Robert Reich: Trump’s Debate Response (The Fascist Who Doesn’t Want America To Think) – OpEd


I want to talk about symbols, images, and fascism. 

Here is Trump’s mugshot from his arraignment in Georgia. It’s a look of defiance — which I’m sure he practiced repeatedly beforehand — intended for his supporters and his Republican base to feel defiant, too. 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is Trump’s thousand-word response to Wednesday night’s Republican debate which he declined to attend. 

He timed his arraignment in Georgia so that it — and this photo — would dominate Thursday’s and Friday’s news, rather than anything or anyone emerging from the debate. 

But a defiant photograph isn’t “news.” It’s a symbol, an image. Which is exactly what Donald Trump is. He has no political platform, no specific policy agenda, no new ideas, and no plan for what he’ll do if he gets a second term. 

He exists as a symbol for the anger, discontent, bigotry, and vindictiveness he has unleashed in America. 

He is as close to America has come to a fascist leader, who doesn’t want his followers to think or analyze. He wants them only to feel. 

Last Thursday, Trump complained that Fox News “purposely show the absolutely worst pictures of me, especially the big “orange” one with my chin pulled way back. They think they are getting away with something, they’re not. Just like 2016 all over again … And then they want me to debate!”

Of course he’s angry. For the man who’s all symbol and image and without substance, a photo like the following conveys a brainless buffoon. It must drive him crazy. 

But Trump is not a brainless buffoon. He’s a cunning marketer, a diabolic manipulator of the public, a sly producer of his own daily reality show. His lead in the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes has grown. He will almost certainly be the Republican candidate for president next year — even if he’s in jail. 

How to debate a symbol? How to take on an image? How should Biden and the Democrats, and everyone who cares deeply about this country, respond to a demagogue who obsesses over what he projects rather than what he stands for? How to deal with a demagogue who doesn’t want followers to think but only to feel rage?

Expose him for who he is.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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