A few years back, a friend, someone whom I respect, challenged me on Facebook, saying that Trump might be a lot of things, but he wasn’t an actual Fascist. Well, I beg to differ. If it steps like a goose, . . .
Here are a few of the clear signs that, yes, Fascist is precisely the term to describe Trump, his supporters, and those who wish to assume the orange mantle:
Alliance with other Fascists/Authoritarians. D.T. allied himself with violent, extremist authoritarian nationalists around the globe—with, of course, his handler, Vladimir Putin, but also with Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Recep Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and even, shockingly and weirdly, with Kim Jong-un. Hitler allied himself with extremist authoritarian nationalists around the globe—Mussolini of Italy, Hirohito of Japan, Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, Horthy of Hungary, Antonescu of Romania, Tiso of Slovakia, and Pavelić‘of Croatia (see the Tripartite Pact signed in September of 1940 and joined later by other members of the Axis Powers).
Use of Violent Citizens’ Militias. D.T. supported and employed on numerous occasions armed, right-wing citizens’ militias, notably
a) at the March on Charlottesville by neo-Nazis who chanted “Jews will not replace us” and murdered an antifascist protestor;
b) when a group of these self-appointed militiamen invaded the Michigan Capitol and Legislature, armed, and plotted to kidnap and murder Michigan’s governor; AND
c) when several groups of these, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, broke into and ransacked the U.S. Capital, beat police officers, caused injuries that led to deaths, called for hanging the Vice President, and tried to overthrow the incoming government of the United States by preventing its certification.
Trump approved of all these actions by Citizens’ Militias, saying in the first instance that there were “Good people on both sides”—the Nazis and those opposing them–and in the latter instances that these were “patriots.” And, of course, he planned and stoked the last–the January 6th insurrection. In addition, he called on his Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and send federal troops to attack BLM protestors, which Barr sort of went along with his little green men (Esper and Milley, to their eternal credit, declined). Hitler, of course, infamously used citizens’ militias, the Sturmabteilung (the SA, or brownshirts), to provide protection at rallies, to attack enemies, and, with the SS, to carry out the infamous attacks on Jews during Kristallnacht. When asked to denounce white supremacy in a debate, Trump responded by saying, “Proud Boys—stand back and stand by.”
Monumentalism. D.T. loved monuments and monumental architecture and got a lot of political mileage out of riling up supporters of continuing to have on display in the public sphere commemorative statues of genocidal maniacs and enemies of the United States (Columbus; slave-owning men who led forces of insurrection during the Civil War). He organized a Republican Convention that was replete with monumental architecture and iconography. To do this, he violated the law by using the White House and its grounds as a political campaign/convention set. He called for absurdly expensive military parades of the kinds one sees in Communist China, North Korea. and Putin’s Russia. Trump called for building a massive “patriotic” sculpture garden. He held monumentalist nationalist events like the 4th of July military airshow at Mount Rushmore. Hitler, of course, employed Albert Speer to build monumentalist fascist architecture and devoted a great deal of his time to this.
The Cult of Personality. D.T. constantly referred to himself as “the best” or “the greatest” this or that and plastered his name on everything, from massive amounts of merch (Trump steaks, Trump straws, Trump flags) to buildings to letters accompanying Covid relief checks. He turned every discussion of every issue into one about himself and how great he is, even events that were supposed to be to honor Gold Star families or present information about how not to die from a virulent pandemic. Like a mob boss or any other Fascist leader, he required loyalty oaths and fired people who didn’t make them. At every cabinet meeting, cabinet members were expected to preface their remarks with long exhortations about the greatness of Trump (for an abject lesson in human self-abasement, go listen to a recording of one of these delivered by Mike Pence, to whom, of course, Trump showed no corresponding loyalty). He literally described himself as “the only” person who could solve the country’s problems. Clearly, Trump suffers from malignant narcissistic personality disorder. Conjure in your mind, if you have the stomach for it, a typical Trump rally. Trump created a cult of personality, just as all Fascist strongmen have done—Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Mao, Pinochet, the Kim Dynasty of North Korea, etc. The difference, of course, is that Trump was merely a WANNABE Fascist strongman.
The Myth of the Return to Racial and National Greatness. D.T. constantly referred to a mythical Golden Age to which he would return the country and even made this his official slogan (“Make America Great Again,” or MAGA). This was, of course, precisely what Hitler did, calling for a return to a time of Aryan and German greatness–the major theme of his propaganda and writing and speeches.
The Racial Supremacy Myth/Use of Racism to Mobilize the Masses. D.T. constantly issued racist dog-whistles, from his ad attacking the innocent members of the Central Park Five to his Obama birtherism to his calling asylum seekers “caravans” and “hordes” of “rapists and murders” to his references to “s—thole countries” to his “Good people on both sides” to his planning of rallies at sites of racist violence (near the Alamo, Tulsa, etc.) to his suggestions that China purposefully engineered and released SARS-COV-2, which Trump variously referred to, in his racist way, as the “China flu,” the “Wuhan flu,” and so on. And, of course, Trump built his whole campaign, initially, on the racist idea that America was being taken over by immigrants and that in order to “have a country,” we would need to keep out the brown-skinned hordes. In fact, this is why Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller chose Trump to run in 2015 to begin with. See the Frontline documentary about this, Zero Tolerance (2019). Trump called for the Border Patrol to SHOOT innocent asylum seekers and screamed at his Secretary of Homeland Security for saying that she couldn’t do that. Hitler baked anti-Semitism into the Nazi ideology. Both leaders ran concentration camps targeting members of particular ethnic groups. Both committed horrific Crimes against Humanity (Hitler’s genocides; Trump’s kidnapping of immigrant children and separation of these from their parents).
