Millions of people were in shock on November 9, but I wasn’t one of them. The Trump victory confirmed what I’d been feeling in my bones for months, following an intuitive thunderbolt that hit me back in May: “Trump will win this election.”

I am not a political junkie or a pundit. But as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, a psychotherapist for forty years, and an empath who can sense the emotional zeitgeist, I could smell the stink of proto-fascism in the air. I am not alone. Many survivors and their children have had a sense of déjà vu with the rise of Trump.

When the thunderbolt struck, Trump was a political joke—the butt of pundits and talk show hosts, a rude, crude orangutan of a man without a clue. What struck me was that this is what Germans in the 1920’s thought of Hitler: a little clown, a silly joke with a mustache, a passing idiocy.

It also struck me that some of the conditions of the rise of German fascism and those of American proto-fascism today are similar: a defeated sense of economic and social decline, rampant unemployment, a country divided and demoralized by a profound national loss of confidence in the government.

Hitler had a very distinct way of speaking and a spellbinding way of using his arms and hands, hypnotizing large crowds into a kind of ecstatic reverence. Trump has a similar charisma, a mesmerizing use of hand motions, and an uncanny ability to mobilize his crowds to do his bidding (“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”) People believed in Hitler the way they believe in Trump: as an antidote to their sense of failure, an answer to their economic woes, a savior who would resurrect a lost, glorious past and make the Aryan nation great again.

If the similarities make your skin crawl, they should. But Trump is no Hitler. He is a distinctly American brand of proto-fascist. Yes, he relies on the tried and true appeals to xenophobia, racial bigotry, and the need to purge the nation of its “vermin.” (Replace venomous Jew with terrorist Muslim or raping Mexican and you have a similar trope for scapegoating). But the Trump brand is exactly the kind of demagoguery Americans would go for. His ignorant braggadocio and demagoguery are tolerable if not admirable to those Americans who are easily taken in by obscene wealth and overarching, unearned masculine confidence. He convinced millions of people awash in poverty and unemployment that he is their man in the same way that a good ad persuades the consumer that if he drinks Grey Goose vodka, the beautiful buxom blonde will go home with him.

Trump has the brilliant sociopathic savvy employed by all successful demagogues: the ability to create and amplify an Enemy we need to drive out in order to usher in a Glorious New Day. In Germany, that Enemy was the Jews. In this election, it has been more variegated: immigrants, Muslims and Mexicans, mainly. But the real face of the Enemy, for hard-core Trumpists, was very specific: a female face made ugly by ambition, greed, dishonesty, corruption, and a vast, destructive power.

Trump found in Hillary a perfect target for his misogynistic manipulation. Do you really want an unattractive, sickly, weak old woman to be your President? What could be more “disgusting” than an old woman using the toilet during a break in a debate? With considerable help from the media, Establishment Republicans, and left-wing extremists, Trump made Hillary the female embodiment of everything we have come to distrust and loathe in our politicians: a greedy, corrupt, scheming, lying, untrustworthy power-monger.

All this sounds very much like the traditional Anti-Semitic image of the greedy, corrupt, scheming, lying, untrustworthy power-mongering Jew.

Hillary was this election’s reviled Jew.

Sound far-fetched? Think about Trump’s tweeted picture of Hillary on a pile of money with a Star of David that screamed “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Or the last ad of his campaign, which pictured a cabal of Jews connected to Hillary who “control the levers of power.”

Yes, Trump courted neo-Nazis and hidden anti-Semites with all this, but he’s smart enough to know there aren’t enough of them to win him the election. What he banked on was enough white men with enough fear and hatred of women to push him over the top. Virulent misogyny mixed with just a hint of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a potent brew that helped win the day. 

The clincher was the 53 percent of white women who became Trump boosters. Who shrugged off Trump’s boasts about being a sexual predator as, at worst, trivial and, at best, sexy. Nothing new here, sadly. Throughout history, women have cooperated in their own subordination, serving as gatekeepers to keep women in their place. Women adored Hitler and were thrilled to take on the role he assigned to them as breeders for the Aryan nation.

The shortcomings of Hillary Clinton may be considerable, but they are not my subject here. Nor are the myriad reasons she lost this election. What I’m talking about is the use of good old-fashioned misogyny, fuel-injected with anti-Semitism, as a tool of whipping up masses of white people (both men and women) to a level of distrust and hatred they would not feel for a male candidate with the same characteristics.

Imagine Hillary as a man. Ambitious, hard-working, the smartest person in the room. A man with vision and skills. Now imagine Trump as a woman. Crass, boastful, vain, vengeful. The most ignorant woman in the room. And get a load of that insane hair!

How different would this race have been if the genders were reversed?

In a time of great fear, many find the prospect of a woman leader repugnant. In the mass psychology of fascism, a fearful populace turns its fear to rage and hatred. Many are swept along who are not themselves haters, but who tolerate misogyny and bigotry because the most urgent need they have is for a Big Daddy to take away their fear and pain. People—including women—want a Strong Man who promises to protect them. A fire-breathing patriarch, not a cold old lady.

In this election, both left-wing and right-wing voters agreed that the political Establishment must be rejected at all costs. Hillary, the female embodiment of the Establishment, became the face of everything that’s wrong with America. A male proto-fascist demagogue became palatable because any change at all is preferable to the status quo.

Having lived through my parents’ genocide trauma, transmitted to me as a child, it seems to me that those who think this way don’t know how bad “change” can get. If we don’t recognize the seeds of fascism when we see them, if we think a good demagogue is preferable to a bad liberal, if we ignore or minimize the tyranny and misogyny of Trump’s ascendancy, Trumpism will fatten on its own success. We will reap what we’ve sowed.

The haters have come out from under their rocks with a new sense of empowerment and are not likely to crawl back. The minimizers and normalizers of Trump’s demagoguery, who are legion, are feeling perhaps somewhat relieved and hoping that Trump saves the day, or at least doesn’t do anything too catastrophic. The rest of us are full of fear and trembling,  trying to rally ourselves to continue the struggle to make America the democracy it pretends to be.

Miriam Greenspan, M.Ed., LMHC, is an internationally-known psychotherapist in private practice, consultant, author, and workshop leader. A pioneer in women’s psychology and psychotherapy, her first book, A New Approach to Women and Therapy, helped define the field. Healing Through the Dark Emotions: the Wisdom of Grief, Fear, & Despair (Shambhala, 2003), won the 2004 Nautilus Award in psychology for “books that make a contribution to conscious living and positive social change.” It was a Boston Globe bestseller, and chosen as one of the best spiritual books of 2003 by Spirituality & Health Magazine. Ms. Greenspan’s work has been featured in numerous magazines, including Psychology Today, Ms., Body & Soul,  Shambhala Sun, New Woman, Tikkun, Spirituality & Health,  the Sun, and Ode. www.miriamgreenspan.com


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