"Choose the form of the Destructor," says the demon in Ghostbusters. Bill Murray, et al., got the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Our political and media elites, on the other hand, got Donald Trump.
Everyone is aghast at Trump's latest plan, to suspend all immigration by Muslims. But it's no coincidence that Trump's announcement came less than a day after a limp, toneless speech by President Barack Obama on terrorism, one that left Americans feeling much less safe.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, then-president George W. Bush made clearthat Muslims weren't our enemy: Radical Islamists were. Because Bush took steps against those radical Islamists that made people feel safer, there was no significant anti-Muslim backlash, though all the bien-pensant types thought it certain that those rubes in flyover country would get violent.
Obama, on the other hand, responded to an attack by Islamic State-linked Muslims with a mixture of pablum and an effort at distraction by talking about gun bans for people on the no-fly list. (Even lefty publications like the LA Times and Slate thought that idea dumb). Before that attack took place, Obama was already polling terribly on terror: According to a CNN/ORC poll taken between 11/27 and 12/1, only 33% of Americans approved of Obama's handling of ISIL; 64% disapproved. I doubt that Obama's ratings will improve when the post-San Bernardino polls come in.
And Obama's public statements have seemed weak and mired in PC, even as many Americans grow increasingly worried about Islamic terrorism. As Josh Kraushaar wrote in National Journal, "Democrats are at risk of politically marginalizing themselves on national security in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, catering to a base that seems disconnected from the growing anxiety that the public feels over the threat from Islamic terrorism. ... The signs of a president in denial over the threat of terrorism keep piling up."
Enter Donald Trump. People who are unhappy with the things Trump is saying need to understand that he's only getting so much traction because he's filling a void. If the responsible people would talk about these issues, and take action, Trump wouldn't take up so much space.
And there's a lesson for our ruling class there: Calling Trump a fascist is a bit much (fascism, as Tom Wolfe once reported, is forever descending upon the United States, but somehow it always lands on Europe), but movements like fascism and communism get their start because the mechanisms of liberal democracy seem weak and ineffectual and dishonest. If you don't want Trump or, perhaps, some post-Trump figure who really is a fascist to dominate things, you need to stop being weak and ineffectual and dishonest.
Right now, after years of Obama hope-and-change, a majority of Americans (56%)think Islam is incompatible with American values. That's true even for 43% of Democrats.
In that sort of environment, where people feel unsafe and where the powers-that-be seem to be, well, weak and ineffectual and dishonest, the appeal of someone who doesn't seem weak and ineffectual grows stronger.
You can see this in France, where the long-marginalized "far right" National Front is now winning elections all over. It's doing so well because the French people, after not one but two Islamist mass shootings in Paris, feel that their government is not serious about protecting them, and their way of life, from their enemies.
Likewise, it's a bit hard to take people seriously about Trump's threat to civil liberties when President Obama was just endorsing an unconstitutional gun ban, when his attorney general was threatening to prosecute people for anti-Muslim speech (a threat later walked back, thankfully) and when universities and political leaders around the country are making clear their belief that free speech is obsolete.
Hearing that Yale professor Erika Christakis won't be teaching at Yale because of the abuse she received over a respectful but non-PC email, former DNC chair Howard Dean tweeted: "Free speech is good. Respecting others is better." To his credit, CNN's Jake Tapper responded: "Of course only one of them is enshrined in the Constitution."
But Twitter humorist IowaHawk had the last word: "With the exception of POTUS, the Atty General, both leading presidential candidates, the media, and universities, Americans love free speech."
If you wish to hold fascism, or even just Trumpism, at bay, then we need elites who are trustworthy, who can be counted on to protect the country, and who respect the Constitution even when it gets in the way of doing something they want to do. By failing to live up to these standards, they have chosen their "Destructor." Let's hope that they haven't chosen ours, as well.
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