In the 1950s and 1960s, a fairly routine, average man, perhaps even on the lower end of the economic scale, wrote several books that became quite popular among the literati and the socially conscious, especially on campuses. His name was Eric Hoffer, a former fruit and vegetable picker, dishwasher, handyman, and eventually…even as an author…a working longshoreman. His original and perhaps most famous book was titled “The True Believer.” It was an attempt, successful I believe, to explain the extraordinary psychological steps that lead an individual to become a Fascist.
We now reflect on the remarkable occurrence of a small wave of “deplorables,” apparently following the leading Neo-Fascist demagogue (among many lesser others) Donald J. Trump in his exhortations to take over the U.S. Capitol and stop our democratic processes from certifying the national vote and counting the electoral votes. Others, like Senators Hawley, Lanford and Cruz also contributed to this astonishing event, but the Neo-Fascists were basically following Trump’s lead, his message and his actual speech that day, including his assurance (which did not happen) that he would accompany them to the Capitol to stop the electoral process.
Of course this didn’t all just happen overnight. As more and more evidence from Emails and phone calls is published in media, we learn that Trump was instigating a takeover of government, trying to influence states to change their votes, working with Fascist Republican Senators like Johnson, Cruz, Hawley, Scott, Paul, Rubio, McConnell and others to overturn the national vote. As so often happens in Banana Republics, the People do not yet have the information to indict these potential criminals, but it may come soon. In the meantime, what have we learned about who these insurgents are, not merely the indicted ones, now over 300 individual traitors, but also all the others who hide in the backwoods, like wolves, with guns and Nazi flags and clubs, often mock-fighting with each other in “training” so childish and girlish that it makes our national guard and military almost assume the stature of comic book Super-heroes. They dress up in costumes and wear tattoos and body paint like some prehistoric cartoon characters and make themselves look as though they have climbed out of some pre-Medieval cave, having only recently learned of fire.
Of course, others are not so adolescent. They sit at home, drinking their evening beer, watching Fox News or taking in the latest insults and slights at Democratic politicians (whom they think is “cute” to call “Democrat” politicians, an insult that only makes them seem ignorant each time they do it.) These are the people you encounter who don’t want to wear a mask in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Covid-19 virus randomly kills people of all ages and ethnicities. These are the people who know that Donald Trump lost the election by far more than he had previously won it, and yet will not admit it.
These uneducated people are those whom the most qualified and skilled and experienced female politician this country has had since Eleanor Roosevelt–Hillary Clinton–called “deplorables.” And that they are. So, are we talking about Joe the Plumber?” No. We’re not talking about simply people with skills that actually make many college-educated men tremble at the thought of doing what these professionals do. No. We’re talking about men, mostly, and a few rather aggressive women, who deliberately deny the facts about politics. These are not people without college degrees. Some have graduate degrees, law degrees. Some are physicians.
When we say that the deplorables are largely “uneducated,” that does not include men who are good at their jobs, read newspapers, follow major, trusted media outlets, and think for themselves. You can have a law degree from Harvard Law School and still turn out to be Ted Cruz. Trump himself somehow received a diploma from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at Ivy-league Penn. So we’re not talking about an educational level. We’re talking about being deliberately ignorant of facts, and making up pseudo-factual information to make a point, true or not.
Trump was not re-elected President. This is true, factual, the answer to the question who was elected President of the United States in the 2020 election. The truth is, the facts indicate, that it was not Donald Trump. But the deplorables simply do not accept that fact. And those who continue to tell them that this is true have a specific name, based on what they do. It is like the name “major leaguer’ for someone who plays on a major-league baseball team. It is called “Fascist.” Fascists are members of political parties that exhibit special characteristics.
Fascists do not accept the truth. They believe, true or not, that their political and personal philosophies and beliefs should rule. They do anything and everything to make those “true beliefs” happen in the real world, over the objections of the majority of citizens. They obfuscate. They create huge lies and repeat them over and over again, not letting anyone else get in a word, because they know that those words will encompass the truth. Kellyanne Conway is a perfect example, as are most other Fascist Republicans these days. They know that, with certain deplorables, who make up a considerable number thanks to Right Wing radio, Fox News, Newsmax and other social media, they can persuade people predisposed to hear their message and no other.
So, what did Eric Hoffer have to say about these kinds of people, decades ago, when he was referring to earlier Fascists, like Hitler, Mussolini, Goering and Goebbels? He describes the charismatic leader, which in this case is an evil leader, one leading masses against a democratic government, as the Confederate states did in 1860. And the followers of that leader want someone who will be bold, but not necessarily truthful. They want someone who will espouse their ideas, no matter how factually false. They are, Hoffer says, invariably “the true believer.” And “no matter how rowdy and violent his acts, (this person, this follower) is basically an obedient and submissive person.” Obedient, of course, only to the charismatic, but often evil, leader.
The leader of this group, the leader of the mass movement, the Fascist leader, is not one of integrity and vision and honesty and decency. But the Fascist leader will have “audacity, defiance, belief in an infallible self, passionate hatred, cunning estimates of human nature, delight in spectacles, and a brazen disregard of consistency and fairness.” Wow. Whom does that sound like? So, 60 or so years ago, Eric Hoffer, the workingman genius, foretold the history of our era. Men, a segment who became intellectually lazy, who would become dissatisfied with a changing society in a global economy. An industry and financial elite that had swung hard to the Right, towards Fascism, finding groups susceptible, and buying a political party and media to control the people.
And so came Trump. Whom did he defeat in the Republican primary? Average to tepid hack politicians like Cruz and the effete Lindsay Graham, the tired old political dynasty, the Bushes, to whom the Republican Party insiders wanted to hand off the candidacy. And what did Trump do? He discovered that by using the tools if the demagogical political leader, and the age-old scapegoats…in this case, Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Democrats and intellectuals…he could sway the ignorant and the bigoted. So, he took over the Fascists who had already been laying the foundation for him, through lies told on radio by Rush Limbaugh and others, on Fox News by Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and others. The “fake news” would now portray Donald Trump as telling the truth and their corporate sponsors would pay the bill, while calling the media in business for one hundred years, the “faux news.” This is classic Fascism and it worked.
We saw the result. We saw the most extreme and the most radicalized of the Fascists climbing the stairs of the Capitol to overturn an election that had been won by 8 million votes. Not the hundreds in the state of Florida in 2000, or the few thousands in the already heavily gerrymandered and Republican-vote-protected state of Wisconsin in 2016, even with a national majority of 4 million votes. No, this was not fraud or anything like it. This was simply an adolescent old man stomping his foot at the American People and saying “I want. I want.” to the officials in several states. It was a childish attempt at the overturning of a national election.
This is what Eric Hoffer’s True Believers do. Whether Communist or Fascist or Right Wing Republican, they only care that they get their way. Whether it be holding up a Supreme Court nomination unethically, or filibustering 400 times, or voting to repeal health care for poor Americans 60 times, they will dedicate themselves to anarchy until they get their way or are defeated. We have staved off this menace for awhile. We now have sensible, rational and professional politicians and administrators running our government. Let’s hope we can keep it that way for as long as we can.