May 22, 2024 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Donald Trump won’t double down on ‘united reich’ video

But why?

Courtesy of ABC News, via screenshot.
Courtesy of ABC News, via screenshot.

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Donald Trump posted a video Monday featuring what the frontpage might look like if he wins the election. Beneath the headline “WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMERICA?” was this: “INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED DRIVEN BY THE CREATION OF A UNIFIED REICH.” 

Of all the fascist things Trump has done, this might be the most specific reference to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Anyway, it was specific enough to jolt the press corps out of its usual inurement. The video led “Good Morning, America” this morning. Host George Stephanopoulos said, matter-of-factly, that the video is “the latest in a series of antisemitic and authoritarian statements from Trump and his campaign.” 

ABC News’ Rachel Scott took it further. Like Stephanopoulos, she said matter-of-factly that “it’s normal for presidential candidates to share videos with their vision for the country. It is not normal (her stress) for those videos to have references to Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.”

The president’s campaign was also matter-of-fact. A spokesman issued a statement saying that Trump “is not playing games; he is telling America exactly what he intends to do if he gains power: rule as a dictator over a ‘unified reich.’” The campaign said the video is part of a pattern. Trump had dinner with white supremacist two years ago. (His name is Nick Fuentes). Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. 

The Trump campaign blamed a “junior staffer” for posting the video to Trump’s Truth Social account, saying that it was not created by his campaign but instead “by a random account online.” A CNN panel led by Kasie Hunt seemed skeptical. After all, the video was still up. 

Well, it’s not up anymore. Someone took it down. That’s probably where all this is going to end. Historian Heather Cox Richardson said this morning, after referencing the video, that “it is not clear to me how anyone can any longer deny that Trump is promising to destroy our democracy and usher in authoritarianism.” But with the video now taken down, they will deny it. They will deny it and they will deny it. They will deny it in the face of all the overwhelming evidence. And the only people who can keep this story alive, the press corps, are the very same people who will grow bored with trying to keep it alive. 

This we can count on. But we can also count on Trump or one of his surrogates doing it again. At some point between now and November, there will be another “united reich” just as “united reich” was another “very fine people on both sides.” One of the reliable features of fascism is that the people involved can’t help themselves. They know they should not say the quiet part out loud, but they really really want to say the quiet part out loud. They want to say what they really want to do, and they want their enemies, in this case non-fascists, to accept it.

They won’t, of course, which leads non-fascists to accuse fascists of being fascist. Some say this is a bad strategy, as calling Trump a fascist to people who already espouse fascist tendencies is not going to move them toward voting for Joe Biden. There’s something to that, but only something, as the fascists can’t help themselves. There’s utility, I think, in maintaining the accusation, knowing that eventually Trump or one of his surrogates is going to do it again and prove the accusation right.

Indeed, we don’t have to wait. Numerous Republicans, among them US Senators Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson and Tim Scott, are refusing to commit to accepting the outcome of the election, the rationale being they will accept it only if the election is “fair.” Other Republicans, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, have traveled to New York to defame the impartial administration of justice in Trump’s business-fraud case. US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flew the American flag upside down in support of Trump’s failed coup. 

These acts are not just intimations of fascism, though they are that. They’re compelling evidence that the J6 insurrection never ended. 

That the J6 insurrection never ended explains why the Washington press corps has internalized every Trump-related outrage as if it were merely more of the same. This raises an important question, however: how did “unified reich” break through? How did it rise to the level of a weekday morning broadcast on one of the major television networks? 

I think CNN’s Kasie Hunt had the answer last night when she said, during a roundtable discussion of the video, that “the language here is quite specific.” So specific, in fact, that a man like Donald Trump, who can be trusted to double down on virtually anything, no matter how vile, did not double down on it. The explicit reference to the Nazi regime left no room for him to shuck and jive. And since there was no room, there was nothing to be done for it except to take it down.

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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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