Like Tara Granahan, when I heard of progressive Democrat state Representative Aaron Regunberg’s use of terms like “neo-Nazi rot” to describe the Trump administration at a public rally over the weekend, I contacted the representative to ask whether he might see it in retrospect as a little out of bounds. The exchange was respectful and not evasive, and Regunberg, of Providence, didn’t back off of his statement, ultimately agreeing with my characterization of his opinion as this:
- For [him], “alt-right” = “neo-Nazi”
- Bannon has expressed support for the “alt-right”
- Effectively, Bannon = Trump
- The president is therefore enabling “neo-Nazi rot”
The context up to that point is important. I’ve argued, before, that this conflation of the “alt-right” with (in a word) Nazism is mistaken, and my exchange with Regunberg illustrates the point. To substantiate his argument, Regunberg sent me a link to a CNN article that makes the connection by pointing out that actual racists are happy to call themselves “alt-right” (which I’d argue is more an example of co-opting than founding) and like Bannon’s views on “Mexican immigration, Muslims, and refugee resettlement.”
The key question is whether Americans (and Steve Bannon, himself) can agree with those positions and not be neo-Nazis. Indeed, 57% of Americans, according to one new poll, support the president’s temporary refugee ban. If Regunberg believes, as he told me, that Trump’s support of Bannon associates Trump with the alt-right (and, therefore, “neo-Nazis”), then support for Trump and this policy should associate any Americans with such views, too.
We’re in dangerous territory, here. Right after an election, the losing side is relentlessly insisting that the other side is fundamentally illegitimate. Meanwhile, former president Barack Obama has emerged from a too-brief vacation to have a spokesman state, “The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discrimiAdd Newnating against individuals because of their faith or religion.” (Never mind that the Trump administration used Obama’s list of nations to choose the scope of its policy.)
Add in the fact that it has become nearly impossible to differentiate between the news media and progressive activist publications, and we appear to be getting a taste of the environment in which left-wing dictatorships emerge. A powerful faction is sowing constant unrest while the news is spun to support its claims and associated politicians declare opposing views to be illegitimate and their highest-profile ally, who’s been out of office for less than two weeks, is muddying the waters about who the president is.
To a recent post in this space, an anonymous commenter offered the cliché that “progressives are tolerant but NOT for intolerance and bigotry.” The strategy is obvious:
- I’m tolerant of everything but intolerance and bigotry!
- What’s intolerance and bigotry?
- Anything with which I disagree.
Again, this is how left-wing dictatorships make their case.
My sense of the country’s temper, even from behind the curtain, here in Rhode Island, is that a majority of Americans (or at least a very significant segment of the country) is not going to keep falling for it, which means either that the Left is headed toward political calamity or pulling the nation toward civic calamity. Anybody who would prefer to avoid either outcome should be careful with language.