A Salon essay published on Friday accuses Republicans of resembling “good Germans” of the Nazi era — wishing to believe they are decent people while hiding behind “fictions of plausible deniability for the evils committed by their leader” — and describes today’s conservatism as seeking “friendly fascism” masked in an appeal to return to “traditional values.”
The essay, penned by staff writer Chauncey Devega and titled “Conservatives are the new ‘good Germans,’ enabling and defending Trump’s crimes,” begins by claiming “Whatever ‘conservative’ once meant in American politics, it’s now just a flimsy rhetorical shield for fascism.”
Devega continues by declaring the former president as “a force of political, human, moral and economic destruction.”
“He is the leader of an American neofascist and white supremacist movement,” he writes. “Today’s Republican Party has fully become an extension of his political cult and crime family.”
“Trump incited a lethal attack on the Capitol as part of a larger plot to overthrow American democracy,” he adds.
Noting Trump’s “historic level of support” at the polls during the recent presidential election and his popularity in public opinion polls, Devega claims Trump is “now positioning himself as a shadow president.”
“Public opinion polls show that Trump himself is more popular than the Republican Party as a whole,” he writes. “White right-wing evangelicals worship Trump like he is a god.”
With Gallup polls dismissing the notion of a civil war within the Republican Party, Devega claims Trump’s hold on the Party is “indomitable.”
“TrumpWorld endures,” he writes.
Devega then poses a “riddle,” seeking to discover what the term “conservative” truly means “for today’s Republicans.”
Describing “the most benign and generous understanding” of the term as denoting “a respect for stability, tradition and existing societal norms and institutions,” Devega claims such a definition is far removed from Trump, the Republican Party, and its followers.
“Donald Trump, his movement and its allies have almost no relationship to that tradition, and overwhelmingly reject such values,” he writes.
“In the Age of Trump, American democracy is under assault by neofascism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, gangster capitalism and other antisocial values and beliefs,” he adds.
After accusing the Republican Party and Trump of having “no respect for the rule of law” which they “consistently sought to undermine,” Devega then accuses the entire movement of having normalized terrorism and political violence.
“Trump and his movement have now normalized right-wing terrorism and political violence directed against liberals, progressives, nonwhites, Jews, Muslims and others deemed to be ‘the enemy,’” he writes.
Devega also further claims that Republican voters have embraced those very values supporting political violence.
“Public opinion polls and other research show that Republican and Trump voters embrace such values and beliefs, and now believe that political violence (on the order of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack) may be necessary as a way of protecting their power and privilege in American society,” he writes.
Devega then deems the conservatism of Trump voters and followers as destructive and seeking a “return” to Christian white male dominance.
“The version of conservatism that Trump and his voters and followers have embraced is ‘conservative’ politics as destruction,” he writes.
“Its goal is to return the United States to a mythic (and largely imaginary) past of complete white — and male and “Christian” — dominance over every area of American life.”
According to Devega, that goal is achieved through “radical, extremist right-wing politics in which ‘conservatism’ and an appeal to ‘traditional values’ are used to mask or camouflage an assault on multiracial democracy” as well as a more “inclusive, democratic and humane American society.”
Devega then claims the Republican Party “looks more like a European neofascist political party than a traditional center-right party that supports democracy,” before clarifying supposed Republican deceptions.
“When today’s Republicans and their voters and other followers say that they want the party to become ‘more conservative,’ what is really being communicated is a desire for ‘friendly fascism’ and a “less crude leader to complete Trump’s resurrection of a new American apartheid where ‘those people’ know their proper place and stay in it,” he writes.
Devega concludes by claiming that while “today’s Republicans love Donald Trump and his policies,” most disapprove of “the shame, stink, blood and filth of his neofascist project on their hands.”
“Like the ‘good Germans’ of the Nazi era, Republicans want to believe that they are good and decent people who can hide behind fictions of plausible deniability for the evils committed by their leader,” he adds.
“Calling themselves ‘conservatives’ is an effort to shield themselves from responsibility and complicity,” Devega writes.
This is not the first time the media has promoted associations between Republicans and the Nazis.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed addressing the struggle to “resist demands for unity” in the face of acts of “aggressive niceness” on the part of friendly Trump-supporting fellow citizens who are compared to “polite” Nazis and terror organizations who “offer protection and hospitality.”
Last month, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an op-ed by the paper’s former editor David Lee Preston in which he made several comparisons between Trump and Hitler while presenting Trump’s presidency as a means to “better understand Hitler’s sway over Germans.”
In December, a Washington Post cartoon depicted Republicans who “collaborated” with the president in contesting the 2020 election results as gruesome rats.
In November, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour recalled Kristallnacht — the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom carried out throughout Nazi Germany — while describing Trump’s presidency as having been a “modern day assault” attacking “those same values” the Nazis did.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.