Donald Trump laid out his vision of our country today, with the theme of "America First." It rang a bell. Here are a few dark resonances.
- The America First Committee was the most prominent group opposing American entry into World War II.
- The contemporary "America First Party" includes the following in its platform: "Since the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, there have been 40 million unborn babies slaughtered, laying to waste an entire generation. It is time that we end the American Holocaust. We are committed to protecting the lives of these innocent persons." and this: "The America First Party will not support any proposal that allows homosexuals into the military service of the United States of America, in any capacity," and the real doozy is this one: "The America First Party is unalterably opposed to all so-called ' hate crime ' laws whether they are federal, state, county, or municipal. The elusive element of ' hate ' as a significant factor in the commission of a particular crime is something that can best be determined by God; not by Man."
- The final frightening bell it rang is the (marginally) alternative history of Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh's isolationist Presidential campaign blocks FDR's reelection. (As it so happens, the real Lindbergh was a leader in the actual "America First Committee.") The New Yorker had a related piece on this about a year ago.
I believe we are in grave danger. We dare not stand idly by. These are dark days for America, and it is larger than a blowhard clown. Hate is contagious, and bullying, xenophobia, and a toxic society are the things of nightmares. Trump's ascent is no laughing matter.
Friends, though I respect the Democratic Party's inner dynamic, and want so much for the societal vision of Bernie Sanders to keep influencing both Hilary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party's conventional platform, it is time. The implosion of the Republican Party in the face of Trump's populism, Cruz's ridiculous #HailCarly pass today, the Kasich/Cruz too-late #NeverTrump alliance - all of this makes Roth's alternative history feel more real with each passing day. Now is the time to not just decry Trump's hate-speech. It is time to unify and work the mechanisms of our democracy to counter his hatred by getting behind Hilary Clinton, and then mobilizing to lobby her administration to fulfill much of the vision she has assimilated into her own during this campaign.
Step up. Do it because it is the necessary thing. Don't stop when this stage is done. There's untold damage being done, and, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav taught long ago: "If you believe you can corrupt, believe you can heal."
It's up to you.