by Roger Kimball
I guess this means that they’re worried. By “this” I mean unhinged anti-Trump expostulations like “Trump’s Dire Words Raise New Fears About His Authoritarian Bent” in Monday’s New York Times.
As readers of that former paper of record know well, The New York Times has always had a low opinion of Donald Trump.
By itself, that does not distinguish the Times from the vast majority of legacy media properties in the United States – or, come to that, in the United Kingdom.
Trump is just too crass, too naff, for words. Really, the man is impossible. It was a sort of demonic miracle that he was elected in 2016. The Dems made the unforgivable mistake of running the one candidate more unpopular than the reality TV star become populist rabble-rouser.
Now he is at it again. And not only is Trump running for President for the third time: he also is trouncing all the competition. As I write, polls have Trump up over his closest rival to be Republican candidate, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, by more than 50 points (some say nearly 60 points). They have him up over Joe Biden in the general election by anywhere from 2 to 9 points. Sure, it’s early days still but the trend towards Trump is unambiguous.
“Please Make It Stop” might have been the headline for that story in the Times. The two authors, Michael C Bender and Michael Gold, do their best to maintain a patina of respectability. It’s all “Mr Trump” this and “experts say” that. But in the end, they can’t help themselves. They are clearly terrified that that the bad orange man will win in 2024. He is surging everywhere. It doesn’t seem to matter how often he is indicted, how many judges impose gag orders on him or say that he incited an “insurrection” on January 6, 2021: he just keeps pushing ahead of his rivals.
If this story had sound effects, the primary noise would be what the Gospel According to Matthew called “fletus et stridor dentium”: wailing and gnashing of teeth. Remember Godwin’s law? That’s the contention, named for the writer Mike Godwin, that the longer an internet conversation continues, the greater the chances are that someone will be compared to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis. The Times writers go full Godwin right at the beginning of their desperate handwringing. “During a Veterans Day speech,” they wail, “Mr. Trump used language that echoed authoritarian leaders who rose to power in Germany and Italy in the 1930s . . .”
Wham: three short paragraphs and Donald Trump is already being compared to Hitler and Mussolini. Then come the “experts” to provide cover. We’re not just wacko name callers here. We’re The New York Times. Trump warned that:
“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”
Lincoln actually took a similar line when he noted in his Lyceum Address of 1838 that “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” But you are not allowed to mention Lincoln and Trump in the same sentence, except to trash Trump, so the Times calls on “experts” to do the dirty work. This “turn inward,” they write, “has sounded new alarms among experts on autocracy who have long worried about Mr. Trump’s praise for foreign dictators and disdain for democratic ideals. They said the former president’s increasingly intensive focus on perceived internal enemies was a hallmark of dangerous totalitarian leaders.”
Well, if “experts” say it, who are we to disagree?
Later on in the piece, Messrs Bender and Gold allow that “Some experts on authoritarianism said that while Mr Trump’s recent language has begun to more closely resemble that used by leaders like Hitler or Benito Mussolini, he does not quite mirror fascist leaders of the past.” Well, praise the Lord.
What they are really worried about, it transpires, is that Trump, should he be elected again, might use the Justice Department “to take vengeance on his political rivals, plotting a vast expansion of presidential power and installing ideologically aligned lawyers in key positions to bless his contentious actions.”
The hysteria broadcast by the Times was more contagious than any Chinese retrovirus. Joe Scarborough and Lady Macb—I mean, Mika Brzezinski caught a terminal case and exhibitied all the most grotesque symptoms live on national television.
“He’s not a normal candidate,” whimpered Morning Joe, “he’s running to end American democracy as we know it.”
I wonder if Joe needs to have his meds adjusted. “Joe Biden” he said, is “the candidate who supports American democracy” while “Trump supports a new form of authoritarian government. It’s really that simple.”
Is it, Joe? Back in the 1960s there was a popular American television show called The Twilight Zone. It had a catchy, eldritch theme. If you listen closely, I fancy you can hear it behind Joe’s breathless agitation.