More and more, it appears that the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats, will be playing a what-if game, something like Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior: Mussolini vs. Nixon. Dirty tricks and allegations of corruption are old games in American politics. We’re also not strangers to violence, considering that our Civil War was a continuation of politics by other means. And our experience with rioting shows that we will, at times, express our displeasure with emphasis.
But recent events have set a disturbing tone in this election cycle. At rally after rally for Donald Trump, incidents of violence between protestors and supporters are raising the specter of a strong man working toward the assumption of power.
Comparisons to the emergence of fascism in the twenties and thirties risk a citation of Godwin’s Law, but consider the elements of the fascist political philosophy. Movements of this type are noted for their cults of personality and their devotion to state power and to a mythology of the greatness of the national identity. This latter characteristic is often set against others who are labeled the cause of the country’s problems.
Sound familiar? Consider Trump’s promise to change libel laws to allow suits against news media for writing articles that are “purposely negative and horrible and false.” America has a long tradition of protecting the right of people to express their opinions about politics and public figures, even to the point of smear campaigns—Swiftboating, anyone? But when someone says he wants to sue over something that is “purposely negative,” this sounds a lot like silencing dissent.
And then there are his proposals regarding immigration. We can debate who should be granted citizenship in this nation, but building a wall is exactly the kind of thing we’re used to seeing from supporters of gun control—impose a barrier to access, and people who specialize in getting around the law will comply, right? What is disturbing, rather than being merely silly, is his calls to ban people on the basis of religious identity or to remove birthright citizenship protections of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Two ideas arise from the goings on in the race for president this time. For one thing, gun control advocates have repeatedly told me that I’m paranoid for suggesting that tyranny would ever be possible in the United States. They’ve gone mysteriously quiet these days when I ask them whether their faith in this belief has been shaken by the Trump campaign. I sincerely hope that we are being treated to entertainment by someone with years of experience in “reality” television, but history doesn’t allow me to ignore parallels.
More than that, I have suggested many times on this site and elsewhere that when one right is put in danger, all of them are at risk. Trump’s claim of commitment to the Second Amendment comes into question when he declares his antipathy to the First and Fourteenth. One key point of rights is that people get to do things that we don’t like or understand. Rights are not limited only to members of our group or supporters of our ideology. We’ve struggled with this throughout our whole history, as the Alien and Sedition Acts illustrate. Once again, we’re being offered a choice between the seduction of authority and the uncertainties of freedom. If we’re worthy of our history, we’ll keep choosing the latter.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.