I am not the first person to read The Origins of Totalitarianism, By Hannah Arendt and have the uncanny realization that this 1951 classic is also an apt description of the modern right in America. I am at least six years late to the party - fashionably late one might argue. Nevertheless, and because the subscribers to this publication have universally clamored for it, I will still share a few brief thoughts regarding the chapter of the work that contributed most to my feeling of recognition.
In the book, Arendt charts the rise of totalitarianism in Germany and the Soviet Union and how these movements grew from a soil of imperialism and antisemitism. Chapter 11, "The Totalitarian Movement" describes the relationship between leader, organization and the masses just before the totalitarian movement assumes power. It foreshadows the current state of much of the American right.
A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses.... The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness. (p. 382)
If you read this and do not think about tiki torches and space lasers, you have not been paying close enough attention. Trump can run on draining the swamp and at the same time and for all to see require government agencies patronize his properties. He can claim omnipotence and have harebrained scheme after scheme rebuffed by his own ministers.
The American fascistic right is a host imitators, opportunists, and reprobates that the Republican party covers for. Arendt describes this phenomenon writing:
The world at large, on the other side, usually gets its first glimpse of a totalitarian movement through its front organizations. The sympathizers, who are to all appearances still innocuous fellow-citizens in a nontotalitarian society, can hardly be called single-minded fanatics; through them, the movements make their fantastic lies more generally acceptable, can spread their propaganda in milder, more respectable forms, until the whole atmosphere is poisoned with totalitarian elements which are hardly recognizable as such but appear to be normal political reactions or opinions. (p. 367)
Media tropes idolizing bipartisanship and bothsidesism buttress the appearance of the the majority of the right as 'innocuous fellow-citizens.' Only the crazy Republicans want insert insane policy here. Even Democratic leadership believe there should be a strong Republican party. Absurd. And as Arendt pointed out seventy years ago, extremely useful cover.
The question is should you read The Origins of Totalitarianism? It is a challenging read both in form and subject matter. It was written seventy years ago in the wake of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War. It covers dense political philosophy and history. So I guess the real question is are you very normal?