The last time a semi-fascist came close to winning the US presidency

January 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, BBC, conspiracy theories, fascism, history, Jim D, literature, populism, Racism, Republican Party, United States)

Johnathan Freedland’s always excellent Radio 4 programme The Long View, today compared the loathsome Donald Trump with three previous “outsider”/”celebrity” populists who, at various times, seemed to be potential contenders for the US presidency: William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh. All were extreme reactionaries, anti-semites (though there is some evidence that Hearst belatedly changed his attitude towards Jews), and islationists. At various times, all three expressed admiration for Hitler.

In fact, only Lindbergh got anywhere near to being a serious political force, and in his brilliant book The Plot Against America Philip Roth creates a convincing alternative history in which Lindbergh won the Republican nomination in 1940 and went on to defeat Roosevelt in that year’s election.

Freedland reminded listeners that a recording of Lindbergh’s September 11 1941 Des Moines anti-war speech can still be heard. A terrifying forewarning of what Trump now parades before the American people and the real threat he poses to the whole world:


  1. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Asking why muslims are killing people for no reason is not really controversial. I would like to know why the idiots are killing. I am gad the International Space Station is out of their reach. Well doneTrump for saying what had to be said.

  2. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    The Plot Against America is ‘brilliant’ and ‘convincing’?

    The hell it is.

    OK we all know what opinions are like but mine is that this is quite probably the worst novel by a supposedly great writer I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

    And it is not even really about Lindbergh and isolationism or an alt-history at all but just another barely disguised manifestation of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    • kb72 said,

      Roth’s “issues” novels, The Plot and The Human Stain, are pretty creaky.

      Plot was another rehash of Roth’s childhood in Newark with a few historical bells and whistles.

      Also some African Americans acidly pointed out that what was a counterfactual for Roth was pretty much an actuality for them.

  3. Political Tourist said,

    There’s something about “down South” and WW2, they go on and on anout it, as if they were the only folks in it, the war’s over, it’s over 70 years ago, along with that dodgy Empire, let it go.
    Funny thing is most of those who fought in it are now long dead.
    “There’ll always be an England”.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Well you are a Nat si type so you would say that.

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    Don’t know what all the fuss about as Churchill supported Hitler until 1938 and the national government would not help the Spanish Republic against Franco. Then, after Hitler invaded USSR Churchill supports Stalin! If that was not a big deal back then, then why is this such an issue?

  5. Mark taha said,

    Surely they forgot Huey Long and George Wallace?Will listen to programme some time.

  6. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Huey Long was indeed a much more serious figure than Lindbergh, Ford or Hearst – but was a genuine (if corrupt and twisted) product of the Populist tradition in America and not a maverick celebrity candidate and so can’t be readily compared to Trump.

    Wallace however was never anything more than a neo-Dixiecrat who had no real chance of appealing to anyone outside of the Deep South.

    To describe either of them (or for that matter Trump, Hearst, Ford or Lindbergh) as even a semi-fascist misses that American politics is utterly sui generis and applying European terms to any of it is mostly pointless.

  7. Ben said,

    The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour two months after Lindbergh’s speech and Hitler declared war on the USA a few days after that attack. It was his biggest mistake. Had he not done so, it is questionable whether the US would ever have actively fought the Germans in Europe.

    To compare Lindbergh’s isolationism with Trump’s interventionism is contrary to reason. And to accuse Trump of fascism is wrong, and so far unjustifiable. As for his supposed bigotry, some of his statements about Mexicans and Moslems are deplorable, but when his actual words are examined they are considerably less incendiary than they have been made out to be.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Trump – bizarrely – combines an isolationist foreign policy with grandiose promises to deal with ISIS and assert US interests oversees It doesn’t add up, but then neither does anything else he says.

      And, of course, he expresses a liking for Putin …

  8. Political Tourist said,

    Usual embarrasing use of words to describe right wing liberals in America.
    Like calling Ukip nazis when in fact their rightwing bigots against anything and anyone not wrapped in a butchers apron.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Awww come on, butchers apron? Surely it gets wiped clean when the Labour party are in power?

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