Editorial: Pep rally for fascism on CNN

Column By John Young

“Why are you so afraid of the word ‘Fascism’? . . . Just a word – just a word. And might not be so bad.”

In Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 political novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” it’s just a word — until fascism’s face is painted on America’s streets.

The tool for Lewis’ turn of the screw is a full-of-himself politician, Berzelius Windrip, who sounds way too much like the politician for whom CNN delivered a one-hour pep rally last week.

“Vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected,” Lewis writes of Windrip. And yet, one of “celebrated piety.”

Eighty-eight years from the sharing of this fiction, we see it in real-time.

You say Donald Trump isn’t illiterate? Well, why didn’t he sue The Atlantic for its 2018 piece, “The President Who Doesn’t Read”? By all accounts, what we see is what we got.

With MAGA we see fascism.

Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential run, is one of our most vehement and eloquent enemies of Trumpism.

He calls Trump “a vehicle for a foreign ideology” – one which Benito Mussolini proudly made his own: “fascismo.”

Fascism: a philosophy that “exalts nation and often race above the individual” and fosters dictatorships, according to Webster.

Active ingredients: cultish obeisance and the consecration of lies.

Hitler convinced followers that Jews were conspiring to bring down the German Republic, among other evil deeds. The Nazi poster read: “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew.” And like MAGA, Hitler villainized homosexuals.

What a familiar ring to MAGA’s claims about Muslims (“bent on imposing Shariah Law”), or Black Lives Matter (“preaching Marxism”; recall that MAGA’s precursors in the Sixties said Martin Luther King Jr. was an agent of communism).

MAGA extremists who comically called Barack Obama a communist now are inclined to join Tucker Carlson and Trump in raising a glass to certifiable Commie Vlad Putin, bravely fighting the “Nazis” who run Ukraine. Nostrovia!

What else do fascists do? Ah, yes, call the press the “enemy of the people.” Call civil servants – from school teachers to public health officials — propaganda vessels of the “deep state.” Well, let’s just say that when it comes to propaganda, MAGA’s skills are exceptionally keen.

All told, one thing we know about Trump is he won’t take it as an insult to say that he and his man Vlad are of the same ilk.

Nor will Trump, or master-race phenom Ron DeSantis, take offense if compared to Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban, last year invited to address an adoring Conservative Political Action Conference — CPAC.

Back to CNN’s hour-long pep rally: Correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked serious questions of the indicted, twice-impeached, newly liable-for-sexual-assault con man offering to lead the free world again. He took on each question with the earnestness of a Catskills comedian.

A default on the debt that would cripple our economy and the world’s? Let it burn.

Supporting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty? Ah, why not just give Putin his chunk?

Worst of all: Trump’s dismissiveness about his liability for court-affirmed sexual predation. Funny – that’s a transgression from which he has never shied. Roll tape.

Throughout all this, a MAGA crowd chortled and hooted.

Said MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell of Trump and his cheer squad: “There is nothing in government that they take seriously.”

They say they support the Constitution, but they are revolted by the guts inside, the “equal treatment under the law” part (for gays and trans people? No way!), the generations-old expansive application of the 14th Amendment. (Civil rights breaking out all over!)

They cannot abide by the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, public schools, and immigrants as a whole.

This is why a MAGA adherent drove hundreds of miles to shoot brown-skinned people in El Paso and another mowed down black people in Buffalo.

This is why white nationalists paraded with tiki torches in Charlottesville and a counter-protester died under a white supremacist’s wheels.

This is why the Anti-Defamation League calculated white supremacism was behind 80 percent of the mass shootings in 2022.

This is why Trump could so fuel his supporters with the Big Lie that they would break through Capitol windows and pummel Capitol cops.

This is what fascism looks like. It looks like Donald Trump.

“It might not be so bad,” says Berzelius Windrip, to have a Hitler, or a Mussolini, or a Napoleon or a Bismarck, “and have ‘em really run the country and make it efficient and prosperous again.”

In the absence of that, MAGA, break some windows.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.