The 48 hours or so that I spent intermittently reading Dinesh D'Souza's new book have been huge for me, personally speaking. I won't mince words here: The experience was mind-blowing, psychedelic even. I have so many questions.
Let me be clear. The book, entitled The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, is not polemic or even popular history. It's not even really a book so much as a mystical Weltanschauung in paper form, a vision quest in a magic kingdom, a glimpse into a private world more fascinating and various than Tolkien's — a race odyssey. Learning that, for example, Andrew Jackson and Sen. Benjamin Tillman were committed men of the left, very likely socialists, that Martin Heidegger's Being and Time has had a formative influence on Black Lives Matter and antifa, and that the Nazis devised the Final Solution in response to their childhood reading of various long-forgotten cowboy novelettes — these are the kind of revelations that change a person forever, okay?
These pages are full of staggering truths — e.g., Hitler "is the ultimate racist" — and unassailable conclusions, viz., that Martin O'Malley is one of the "leading lights in the Democratic Party." They actually contain a sentence that begins: "According to a tweet by RuPaul." If I had to pick my single favorite line, I think I would nominate this one: "The topics of Nazism and fascism must be approached with the greatest care, not only because they involve massive suffering and loss of life, but also because the terms themselves have been so promiscuously used and abused in our culture." Pull up the Wikipedia page for "Transference," and you will never wonder again just what lengths D'Souza is willing to go to in search of Freudian analogies and serial killer anecdotes.
Despite what the subtitle seems to suggest, this is not merely a book about how left-wingers in this country have always been secret Nazis. Its other thesis is an even juicier one, namely, that the Nazis were by and large rather ordinary New Deal Democrats. "Nazi DNA," D'Souza explains, "was in the Democratic Party from the very beginning. The Democrats — not the Nazis — are the originators of the politics of hate." Hitler himself would have been "more at home with Democratic President Andrew Jackson or Democratic Senator John C. Calhoun than he would be with, say, Abraham Lincoln." To render it in syllogistic form:
1) Calhoun was a racist.
2) Calhoun was a Democrat.
3) Hitler was a racist.
4) Hitler was a Democrat.
Also: The Democrats are worse than the Italian fascists because, according to D'Souza, "white supremacy, racial segregation, and state-sponsored discrimination were also alien to Italian fascism"; on the other hand, Franklin D. Roosevelt's offhand praise for Mussolini is obvious proof that he was, in fact, a fascist and a racist. "FDR did lead America into the fight against Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, but this hardly proves that FDR had no affinities with Nazism or fascism. By way of analogy, Martin Luther led the Protestants in a fight against the Catholic Church but can we conclude from this that Martin Luther had no affinities with Christianity?" Recognizing this was mind-blowing for me, not least because I had previously learned from one of D'Souza's other books, Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary President, that the Gipper "was a truly great president whose achievement rivals that of Franklin Roosevelt. Only the two nation builders, Washington and Lincoln, occupy a more elevated place in the presidential pantheon." Does this mean that Reagan and Honest Abe and the Father of Our Country were also fascists like FDR, a.k.a. "our unacknowledged American führer"? Far out.
The Big Lie also manages to break major news about the far-reaching impact of D'Souza's previous book and "documentary" film of the same name. "If you watched the major networks or public television, or listened to National Public Radio, you would have no idea that Hillary's America even existed." Despite these Gestapo tactics, "many people credit [the book and film] with motivating Republicans and persuading undecideds and thus helping Trump get to the White House." Not only that — they also helped to secure Jeff Sessions' confirmation as attorney general.
I could go on for days, even weeks, just about the book's purely formal qualities. Before opening it I thought that "craven kowtowing" was a pleonasm. D'Souza does things with language and chronology here that I've never seen outside the experimental fiction of Maurice Blanchot and the philosophical writings of Paul de Man. When he begins a sub-chapter on "The Race Card" with the announcement that "this is a topic I have not written about before," he is obviously telling the truth, even though only seven years ago he made a book and a documentary about how the then-president's deep-seated hatred of white people was the best and most obvious explanation for nearly every aspect of Barack Obama's political career — and despite the fact that in his 1995 tome The End of Racism he argued that, among other things, one of the biggest remaining obstacles to racial harmony in this country was the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had not been repealed.
On another level, though, this is an astonishingly moving and human story about the haunting power of regret. Take, for instance, this beautifully affecting passage in which D'Souza disagrees with a fellow conservative historian's treatment of Native Americans:
Lewy has fallen here for a progressive trap, one into which I too fell in my earlier career. Basically in order to defend "the West" and "America," Lewy engages in what may be termed the genocide minimization strategy. Actually, there is no need for such a strategy because neither "the West" nor "America" is guilty of genocide; rather, Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party are. [The Big Lie]
I wouldn't want to give the impression that The Big Lie is some kind of dusty historical magnum opus totally lacking in contemporary relevance. As the author puts it: "In this book I turn the tables on the Democratic Left and show that they — not Trump — are the real fascists. They are the ones who use Nazi bullying techniques and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology." You know, like objecting to racist speakers on college campuses — the same way the Nazis did.
D'Souza also has plenty of sound advice for those seeking what he calls a "denazification" of the present-day United States of America. One of the steps he has in mind is lowering taxes; another is to "tighten eligibility requirements so that food stamps only go to the small population of people who are truly needy." Which is not to say that we should neglect the vital role the federal government has to play here. "Why," D'Souza asks, "shouldn't we deploy the IRS, the NSA, and the FBI against the Left in the same way that Obama went after the Tea Party?" Why indeed. "There's even precedent," he reminds us, "for the approach I'm discussing. During the Civil War Lincoln learned that Confederate soldiers were killing captured black federal troops or selling them into slavery rather than treating them as lawful prisoners of war." Lincoln did it first, folks.
But public policy isn't going to be enough to "stop the street thugs," which "will require, from the Right, a new creativity, a new resolve, and a new willingness to use lawful physical force. Anyone who says that physical force is out of bounds does not know what it means to stop fascism." Obviously, hence why "we should not hesitate to unleash the law and the police on these leftist brownshirts."
Only Nixon could go to China, ladies and gentlemen, and only Dinesh D'Souza could write a sustained 250-page meditation on why Dems are the real racists.