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“Trump Is the Nominee. Fascism Is on the Ballot.” Author Jeff Sharlet on New Hampshire & Beyond

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Former President Donald Trump trounced runner-up Nikki Haley in Tuesday’s Republican primary, in what Jeff Sharlet, expert on the far right, says is another landmark in the acceleration of fascism in the United States. “Trump is the nominee. Fascism is on the ballot,” says Sharlet, who describes how Trump is appealing to broader groups of Americans, why the political press is failing to capture the fascist movement, and the importance of resisting its growth. “It’s popular front time. It’s broad coalition time.”

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StoryJan 24, 2024MAGA vs. MAGA Polite”: Trump Beats Haley in New Hampshire, Haley Vows to Fight On
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, joined by Juan González in Chicago.

Donald Trump beat Nikki Haley by 11 percentage points in New Hampshire despite nearly half the electorate being comprised of independent voters. Haley won six of 10 independents on Tuesday, but she lost three-quarters of Republicans. According to the Associated Press, Trump was backed by Republicans who prioritize immigration, and held a slight advantage among those prioritizing the economy — the two top issues among GOP voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.

For more, we go to Hanover, New Hampshire. We’re joined by award-winning journalist, professor, author Jeff Sharlet. He teaches English and creative writing at Dartmouth College. He’s the author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War.

Jeff, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why don’t you start off by responding to the primary last night and to Trump’s pretty much trouncing of Nikki Haley?

JEFF SHARLET: We saw it coming, and it still felt awful, here in New Hampshire. The various tactics to slow it down didn’t work. But maybe the lesson that I think we can take from New Hampshire is, we’re still seeing a lot of media speak of Nikki Haley: “Can she go on?” New York Times says this raises questions. The questions have long been settled. Trump is the nominee. Fascism is on the ballot. And I think that was clear in New Hampshire.

I think it’s also worth noticing that here in New Hampshire, when you talk to folks, yeah, there was opposition to Haley — or, I mean, I’m sorry, opposition to Trump, but no one’s saying they won’t vote for Trump if he’s the nominee. This was not strong support for Haley. Let’s move on. I don’t even want to talk about South Carolina. I don’t want to talk about Nevada. I want to talk about how we look at this thing that is threatening us nationally.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeff, you tweeted that New Hampshire is not a, quote, “moderate state,” that “There is no damn moderate state anymore.” Could you explain?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah. I think the confusion that a lot of people had is that, in really reductive terms, New Hampshire leans libertarian. Its form of conservatism, a right-wing, reactionary politics, is libertarian. I mean, we have a not insignificant secessionist movement in our state Legislature, called the Free State movement, which actually began here at Dartmouth College, whereas Iowa, the form of reactionary politics was evangelical. And I think a lot of the political press is stuck in an old paradigm of social conservatives or business conservatives. Those things have merged.

You see it clearly in some of the plans that are now being formulated for a second Trump term. They’re not going to be caught, you know, surprised if, when he comes back to office. So, for instance, the right-wing Heritage Foundation, working with 74 other major groups, both evangelical and libertarian-leaning, have come up with something called Project 2025. It begins with evangelical values, putting the family first, saving the children. And it goes on to saying, “Let’s realign the goals of America with management” — this coming, by the way, from the Republicans, which is fooling people, some people, into thinking it’s a workers’ party. It’s an openly pro-big business and pro-so-called family values, which, of course, are being expressed now as hate values.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s play a clip of Jamie Dimon. Last week, at the World Economic Forum, the JPMorgan CEO talked about how Trump has been right on many issues. This is Dimon on CNBC.

JAMIE DIMON: I don’t think they’re voting for Trump because of his family values. But if you look at — just take a step back, be honest. He was kind of right about NATO, kind of right about immigration. He grew the economy quite well.

JOE KERNEN: China virus.

JAMIE DIMON: Tax reform worked.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond, Jeff Sharlet? It’s not only Jamie Dimon, that consensus at Davos that Trump’s going to win.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah. I’m so glad you played that clip. I think that was really important, because we see — if we look back at the history of how fascist movements grow — and I want to emphasize it’s a fascist movement. It’s not yet a fascist government. There is a chance to stop it. But we see a period of adaptation. And that was what you saw at Davos, those folks playing the odds and saying, “Hmm, could I get together? Could I work in a coalition with people” — I mean, he’s no leftist, he’s no liberal, but — “Could I work in a coalition with people to stop this fascism, or could I find a way to prosper in it?” And the vote at Davos was prosper within fascism. So, whe we look at the coalition that we need to build to stop it, we’re going have to think other places — not that anyone thought that Davos was a place to start building coalitions. But it does need to be brought.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Donald Trump addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Summit in October. And this goes to the number one issue in New Hampshire, which was immigration.

DONALD TRUMP: Because they want to destroy our country. They want to destroy our country. Under Biden, we have not one, but two immigration disasters. We have one on the border, and we have one in the Biden State Department, which is admitting colossal amounts of jihadists into our communities and campuses and our refugee programs. That’s why you see all of these big demonstrations in New York, in Chicago. Nobody can believe what’s taking place. They’re letting them in at levels that nobody’s ever seen before. We cannot allow that to happen. And we don’t want to be like Europe, with jihads on every corner. That’s what happens. I mean, we’re going to have — we’re going to be like Europe. You take a look at London. You take a look at Paris. You take a look at what’s going on over there. We want to be the United States of America, and we want to make our country great again. Right now we don’t have a great country. We have a laughingstock.