Scapegoating and Call for the Elimination of Enemies Within. D.T. constantly referred and continues to refer to “enemies within” that have to be eliminated “or you’re not going to have a country anymore.” These he refers to as Socialists, the “Radical Left,” “Antifa,’ and so on. One of Trump’s favorite and most often used slurs is Enemy of the People, a phrase that goes all the way back to Roman times and was famously the title of a great play by Ibsen. Calling for the elimination of enemies within is, of course, exactly what Hitler did, blaming Germany’s troubles, such as its loss of World War I and its hyperinflation on “enemies within”—Jews and Socialists and Communists—who had “stabbed the country in the back.” But it was, of course, the extreme left-wing Fascist leaders in Russia and East Germany, during the Stalin Era, who made Enemy of the People a standard catchphrase in the 20th Century, but Trump is too ignorant to know this, to know that every time he calls Biden or Fauci or whomever an “Enemy of the People,” he is sounding just like the murderous Joseph Stalin. (And yes, you can have Fascists who come to it from the left.) And even if Trump did know this, it probably wouldn’t bother him in the least bit. Trump has expressly said that he was unhappy with “his” generals because they didn’t show him the deference that Hitler’s generals showed to Hitler. Of course, Trump doesn’t know, because he is profoundly ignorant, a bear of very little brain, that a number of those very generals tried to assassinate Hitler several times. LOL. Be careful what you wish for, Donnie!
The Fascist Rally. D.T.’s main method of communication with his base was the large-scale rally—precisely the sort of method used by Hitler, with Goebbels and Speer as organizers and Leni Riefenstahl to film these.
Indoctrination of the Young. Trump called for the creation of an overtly exceptionalist, nationalist curriculum. Hitler did the same (see, for example, the Nazi textbook on Aryan supremacy, Rasse und Seele) and also created his Hitler Youth, his League of German Girls, and his Lebensborn Program.
The National Supremacy Myth. Trump’s American Exceptionalism, Hitler’s Übermenschen and Deutschland über alles. Same diseased thought.
Eugenics and Genetic Determinism. D.T. constantly referred to his “good genes” and what he called his “racehorse theory” of what constituted a fine woman–one who was properly bred. Despite the fact of his almost total scientific ignorance, he was and is committed to a myths of Eugenics and genetic determinism–one of the central myths, of course, of Nazi ideology. And this myth, of course, supports the racial and national superiority myths.
The Erasure of the Concept of a Nation of Laws and Totalitarian Insistence That His Will Is the Law. Trump insisted, “I have an Article 2 that says I can do anything I like as President.” He seems to think that he could just magically wave his hand and declassify documents and that, at any rate, rules about preservation and secrecy didn’t apply to him because NO RULES apply to him. Trump treated agencies and departments of the government as HIS, insisting, for example, that “His” generals and “His” DOJ and “His” everything else be absolutely subservient, and he fired or attempted to fire anyone who disagreed with him about anything. Barr went along with basically turning the DOJ into Trump’s private law firm. Hitler, of course, had the Enabling Act, making his will and the law identical. This the Fascists like Trump and Hitler share with Absolute Monarchists, the idea that L’état, c’est moi. Belief in the absolute authority of the Glorious Leader (Trump thought his image should be carved onto Mount Rushmore) is what puts the “total” in Totalitarianism.
The Portrayal of Himself as the Ultra-Masculine Leader, the Archetype of the Masculine, the Strongman. Trump loves to talk about how tough he is and constantly made threats via Tweet, yelled at staff, tore up briefs, and actually threw things when he got mad. And he constantly degraded women, speaking of grabbing them by the genitals, bragging about being able to get away with sexual assault, yelling at his female Secretary of Homeland Security and calling her “Honey,” making disgusting remarks about female celebrities and reporters. He actually ran a freaking old school beauty pageant. He bragged about walking in on the women while they were dressing because as owner, he could get away with it. He was a big pal of Jeffrey Epstein’s. Of course, Trump didn’t have the physique to portray himself as a male sex symbol, so he tweeted out pictures of his face Photoshopped onto the body of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa and actually sold this image on his website. Over twenty-five women have accused him of sexual assault. He paid off a porn star and a Playboy bunny to keep quiet about affairs with him. And in these respects, Trump was in the mold of other Fascist leaders who promulgated hyper-masculinized images of themselves (along with a big dose of hyper-sexism)–think Mussolini and Pinochet and Berlusconi and of Hitler’s military garb and Putin’s shirtless, horseback photoshoots.
One could go on and on. In Trump one had and has ALMOST the complete Fascist package. The one element that was missing was the competence to pull it off. Trump is far too ignorant and stupid to have effected a Fascist revolution in America. The next guy will have all Trump’s Fascist tendencies but be smarter and more knowledgeable.
P.S.: It is extraordinarily important to call Fascism out when it rears its monstrous head, to call it what it is. Why? Because silence is complicity. It’s letting it happen again. It’s making the same mistake that Germans made back in 1932-33, expecting that it’s not going to be all that bad. That experience is behind us all now. We are supposed to know better. It CAN get that bad, that quickly. Been there, done that. In the middle of the last century, we fought a war to end this shit. Here we are seeing it again, right here, on our soil. Who would have imagined that we would have slid so far backward? These must be more than just words: Never again.