Indeed, if ever there were a sign of perilous times, this would be it: debates, raging for the past two weeks in prominent media channels, over whether Donald Trump is himself a fascist. Brookings Institution fellow Robert Kagan says it's a fair characterization (“Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader…in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation.”) Neocon historian Michael Ledeen, in Forbes and elsewhere, says fiddle faddle. ("Being a strong leader isn't enough to make you a fascist.”)
But even this debate is just a spat about how many Nazis can fit on the head of a pin. One scholar looks to 20th-century Europe for dire cautionary tales. The other enumerates the many reasons, from the dictionary of political science, that the comparisons are specious -- all amounting to this:
Robert Kagan: “Look out! He's got a rifle!”
Michael Ledeen: “You fool. That's a shotgun.”
Next: Blam. Blammm.
- Media critic Bob Garfield, on American journalism shirking its most fundamental responsibility.
A few years ago, Kevin Drum summed up one aspect of this situation in this way: If you're denying, you're losing. Last month I ran a post on the same general principle.
Another thing illustrated by this exchange is that Donald Trump's prospects for the general campaign are going to be terrible if his management of surrogates is any kind of yardstick.
But the overriding danger, as Bob Garfield points out, is that the members of our political media seem content to watch from the sidelines as the penguins have armed themselves.