That’s the question being asked on the On Point episode on October 6.
There is no doubt a right wing populism is making itself felt in both Europe and the US. It is making many nervous, evoking in their mind shades of Hitler’s rise. How did Adolf Hitler — described by one magazine editor in 1930 as a ‘half-insane rascal,’ a ‘pathetic dunderhead,’ a ‘nowhere fool,’ a ‘big mouth’ — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this ‘most unlikely pretender to high state office’ achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?
Those scholars interviewed make the case that the rise of another Hitlerian demagogue is not what is being faced here in America. One sees more shades of William Jennings Bryan, whose platform was gradually included in the platforms of the other two parties.
No doubt much of the work of responding to Trump will happen after the election as both parties understand there is a roiling movement on their right. The Republicans are in for the most work. It is work they haven’t done but should have.
The populist spirit is not going away. If anything, it has been able to identify itself more concretely by seeing who is with them and who is not. They will coalesce and either the Republicans will find a way to integrate them or lose their support forever. The loss of their support is something they cannot afford to do, even as the Republicans seek more diversity, something else they should have been doing.
Reducing this populism to simple Evangelcals and Roman Catholics is not going to work for the Republicans. These forces have a transcendent base and will not easily shift based on political drifts. The Republicans must give them a place at the table. If not, there is no way Republicans will have enough force to move ahead.