The Left generally hates the past and revels in its commitment to a so-called “progress.” However, they do recur to the past when it suits their ideological purposes. One of the ways they use it is to compare every sitting Republican president to a dictator from a distant past. At the top of the list is, of course, Hitler, followed closely by Mussolini, though barely ever by Stalin. Mao never makes the cut, most likely because parts of the Left admire Mao and so attacking him or Communism, more generally, seems ill-advised.
But when it comes to Democrats using unsavory historical figures to malign Republicans, President Trump, has been a particularly rich target. He is usually compared to Hitler, which is absurd enough. But in a recent article in The Observer, John Schindler warns the world that the dark days are ahead because Trump is practically a carbon copy of Slobodan Milošević, a Serbian dictator partly responsible for the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Having survived the war in Bosnia, I laughed at this. Schindler’s article has two major problems. First, he provides a rather shallow, cursory, confusing, and perhaps deliberately vague history of the former Yugoslavia, its dissolution, and the subsequent war. Second, he uses the word nationalism to signal doom, and attributes it to Trump.
Part of the problem is Schindler reduces the history of the former Yugoslavia to a few newspaper headlines. The result is an overly simplistic account of the war in Bosnia and Croatia. But then again, understanding does not appear to be Schindler’s intent. Lacking objectivity, he is more concerned with how to draw bold and indisputable lines between Milošević and Trump.
“Milošević, like Trump, casually used people, even his closest friends, and discarded them when they were no longer needed (at the end of his regime, Milošević had his former best friend and mentor assassinated),” Schindler writes. “[L]oyalty with both is a one-way street.” How does one even address such a claim? Not only does Schindler not provide any actual evidence that Trump “casually used people,” the insinuation that Trump, like Milošević, might kill off his close associates or “discard” them is borderline libelous.
According to Schindler, Serbs were continuously neglected in the political set up of Yugoslavia. Milošević heard the cry of the people and incited supposedly just anger that gave rise to Serb nationalism with calls such as “Make Serbia Great Again.” “You can understand the remarkable rise of Donald Trump in 2015-16,” writes Schindler, “by simply exchanging ‘Serbian nationalism’ for ‘white nationalism’: the parallels are eerie and disturbing. Trump, who never had shown the slightest interest in the plight of the white working class while he built his flimflam empire of gauche condos and casinos, suddenly reinvented himself as their champion.”
How easy and simple things are in Schindler’s Weltanschauung! And how untrue. Trump never made those color distinctions. He spoke to the people who were concerned about the future of American founding principles, which certainly included the economy.
Schindler acts as if he has a crystal ball or is himself an oracle, a prophet of the doom. “The bad news,” he writes, “is that Donald Trump has opened the same can of ethno-nationalist worms that Slobodan Milošević did, and if he keeps stoking those fires while doing nothing for his angry and alienated base, America could yet wind up resembling Yugoslavia a lot more than anybody sane should want.”
Throwing terms around like “ethnonationalism” doesn’t help his so-called arguments. Does Schindler mean there will be war? Genocide? If so, who will wage it and against whom? This is one of the greatest defects in the Left’s rhetoric against Trump. They misunderstand what a truly American nationalism would entail. Undoubtedly, nationalism always has the potential to turn into a subjugation of one group over the other. It can be borne out of prejudices and hatred, but this is not the case with Trump. In fact, “nationalism” doesn’t really begin to describe Trump’s intentions. He is simply an American, a practical man, who wants to see America as a nation of successful people. That is what “Make America Great Again” means.
Trump is interested in protecting America’s sovereignty. Thanks to the Left’s overwhelming support of globalism, any mention of one nation’s sovereignty is deemed reprehensible. But this is especially true when we speak of America’s sovereignty. Whereas Trump sees America as a land of proper and authentic diversity, the Left sees it as an imperialist nation, whose sins are far too numerous to list. As such, it must be destroyed or at the very least, its strength eroded so that it can no longer be so arrogant as to call itself exceptional.
The problem is that the Leftist ideologues have co-opted the language that is being used in the public square in order to have a discussion about political issues. “No one is more tedious than the totally ideologized man, the man who forces every passing phenomenon into his ideological mold…,” wrote William F. Buckley, Jr. in Up From Liberalism. I couldn’t agree more.
But ideologues like Schindler are more than tedious. They write and indulge historical lies, which, given enough time, become facts in the minds of far too many people. If language becomes an existential foundation of human life rather than life itself, then it follows that the meaning of language can be changed and as such, lies can become truths.