This is an installment of Louis Grilli’s weekly column “As I See It”
The primary season for the 2016 presidential election seems like a lifetime ago. Larry David was routinely portraying Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live and thoughts of a Doanld Trump nomination, let alone election, were but a twinkle in Sean Hannity’s eye.
So much has changed since then, including the rhetoric of Donald Trump (to an extent). In those days, a little more than a year ago, I can remember being deeply concerned at the messaging of the Republican nomination hopeful. Anyone who was paying attention to the primaries could probably rehearse a similar litany of red alarms that went off in their amygdalas as Mr. Trump not so surreptitiously coaxed his supporters into punching protesters at his campaign rallies and even offered to pay the legal bills of those who did so.
I remember my alarm as I watched him tip toe, with all the rhetorical skill of an elephant in a glass museum, around denouncing the KKK while on CNN with Jake Tapper. So when some pundits, like blogger Andrew Sullivan, went so far as to compare Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler, I scoffed, but not too hard, always keeping his words in the back of my mind. I believed then that Donald Trump had the makings of a fascist, not so much in clear dogma or ideological certainty, but in the glib fashion in which he spoke about violence. I was also keenly aware of his need to protect his painfully fragile ego, an awareness that is clearly not unfounded as anyone can see any day of the week on his Twitter feed. However, my concern lay in the lengths he would be willing to go to protect his ego.
Today, after Mr. Trump won not only the Republican nomination, but the presidency, it has become clear (at least for now) that I was largely wrong in thinking he would be a fascist. Donald Trump has now been president for over two months and we have not seen any of the horrifying things he spoke of during the primaries. During the general election, he seemed much more subdued than his untamed attitude during the primaries. Maybe his handlers got control of him, maybe he was just exhausted, but many times, the candidate sounded much more like Jeb Bush on NyQuil than Francisco Franco. As president, this has changed somewhat. Trump can often be seen going on long tweet binges about various conspiracy theories that have a tenuous grasp on some kind of reality, but all the bluster about fascism was largely unfounded.
But we still see many of the same voices, especially my fellow college students around the country, who think that being a conservative is not covered by the first amendment, and in just the last few weeks, Snoop Dogg released a music video where he literally shot a Donald Trump look-a-like in the face. Would this be something Benito Mussolini would have stood for? As far as I’m aware, Mr. Dogg is not facing any extended period of hard labor in a gulag. He is, most likely, going about his daily business. Indeed, the very fact that I have written and am currently writing about things that I find distasteful about the president without punishment is proof that he is not the fascist I once thought he would be.
Only in a society as safe and rich as this one could people genuinely believe that Donald Trump is a fascist. Donald Trump knows little about policy, he spends too much time on the golf course, he spends too much time reading the comments section of Breitbart, but he is not a fascist. In Franco’s Spain, people had to get permission from the police before they had a birthday party. This is a far cry from the United States in 2017.
Despite the vicious, and many times rightly so, coverage that the president has faced on dozens of news outlets daily, I am unaware of his trying to get any of them shut down or their licenses revoked. In response to them, he fights back. Many times, when he fights back, he is light on the facts. But I would much rather have a president who watches too much Bill O’Reilly than a president who sends the secret police to my door.
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