As president, I will end, once and for all, the mass importation of antisemitism into the United States. And just as I did before, we will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country. We’re going to keep them out of our country. We were keeping them out. We were keeping them out.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeff Sharlet, if you could respond to those comments of Donald Trump, especially given the fact that New Hampshire is probably one of the states perhaps least affected by immigration in the United States, given its distance from the Southwest border?

JEFF SHARLET: Well, yeah. And first I sort of want to say, Trump says he’s going to end the mass importation of antisemitism in the United States, which doesn’t happen. He alone is responsible for a lot of made-in-America antisemitism. It’s one of his products.

But the question of immigration, I think of a voter in — I think it was Bedford, New Hampshire; it’s a very wealthy community — described herself as on the way to play pickle ball, she stopped to vote for Trump. Her issues were, “We’ve got to get the immigrants out.” She didn’t say “undocumented people.” She didn’t say “illegal immigrants.” She said, “We’ve got to get all the immigrants out so the economy can grow.” And once again, you see there this kind of — the old political press of sort of breaking down on issues. Do you care about social issues? Do you care about immigration? Do you care about economics? In Trumpism, all these things merge. And you heard that, too, in that response where he’s invoking this fear word of “jihad.”

The way Trumpism works is it adds enemies. It moves on. You know, five years ago, Trumpism wasn’t particularly talking about trans rights. New Hampshire is now a frontline state in the struggle for trans freedom as our Legislature takes up the kind of laws you’re seeing also in places like Utah. But what it does, what Trumpism is doing in each one of these speeches, and why we have to keep paying attention — and I know the temptation is strong to say, “Look, we know what he is. We know all this.” We need to see how the movement is growing, how the movement is mutating, how it’s taking the original fear of Islam that it began with and adding more and more fears, and then combining them so that they’re indistinguishable in the mind of the Trump voter.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, what is the way forward for those who are opposed to this growing fascism, especially given the fact that so many young people in the United States, who played such a key role in the last election, are being increasingly turned off by the war policies of the Biden administration?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, and young people don’t want to vote for Biden. I’m here at Dartmouth College. If I encountered any students who wrote in Biden, they didn’t tell me about it. They either voted for, as they told me, that guy from Minnesota, Dean Phillips, so that they could not vote for Biden, or they voted for Haley as what they thought of as a tactical vote against Trump. That’s significant.

Also significant — and I think we really need to contend with this — is, if you look at the Republican primary voters who voted for Trump, his strongest contingent was in the youth. And I think for a long time in American politics, it’s as much of a truism — and I’ll say it’s as much of a truism on the left as so much of the kind of old maxims of political journalism that aren’t working, is that the young will save us, that the youth will save us. We look at Trump growing his support in the 18-to-29 sector.

We look at Trump growing his support, paradoxically, amongst those former '20 Biden voters most critical of what Biden is doing in Gaza. OK, so what's their solution? A significant number of them have been conned into the idea that Trump is an antiwar candidate, the guy who is — you hear this rhetoric, as well: Trump never stopped any wars. Trump is able to play both sides. He says, “I’m going to raze Gaza.” And at the same time, he’s able, in an age of diminishing media — and you started the show with The Baltimore Sun going down, and Jean Guerrero at L.A. Times, who I should note is the preeminent expert on Stephen Miller, and the L.A. Times lets her go. So, there’s less and less information for young voters, and they’re going to be more vulnerable to what the con Trump is trying to give them.

So, how do we do it? I don’t have a — I’m not a political strategist. But I do think it’s popular front time. It’s broad coalition time. And I don’t know how we build a left-liberal alliance to stop Trump. I’m not going to tell anybody to vote for Biden, but I know we’ve got to stop Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to follow up, Jeff, on something you said before, about the importation of antisemitism, and Trump is most responsible for that, you said. I mean, going back to University, for example, of Virginia, that march in Charlottesville —

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — of those saying, “Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” the white supremacists, from there to the insurrection. We’re going to have a debate on Trump being taken off the ballot in various states. But on that issue of what, in fact, he represents, what the insurrection was about, what his role with the University of Virginia protests, what — his comments on them?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, I think — right. In Charlottesville, where they chanted “Jews will not replace us,” I think, you know, Trump has managed to do something new in the antisemitism field, which is quite an accomplishment when you think about it. There’s this age-old hatred, and he’s managed to innovate, which is to say that he’s created a kind of antisemitism.

And you saw it, for instance, in the speech he gave after his first indictment, where he leads off by saying, “What’s Jack Smith’s real name?” But the real tell was the line, “We’re good to drive out the globalists, chase out the communists,” these terms which are heard as synonyms for Jews in an abstract sense. Those, he’s quoting there two different Gospels from the New Testament — “drive out” and “chase out” — just to make sure no one missed it — but then tweaking it a little bit and making antisemitism such that the explicit antisemites — and they’re out there. I think of folks like Charlie Kirk, I believe it is, at Turning Point USA, who are starting to question what they used to call the Judeo part of Judeo-Christian values. Well, I mean, good. This is a kind of a narrow and bigoted idea of America. But they’re saying, “No, it’s just Christian.”

So, on the one hand, you’ve got the hardcore antisemites being pleased. On the other hand, you’ve got Trump playing to this idea of an international banker — look at the people who he says are really behind Nikki Haley. It sounds like he’s saying Rothschild. He is the one who’s producing antisemitism, and at the same time he’s campaigning and, just as he’s conning some young people, conning some Jewish voters into thinking that he somehow is not introducing a new level of hate into the United States, based on his promise to build on the genocide in Israel and make it even worse.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Sharlet, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist and author, professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he’s speaking to us from. He’s author of the book The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War.

Up next, should Donald Trump be barred from running for president for his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, or is taking Trump off the ballot an anti-democratic measure that will only energize his base? We’ll host a debate. Stay with us.

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