When you get engaged in politics as an activist or an observer or both, every once in a while it helps to step back and look at current political events within an historical perspective, because you’ll often find that what is considered to be so new and unusual today has either happened before or can be better understood with reference to previous political events.
After all, the United States is not only the world’s second oldest democracy, but England, the world’s oldest democracy, didn’t abolish property ownership as a requirement for voting until 1918. We never imposed such a stipulation for voting, which makes the United States the oldest, universal democracy on Earth.
(Women could vote in both the U.S. and U.K. after 1918 but women still needed to be owners of property to vote in the U.K. until 1928.)
Maybe it’s my penchant and training to always consider any current politics from an historical point of view which has made me unable to jump on the ‘Trump’s a Fascist’ bandwagon, but the reason I have always been more sanguine about the so-called Trump ‘threat’ lies in an essay written by the historian Richard Hofstadter in 1963 which you can download and read right here.
This essay, entitled ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics,’ brilliantly captures and explains the background and reasons for the appearance of what we now call the ‘alt-right’ political narrative roughly every fifty years.
Trump is hardly the first public figure to try and build a political movement based on the idea that government needs a radical overhaul because it has been captured by some kind of secret, anti-American cabal which if left unchecked will destroy our Constitutional foundations and turn all of us into zombie-like followers of the Deep State.
According to Hofstadter, the paranoid style in American politics involves “a vital difference between the paranoid spokesman in politics and the clinical paranoiac: although they both tend to be overheated, oversuspicious, overaggressive, grandiose, and apocalyptic in expression, the clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him; whereas the spokesman of the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way…