The effects of a Trump presidency

By Benjamin Clabault

(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

In his scathing attack on Donald Trump last Thursday, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney warned that Trump’s “brand of anger has led other nations into the abyss.” This statement cannot be taken lightly, for it accurately reflects the real potential dangers of a Trump presidency.

Commentators and political figures from Jeb Bush advisor John Noonan to comedian Trevor Noah have suggested that Trump is a fascist. His nativism and xenophobia, his apparent leanings towards authoritarianism, and his ceaseless promotion of his own hypermasculinity all draw parallels to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and even Adolf Hitler, führer of Nazi Germany.

But nonetheless he remains a viable candidate. Mainstream media outlets report on his campaign along with all the others, citing various pros and cons of a potential Trump presidency without fully appreciating the depths to which our country could potentially sink.

This lack of downright fear stems from an “it can’t happen here” attitude. We have never seen a military takeover in our country. We haven’t experienced civil war since 1865. State-sponsored violence, while certainly existent in the contexts of racism and mass incarceration, has masked itself under the pretenses of fighting crime and maintaining order.

The relative peace and order in our country is not preordained, but stems from the historical causes and conditions that have allowed for it. Given the right circumstances, the United States is just as capable as any other society of taking a turn towards a hellish future. I believe that the election of Donald J. Trump as president could create these circumstances.

His calls for murdering the families of suspected terrorists and the increased use of torture have drawn sharp criticism from former CIA director General Michael Hayden, who insisted that the military would refuse to follow orders from Trump that violate international law. In the past, however, plenty of military commanders have broken the law in following the orders of the president. What the general’s statement really reflects is not a noble insistence on rigid adherence to international law, but rather a general unwillingness to cooperate and take orders from a man he deems incompetent to lead the country.

When asked about Hayden’s statements at last Thursday’s Republican debate, Trump insisted that the military would not refuse to listen to him. This sets the stage for an arrogant, insistent president butting heads with a military complex that refuses to respect his authority. Such conflicts have occurred around the world throughout modern history, and the results are often not pretty. I believe it is completely within reason to fear that a Trump versus U.S. military standoff could lead to our nation’s first ever coup d’état.

Concerning the U.S.’s rampant anti-Muslim rhetoric, it is important to note that comparisons with Nazi anti-Semitism run deeper than Trump’s words. Hitler rose to power among a German populace that felt itself preordained to a dominant position in the world, a position denied to them through no fault of their own. So they found a scapegoat – Jewish people – and put their energy into a genocidal campaign as part of their country’s rightful ascension. Many people in the United States similarly feel that our country belongs at the top and are incensed at the idea of not remaining there. This feeling of slipping preeminence on the global stage, coupled with economic woes at home, have pushed Americans to also find scapegoats: Muslim “terrorists” and Mexican immigrants.

This feeling is widespread; I know because I’ve heard it expressed firsthand. Is this feeling logical? No. Is it understandable from a social science standpoint? Certainly.

All over the world and throughout human history, societies have perpetrated horrible atrocities and brought devastation upon themselves when certain conditions coalesce. The fact is that, even here in the United States, certain phenomena can bring about horrible results. At this pivotal moment, we as a nation must realize our own vulnerability and demand that our society not drag itself down into a hellish future.

Benjamin Clabault is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]