By Bill Kaplan
"A self-proclaimed white nationalist group flooded Wisconsin with robocalls supporting real estate mogul Donald Trump leading up to (the presidential) primary" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). The bigot behind the hate calls was William Johnson: "A prominent national white supremacist leader (who) has resigned as a Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention after campaign officials said his nomination was the result of a 'database error'" (Washington Post).
Other Trump supporters are crawling out from beneath rocks. Trump's former longtime butler, Anthony Senecal, has posted racist rants on Facebook calling President Obama a "Kenyan fraud" and demanding he be killed. The Secret Service is investigating, while the Trump campaign disavows hate yet again (New York Times). Moreover, back in August the New Yorker magazine documented Trump's support from white supremacist groups. It's beginning to feel like the 1930s, with economic upheaval leading to fascism.
The Bush administration banking-Wall Street-housing bubble was collective madness. Coupled with catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs (unfair trade deals and corporate pirates) and an income-wealth gap, the economic fallout begot more madness. The Tea Party and now Trump. However, Trump has no solutions except divide and conquer - a script that Wisconsin knows all too well.
Trump's rhetoric and style are reminiscent of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. Trump is both buffoon and dictatorial strongman: serial lies, xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants-minorities, super-nationalism and an undercurrent of violence. A whiff of Nazi Germany. Then as now the left was divided and the conservative center collapsed, facilitating the ascension of a strong leader.
Most in the GOP and conservative movement, including Gov. Scott Walker, support Trump. Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble is an honorable exception. While House Speaker Paul Ryan pathetically looks for an accommodation with Trump, the GOP is imploding - not Trump. He is catching on. Some polls show Trump leading Hillary Clinton.
New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall opined: "There is also strong evidence that most traditional public opinion surveys inadvertently hide a segment of Trump's supporters. Many (white) voters are reluctant to admit to a live interviewer that they back a candidate who has adopted such divisive positions." And, states like Wisconsin could be in play. The Washington Post reports: "Clinton's plans include an early, aggressive attempt to defend Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan - reflecting a growing recognition ....of the threat that Trump's (campaign) ....may pose....in economically struggling states that have been hit hard by global free-trade agreements."
Senator Bernie Sanders has made Clinton a better candidate, excited young and working class people and brought FDR back to the Democratic Party. But the math is with Clinton. However, winning in November will require Clinton to embrace Sanders's supporters and his campaign's economic security message. Plausible given Clinton's admiration of Eleanor Roosevelt. And, Sanders in turn must enthusiastically help Democrats unite after the primaries. Finally, Clinton might consider Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken as Vice President. Biting humor would be useful dealing with Trump. It will not be a cakewalk.
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009
--Illustration: Kelsey Dake