Is Donald Trump a fascist? He has been accused of being one, including by me in previous posts, but the left is inclined to label conservatives they particularly dislike as fascists, just as conservatives label progressives they particularly dislike as communists. So let’s take a close look at the Trump phenomenon and see what it reveals.
My dictionary defines fascism as follows:
“The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43); the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also Fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.”
It goes on to define a demagogue as:
“A political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.”
So does Trump believe in the “supremacy of one national or ethnic group”? His comments about immigrants, his building a wall to keep out Hispanics, his exclusion of Muslims, his discrimination against African-American renters, his false charge that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, his equating white supremacists and anti-fascists—the list goes on—all point to a belief in the superiority of white Americans.
How about a “contempt for democracy”? He has consistently disparaged key institutions that democracy depends on, including the press, the judiciary, and even the democratic process itself as evidenced by his attack on the 2020 presidential election.
Then there’s “an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader.” This he clearly does, with himself as the powerful leader. He has on various occasions expressed the power of the president as being beyond what the constitutional allows. He ruthlessly fired those around him who weren’t sufficiently servile and even now plots against Republicans he feels inadequately supported his attempt to subvert the election.
As to a “a strong demagogic approach,” his appeal is entirely to “desires and prejudices” as he consistently substitutes lies for rational argument.
Checking the list of characteristics that describe a fascist, in Trump’s case we can tick them all off one by one.
And we have seen disturbing echoes of the European fascism of the 1930s. For example, the “big lie” technique as recommended by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to Goebbels, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Trump lies all the time, of course, but he ended his term with a whopper, specifically that not only did he win the election, but he won it is a landslide. Goebbels would have been proud of him.
And then there were the goons who invaded the Capitol building on January 6th. If they had been in Germany in the 1930s they would have been wearing brown shirts. They were, in effect, Trump’s storm troopers.
The evidence is conclusive. Trump is a indeed a fascist. And yet Republicans elevated him to the presidency and then tried to keep him there by subverting the 2020 election, by betraying the will of the people.
Why? His lack of knowledge, ability and character were amply demonstrated for four straight years. One answer is simple fear. Trump and his base make Republican members of Congress tremble. As Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, put it, “If you’re wanting to erase Donald Trump from the Party, you’re going to get erased.”
And maybe they are too ignorant of history to recognize the fascist pattern, or perhaps they are sympathetic to fascism themselves. The remarkable enthusiasm for Trump among Republicans certainly suggests the party is seriously infected by the fascist virus.
If that is the case, we may be looking at a new form of politics in the United States. Instead of the usual arrangement in a democracy, conservatives contesting with progressives, perhaps the contest is now between democrats and fascists.
In any case, too many Americans, I fear, don’t realize how close they came to seeing their democracy crumble around them. Another four years of Trump and they may have been living in a fascist state. And the threat continues to hover.