If you think pogroms and concentration camps and purity laws and the destruction of political dissent and the full rollback of liberal human rights protections cannot happen here, that is what they, the liberal, secular, intelligent, open minded folks, thought in Germany in 1933. There were no grand messages of warning from God or sages, no fiery crosses in the sky to warn of the coming civil apocalypse. There were warnings, there were worries, there were possibilities, but in the end it happened because it was allowed to happen.
Fearful armed white men walk around feeling they are protecting people from “outsiders” and “thugs” and “criminal elements” while a demagogue they support is winning in the election polls denouncing a tiny minority of the population as a source of the nations ills, while ineffectual liberal leaders tear themselves apart fighting over pie in the sky solutions to problems.This sound familiar? It should. It is what happened in Germany in 1933 and it is what is happening in the U.S. in 2016. It can happen here because it IS happening here. The fascist element in U.S. society sees this election as the last chance to hold on to power and to implement its nationalist and xenophobic policies in the face of a nation that is no longer a purely white supremacist system. This is a dangerous time.
I truly believe that the open/concealed carry movement is the moral equivalent i.e. the unique American manifestation, of the xenophobic/nationalistic/fear based chauvinism that led to the creation of the Black Shirts in Italy and the Brown Shirts in Germany. Look at it: they take the law and the “protection of the public” into their own hands, they target, physically and rhetorically, minorities who they see as “destroying the fabric of our society”, and they act as though they have a legal and moral mandate that comes from the foundational documents/values of the nation state. The German and Italian versions started out as very loosely organized but eventually came together as an actual force under the auspices of regimes (Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany) that harnessed their fear and anger, legitimized it through their power that was gained through ostensibly democratic/civil means, and unleashed it first on the “enemies of the people” as understood by the militia/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups themselves. After this was accomplished, the power of these groups was then used to attack and suppress (and eventually liquidate) enemies of the regime, the regime that was now seen as the personification of the nation and the values that the militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups held most dear to begin with.
An authoritarian regime becomes a totalitarian one when it taps into the fears and anxieties of the former ruling class/caste/race and uses its historical militant agency for its own purposes, and institutionalizes these civil pathologies into technocratic systems and actions. The militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups still operate under the belief that they are “free men” fighting for a “free society” when in fact they have be co-opted to serve a regime and a system that will eventually turn on them as soon as all the less powerful enemies have been eliminated. The gun culture of the United States, while benign enough in its origins, is ripe for this sort of manipulation. The open/concealed carry fanatic sees “his” nation being “taken away” from him and fears for the safety of “his” property and “his” women and children, usually at the hands of a hated or feared minority or minorities, in the case of the U.S., black men, non-white immigrants, and Muslims. He must, then, take it onto himself to “remedy” the situation, to constantly be on the look out for those who would “stab the nation and its people in the back” and to “take back what is ours” from people they at best do not trust and at worst actively fear and despise. It took hundreds of years of conscious and unconscious cultural programming to get the German and Italian populations primed for the sort of grass roots fascism cum systemic totalitarianism that the Fascist regimes were eventually able to create and control.
I think, I fear, that it would not take nearly as much programming for this sort of thing to happen in the U.S. We already have a history of race based terror, violence, and systemic abuse of minority rights and dignity. Combined with a conservative impulse to obey and trust authority, an easily manipulated rugged, machismo individualism, and a propensity towards armed violence, and you have the foundations of a very potent fascist system that could come about almost entirely through grassroots and institutional democratic means. Trump is tapping into that, and he is succeeding, while the media and culture that is obsessed with celebrity, wealth, and prestige is too busy gawking and laughing at the funny man-boy with the silly hair (the funny former artist soldier with the silly mustache) to see that he understands fully what he is doing and who he is appealing to and by what means. Trump is a fascist in the grain of Hitler and Mussolini, it is that simple. They only reason he is not acting outright exactly like they did is that he does not yet have the legitimized political power. He is on the verge of getting that power, and the scared, armed, xenophobic white men who will give it to him are just waiting for their time to finally take revenge on the blacks, the immigrants, the liberals, and the Muslims who they feel have taken “their” nation away from them. The only question remains, can Trump win through legitimate means, and if he can, how soon after that will the Reichstag mysteriously catch fire amidst streets strewn with broken glass?