My mother was an unrepentant liberal Democrat. After every presidential election when a Republican took office, she would proclaim with a sinister tone, "Mark my words, Daniel, someday fascism will take over this country!"
It became a family joke. "Mom," I would answer, "You said that after Eisenhower was elected." Although a Republican, Ike would be considered a dangerous radical by the dissemblers controlling right-wing media today.
But as a Jew who came of age during the 1930s, Mom knew a thing or two about how fascism as a murderous, authoritarian state could undermine and replace a progressive democracy. Her genes must have rubbed off on her son. In August 2015, when Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, I wrote an editorial for my then-home town newspaper, comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
It was not a comparison I made lightly. But there were unsettling factors that were not only evident then but which have played out over the past three years.
Like Hitler, initially nobody took Trump seriously. He was just some goofy loudmouth with bad hair and repulsive viewpoints.
After he was elected, many believed that once he held power, Trump would tone down the incendiary rhetoric and become a responsible leader. Needless to say, the opposite happened.
After 1933, Hitler attacked the free press and bullied moderates to either give in or flee. The courts, religious leaders, teachers and the general population chose to surrender to his authority. German industrialists backed his militarism believing that huge profits were to be made.
And then there were the scapegoats: the Jews. Trump has Mexican immigrants.
Let us never forget how Trump burst onto the national political stage. Did he promise to expand the economy and create jobs? Did he offer a plan to consolidate America's international standing in the global community? Did he vow to address income inequality and improve the lot of America's middle class?
No, he did none of these things. Trump launched a racist dog-whistle labeling all Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers. By doing so, he made a direct appeal to the dark side of America's white bigotry. It was the next step down from his odious "Birther" accusations against then-President Barack Obama and would soon be reinforced by his support of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia.
As I write this, Americans are being treated to the sickening spectacle of immigrant children ripped from their parents and placed in concentration camps with the approval of a majority of Republican voters. Although I disapprove of comparisons to the Holocaust, this cruel, unjust and immoral policy whiffs in that direction. It follows the Nazi-like practice of heartless bureaucrats in suits making decisions that destroy the lives of others.
Nothing guarantees that the United States will not continue its slow lurch towards fascism. What scares me is that the bulk of Trump's "base" wouldn't care as long as they had guns and television.
If there comes together a perfect storm of a citizenry succumbed to laziness and apathy, a Congress submitting to cowardice and self-interest and fueled by the greed of corporate predators like the Koch Brothers, then my mother's fatal prediction could come true. I'm just thankful she isn't around to see that day.
It's no secret that Donald Trump is a pathological liar and astoundingly corrupt. He exemplifies the values one would expect in a Third-World tyrant.
He has repeatedly demonstrated that he finds dictators attractive and even voiced regret that the American people don't venerate him the way North Koreans adore their Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un. I will now go on record that I suspect Trump will attempt some unscrupulous and otherwise illegal act to either rig or derail the 2020 election based on a contrived danger he himself will create. If he succeeds, 244 years of American democracy will come to an end.
In March 1946, my father, on occupation duty with the U.S. Army, attended the Nuremberg war crimes trials where the sins of the Nazis were made public. As a trained psychologist, he observed the proceedings and wrote about them in a letter I now retain.
Dad ended by noting that the Germans after the war suddenly hated Hitler and the Nazis. Not because of their crimes, but because Hitler failed to make Germany great again on the blood of the innocent.
Will Trump "Make America Great Again" on policies of brutality, racism and injustice? And will we stand by and allow him?
Daniel A. Brown is an artist, writer and former public school teacher living in Arroyo Seco.