WASHINGTON – An estimated four out of five people who could vote in this week’s Super Tuesday primaries will sit out those elections. That 20 percent, or fewer, who do take part in Republican primaries in 13 states will decide whether a man with the manners and platform of a motorcycle gang leader will continue his march toward the White House. (New York’s primaries are April 19.)
Established media are now throwing the kitchen sink against developer Donald Trump, but it may be too late to stop him before next summer’s convention. The punditry says his campaign is driven by anger, a serviceable word for hate.
We have seen hate-driven campaigns twice before in the past century. Democrat segregationist Strom Thurmond of South Carolina ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948 and got 2.4 percent of the vote.
Another segregationist, the Democratic governor of Alabama, George Corley Wallace Jr., ran four times, then was severely injured in an assassination attempt in 1972. Neither he nor Thurmond were serious threats.
Trump, of course, is a serious problem. His success carries two messages:
1.) A dedicated minority, no matter how misguided, can turn a country inside out. Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution teaches that. The Donald’s triumphs amount to no more than 10 percent of eligible Republicans in any state.
2.) The descent of political discourse into bitterness is as dangerous for a culture as hardening of the arteries. Hitler Germany, 1933-45, proved that.
The story of France’s destruction is less well-known. But there are parallels between the dissolution of France and our own situation. Germany’s collapse took only a dozen years. France took generations to fall apart, as chronicled by CBS correspondent William Shirer in his book, “The Collapse of the Third Republic.”
France’s Third Republic was born in 1870, as a triumph of democracy over corrupt, royalist cliques with close ties to the Roman Catholic clergy of that day.
Not only did France’s hard right refuse to reconcile with this late revolution, it hardened into a movement against democratic reforms. These monarchists decided there was an enemy in France that must be limited and, if need be, destroyed. The “enemies” were French Jews.
The anti-Semitic cancer in French society found expression in the infamous Dreyfus Affair. A major in the French Army, Dreyfus was charged and convicted in 1894 in a secret trial of passing military secrets to Germany’s high command. Dreyfus was of Jewish background.
He was sentenced to France’s infamous Atlantic Ocean Devil’s Island prison for life. Subsequent trials resulted first in a kind of pardon, and finally exoneration for Dreyfus, along with a promotion and the French Legion of Honor. He was released from prison after four years.
You see, the entire controversy was a fraud, invented by anti-Semitic, ultra conservatives and Catholics in the government and French military, and a virulent, crooked press.
Shirer wrote that the divisions exploited by this fraud never fully healed until after the Nazis conquered France in 1940.
Today, too much of our local print press has been supplanted by hate radio stations that fill the air with irresponsible and often bigoted conservative “news.”
There are really only three national newspapers left, two discernibly liberal and one on the right. There is effectively only one national news blog remaining, Google.com, whose picks are left-leaning.
All this forms a breeding ground for widespread and justified suspicion and resentment.
The process of calcification has begun here. It shows in the boorishness of our political talk, and government paralysis.
France, which stood off Germany for four years in World War I, fell in less than a month in 1940.