Asheville Daily Planet, 10/2016

Underfoot rubbed his eyes. He had clicked over to the Republican convention during a commercial, but the TV picture wasn’t Cleveland – or 2016, for that matter.

The outdoor crowd all wore black shirts. And they were chanting in a foreign language. Caught by surprise, Underfoot found his mind understanding: “Urrà per Fascismo!”  Hooray for Fascism!

“Holy smoke!” Underfoot whispered. “I’m watching the March on Rome in 1922!”

He shook his head, and the TV picture returned to Cleveland. The shouting thousands wore bright colors, and the speaker was Donald Trump: “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement!”

Underfoot, a strange man in every way, was a professor of government who had no interest in politics.

Quickly, time and space thinned again, and the Fascist leader was speaking in Rome.

“Benito Mussolini,” Underfoot whispered, leaning forward now with his elbows on his knees. Italian had been his required language for his Ph.D.

Mussolini was demanding that King Victor Emmanuel remove liberal prime minister Luigi Facta. He was personally to blame, Mussolini screamed, for rampant disorder across the country.

Blackshirts – no, they were Republicans now – were on their feet, urging the speaker on. Trump was reciting statistics on widespread crime and violence in America. Nobody is safe! Massacres!

Underfoot wanted to go back to “Property Brothers,” but he could not. He could only get to his feet and look out his window into the moonlight.

Everything looked peaceful. But still…he half-turned his head toward the hall closet where he kept his father’s old hunting rifle. He observed outside that his house location gave him an excellent field of fire.

On the TV, Trump was saying: “When I take the oath of office, next year, I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me!”

Underfoot spoke to the TV:   “No, no, you can’t promise that! Public safety in America is state and local, not the president!”

Then he thought, “Unless…No, no, he’s a candidate for president. He can’t mean that! Can he?”

And Trump continued: “I will work with and appoint the best and brightest prosecutors and law enforcement officials to get the job properly done.”

Underfoot pounded both hands to his head as he processed what he was hearing. He said in measured, thoughtful syllables: “The people in his audience don’t know that presidents can’t appoint local prosecutors – but what if Trump himself DOES KNOW? What if he is not spouting ignorance? What if he plans to nationalize law enforcement under the president?”

Italian on TV again. But not the March on Rome. Now Mussolini was elsewhere, clearly Naples, in front of a mammoth rally (60,000 people). Underfoot heard Mussolini saying in a serious staccato: “Our program is simple: we want to rule Italy.”

Underfoot wagged his head: “I can’t believe that Trump has a long-range plan like Mussolini’s! He’s got to be what he seems to be: a know-nothing bullmonger!”

The TV went back again to Trump, in another speech somewhere, saying that the military will obey him.

Underfoot couldn’t sit down. He paced the floor muttering, “What if…what if Trump IS ignorant? That’s worse! What if he actually thinks he CAN DO these things when he gets power? And he actually GETS power?”

Underfoot knew stuff the rest of us don’t know. He had written a book on the failure of the Constitutional “checks and balances” system. He knew how easy, in fact, it would be for a strong leader to take total power in America – if he wins over the military with promises of glory, like Mussolini did and he has a large, loyal paramilitary force

What Underfoot didn’t know was that militia groups, extreme gun rights groups and “Don’t tread on me” groups are the backbone of Donald Trump’s popular support.

He dropped his arms to his side and shrugged. “Politics,” Underfoot whispered as he sat down. “Well, let’s hope he’s wise in how he does it,” And he turned back to “Property Brothers.”