States and Nazi Germany. Trump should be a lesson in the genius of our government structure.
It is this kind of hyperbole that marginalizes the press more than any attack from Donald Trump. Rage has trumped their professional standards as they rushed unverified stories that fit their narrative.
To draw a similarity between Trump and other authoritarian figures is seductive, but it clouds reality and averts the other side of the issue; the lapse in professional ethics from the media.
Snyder’s characterization of Trump’s comments about the press is way out of context. Trump should be challenged and skepticism should reign, but we should also challenge the press to be the objective source of truth and verifiability that we used to expect of them.