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Trump’s Nazi Problem and His Promised Military Operation for Mass Round-Ups

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The Republican Presidential nominee who is currently tied in the polls is again associating himself with Nazism. That is not over-the-top hyperbole but is a statement of fact that is hard to reconcile. As the AP wire story tells us, there is an unmistakable pattern of Donald Trump associating with neo-Nazis and white nationalists and embracing the Nazi rhetoric, like fears about immigrants ‘poisoning the blood’ of the American people. Incompetence, sloppiness, and ignorance are exceedingly weak figleaf defenses from a campaign with a demonstrated pattern of giving aid and comfort to antisemitic and white nationalist ideas. 

The campaign’s central promise revolves around deploying the military and police from sympathetic red states to start mass round-ups and expulsions of our neighbors who have been living in the US for over a decade, as the video in question highlights. The echoes of prior mass deportation schemes, among the most horrific periods in human history, is just one of the glaring warning signs. No one should take the Trump campaign’s mass deportation calls as an empty promise. The conditions are different than they were the last time Trump was in office, not least of which is the dedicated and determined team aligned behind him who would have military humvees rolling through American cities in January 2025 if given the opportunity.

The Republicans aligned behind Trump, endorsing a devastating mass deportation operation, have been preparing their base for this radical move for the last several years. Their nativist narrative machine has been blaring a surround sound false message that immigrants represent an urgent, existential threat not only to public safety and economic security for working families but to the nation as a whole.  This xenophobic lie is nothing new, but over the past several years following Trump’s example, Republicans have cranked up the heat and increased the rhetoric by a matter of degrees.

Case in point, the one-time immigration reform proponent, Sen. Marco Rubio, has, like Trump and 164 other Members of the current Congress, adopted the white nationalist rhetoric of describing migration in terms of a literal, military-style invasion. This increasingly prevalent white nationalist lie isn’t purely a hyperbolic flourish, it has a purpose. Framing immigrants as a hostile invasion makes the military response appear more reasonable inside the framework of the conspiracy. If the Republicans’ lie were true and the nation was being invaded, the deployment of the military on U.S. soil to combat the invasion with mass deportations would be the logical conclusion. 

This lie is also inexorably tied to the antisemitic and white nationalist replacement theory, which has inspired multiple domestic terrorist attacks in recent years from Pittsburgh to El Paso to Buffalo and beyond. The theory generally asserts that there is a plot but liberal, globalist elites who are directing this invasion of migrants to replace ‘real’ Americans in part by rigging the ballot box with fraudulent immigrant votes. The theory, whether peddled explicitly or in coded terms wrapped up with disinformation about non-citizen voting, creates the either “I win, or we take it by force”  violence scenario for true believers. This further hardens the beliefs of election deniers, setting up round two of January 6 if the electoral college does not go in Trump’s favor. 

This tendency is not restricted to the conspiracies about the election alone. Trump has repeatedly ‘joked’ on the campaign trail about becoming a “dictator”’ on day one if he were again to take up residence at the White House. It should be of little surprise that enacting his draconian immigration agenda remains the justification for his disturbing so-called ‘joke’ and day-one pledges.

All of this is connected to the GOP’s current strategy. Dehumanized as the villains in an existential plot, immigrants whose blood makes them permanently foreign are invading the land, while millions already living as our neighbors are set to steal the 2024 election. It is the conspiracy driving the GOP’s violent authoritarian push; a conspiracy that goes well beyond immigration policy or even hate towards immigrants.  

We cannot afford to miss the sum total of the effect here. Aligned behind Trump, the GOP is using immigration politics – demagoguing about a non-white foreign ‘other’ – as the vehicle to popularize a plot to remake America under a white nationalist anti-democratic vision. This vision, the one the GOP is campaigning on, will not only affect undocumented immigrants or new arrivals, it will have far-reaching implications that will kill the promise of America as a multi-ethnic democracy. It is a plot to remake America that boldly threatens so much under the guise of fighting the ‘illegal migrant invasion.’   

We all could easily fall into the trap of the strategy the newly radicalized GOP is laying out for the country – choosing the comfortable deniability that they are not campaigning on revolutionary politics that restructure the country as an ethnic nationalist authoritarian state, believing instead they don’t mean what they say, taking all denials at face value, and pretending we have no idea of what is behind the figleaf of the naked politics standing before us. But the moment requires us to do the difficult task of seeing that trap and helping others avoid it.

All of this is hard to look at, and it is just as easy to dismiss as the hyperbole of an over-agitated immigration advocate, but I am reminded of the line that the veteran Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, concludes in his 2023 book, “The Conspiracy to End America,” who gives us a clue to a framework to think about this political moment. Using a quote from Abraham Lincon about addressing the hard problems of today before they grow worse tomorrow, Stevens warns: “The collapse of American democracy is like the pandemic: Whatever you say at the beginning will sound alarmist but likely prove inadequate by the end.”