“Fascists” April 1, 2016
This week’s strip ran late. Sorry. This time the problem wasn’t a lack of time to do a strip, but how much time it took to draw this one. Lots of action and poses and details.
As for the theme, or “message”: Well… the Trump candidacy is the closest thing to a fascist movement I have seen in my lifetime. Certainly white supremacists, neo-Nazis and unthinking violent types support him, he leads with a buffoonish magnetism many have compared to Mussolini, and he appeals to familiar nationalist, racist and misogynist tropes used by fascist movements a hundred years ago. Other conditions of the past obtain: increasing poverty, economic incoherence, fear and displacement, desperation and anger.
When protesters from Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders and others (not always left wing, plenty of conservatives hate Trump, too) were ejected violently by supporters and security personnel at recent Trump rallies, I got worried. It reminded me too much of the attacks Socialists faced when confronted by fascists in Weimar Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Yet after some reading up on the subject, I realized that the analogy had serious limits. As awful as the bullying has been at Trump rallies, the street fighting and mob violence in the streets of Berlin were unlike anything you would find on the streets of any American city today. Even the police crackdowns of Ferguson or Occupy, bad as those incidents were, are simply not comparable. And it’s worth remembering how much worse things got as Hitler secured his dictatorship.
At this point in the primary season, many in the Clinton camp accuse Sanders supporters of underestimating the threat posed by Trump, often in a cynical bid to secure the nomination of their favored candidate. But we are still a long way from the kind of fascist takeover the Germans and Italians suffered many decades ago. Currently the party Trump is running in is trying to undermine his candidacy and prevent his nomination; there are more conservative voices against him than for him. Should they prevail, his nearest rival Ted Cruz, though much more frightening in the abstract (he truly believes the awful things he says), is a certain failure in the general election. Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, they stand a much better chance of winning in November against either Trump or Cruz than probably any previous Democratic candidate against a Republican since Bill Clinton ran against the first Bush. We might even see a romp akin to LBJ’s against Goldwater.
What is alarming about the Trump candidacy is that it has lasted this long with this much potential for succeeding in one of only two major parties in our political system. The mainstream ideology of the GOP is barely less vicious than Trump in its contempt for women, minorities, the disabled and the poor; nor much less callous in favoring unstable, violent policies on the global stage. This is a sick, moribund party that has played with the worst aspects of American psychology for decades. Yet so long as we have a two-party system propped up by wealthy donors and corporate media, we as a people will continue to suffer the consequences of gridlock, incompetence and cynicism.
Anyhoo, about the art: The cartoon I drew in mostly brush, pen, Microns, Sharpies and whatever else I grabbed from my table. I used a lot of photographic reference of street protests, uniforms and period fashion from Germany in the late 20s and early 30s. The FreiKorps flags and helmets are fairly accurate: they really liked the Jolly Roger. The banner carried by the KPD and SPD marchers reads “Red United Front Smashes Fascism” (see here); the flag with a swastika slashed through with arrows was a symbol of the RUF. As for Fetch’s time machine — it’s just a Wonkavator.