Published with the generous permission of Ruth Ben-Ghiat. Read all of her outstanding writing in her Lucid newsletter.
By Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Thank you to the member of the Lucid community who alerted me to this statement by the New York Young Republican Club on Trump’s indictment. In a recent essay, I had covered the group’s latest gala attended by MAGA and far-right extremists from around the world. There, Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) boasted that had she and Steve Bannon planned the Jan. 6 coup, it would have succeeded, and there would have been more weapons deployed.
The New York Young Republican Club’s statement on Trump’s indictment perfectly encapsulates the talking points analyzed in my latest post, starting with the idea that Democrats are the real authoritarians. “Today, our nation careens toward tyranny at an unprecedented pace. An impudent cabal of radical figures abandons all propriety in their dogged attacks on President Donald J. Trump. We have taken a decisive step away from the values that define our national character.”
Note the “conservative” language (impudent cabal…abandons all propriety,” and turning away from our “national character”). In Italy, Hungary, and the US, extremists masquerade as conservatives to appeal to the public and whitewash their violence. The NY Young Republic Club appropriates patriotism and the rhetoric of freedom to this end. Its “About” page features the Statue of Liberty (shrouded in clouds until the definitive MAGA coup can bring us true freedom).
“Radical leftist interests, beholden to an elite, internationalist cabal, have taken the unprecedented step of indicting President Donald J. Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 presidential election,” the statement continues. Here we have the idea that the U.S. left is a front for foreign globalists. This is one of the original talking points of Fascism. “Cabal” was used frequently in the 1930s to refer to Jews (who were also Communists and somehow also international capitalists). Plus a change…
Of course, the statement ends with an homage to the cult leader: “President Trump assured us that he was our retribution. Now we must return the rejoinder: our victory will be the joint vindication that our great President Donald J. Trump and our American people both deserve. This is Total War.” (Bold type in original)
Trump’s extraordinary ability to keep his personality cult alive long after his time in office ended is key to all of this. He’s used a combination of propaganda (the Big Lie, which allowed followers to avoid reckoning with him as a loser and kept the myth of a corrupt democratic order going) and violence (Jan 6, which boosted, rather than deflated, his cult) It’s a textbook example of the authoritarian playbook in action.