A recent viral video shows Irish lawmaker Aodhán O’Riordáin telling his colleagues, “America, the most powerful country in the world, has just elected a fascist.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldQsy9EW68c) Other YouTube search results for “Trump fascist” are so numerous that I gave up looking after finding more than 300. If you google “Trump fascist,” it will take weeks to go through all the web results.
But let’s be fair! To what extent, if at all, is Donald Trump a fascist? (Full disclosure: I’m not really being fair, so sue me.)
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines fascism as: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Wikipedia’s two cents: “Fascism opposes liberalism, Marxism and anarchism and is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum…. Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state… with the principal goal of achieving autarky through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.”
For the purposes of our discussion, let’s break fascism down into components:
- Extreme nationalism (“nation… above the individual”)
- Racism (“race… above the individual”)
- Autocratic government with a dictatorial leader
- Economic regimentation
- Social regimentation
- Suppression of opposition
- Anti-liberal and anti-democratic
- One-party state
Let’s go point by point. I’ll assign a percentage (0-100%) according to my own, admittedly rather biased rubric. At the end, I’ll give Donald Trump and the Republican Party their very own “Fascism score.”
- Nationalism was a dominant theme throughout Trump’s campaign, with the slogan “Make America Great Again.” He promised to force other countries to pay for our military protection (which – he neglects to mention – many are already doing); he said he was going to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it (that “wall” has since been downgraded to a “fence”); and in general his theme was (and still is) “America first” (as long as we are talking about “the USA” and exclude all the other countries in North America, Central America and South America). So… extreme nationalism? At least judging by the statements he made in his campaign, 100%.
- Concerns about racism – aroused by Trump’s campaign rhetoric as well as by the support he has gotten from David Duke and the KKK – have been exacerbated by Trump’s appointment of alt-right Breitbart News head Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, as well as his choice of accused racist Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. On Nov. 21, 2016 the Atlantic Monthly reported on a meeting of the National Policy Institute, considered a white nationalist group, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. This excerpt describes the meeting:
For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word to attack their critics in the press.
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
The audience offered cheers, applause, and enthusiastic Nazi salutes.
So… racism? Duh. 100%
3. It is doubtful that Trump alone can create an autocratic government, given that our Constitution stipulates balance of power. However, now that Republicans presumably will soon control all three branches of government, and consolidate that control through new legislation, the Supreme Court, and other means — including, but not limited to, more voter suppression (see future article on voter suppression) — true “balance of power” becomes highly questionable. Autocratic government? Kind of. Let’s split the difference and call it 50%.
4. Economic regimentation? Here, I think we might see the opposite, as Trump campaigned on reducing regulations on banks and businesses. So a big fat “No” on #4 — 0%.
5. Social regimentation? In years past, Trump expressed a socially liberal bent on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. So on that basis, “Probably not” on #5. However, Trump has nominated the socially conservative Jeff Sessions, who is decidedly anti-LGBT and anti-marijuana, for Attorney General. So let’s now say 75%.
6. Suppression of opposition? Throughout his campaign, Trump threatened to jail his political opponent Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) as soon as he became president. He has repeatedly railed about hostile coverage by from the press, threatening to change laws so that the press can be sued more easily. He has silenced dissenting voices in his audiences, encouraging violence against protestors. Suppression of opposition? Definitely. 100%
7. Anti-liberal and anti-democratic? Here we face a conundrum, because of Trump’s past liberalism vs. his current conservatism, and the fact that he (apparently) won enough votes in the quasi-democratic 2016 election to become president. However he said our election system is “rigged,” so he looks kind of anti-democratic; and he’s appointing very anti-liberal people to his administration, so let’s give him a 90% on #7.
8. Is Trump trying to create a one-party state? Hard to say, but his Republican Party is definitely trying to create a one-party nation. According to Neal Gabler, the Republicans have since the time of Joseph McCarthy leaned towards a “slash and burn” brand of politics that aims to destroy the Democratic Party base: http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-gabler30-2008nov30-story.html. Through the following means, Republicans have waged a “take-no-prisoners” war against their political rivals:
- By attacking labor unions, long a bastion of support for Democrats, and other left-leaning voting blocs and organizations such as Acorn
- By the Supreme Court’s 2013 gutting the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act. (According to http://www.ibtimes.com/, “…Millions of voters could be once again be turned away from the polls this year because of a regime of voting laws that disproportionately burden minorities, the elderly, immigrants and the poor.” The latter four groups all tend to vote Democratic.)
- By voter suppression – removing likely Democrats from lists of eligible voters through a variety of means.
- By gerrymandering, which allows Democratic-majority areas to be controlled by Republicans.
So if we judge #8 using Trump’s Republican Party in place of the orange man himself, we give one-party state question 100%.
9. Protectionism. Trump has vowed to renegotiate trade deals, especially with China, presumably to increase tariffs, i.e. protectionism. However, given that Trump has shown some flexibility by walking back many of his campaign promises, let’s cut his score on this one down to 75%.
Now it’s time to do the math. In the grid below, I add up and calculate the “total fascism” score for Trump and his Republican Party.
|6.||Suppression of opposition||100%|
|7.||Anti-liberal and anti-democratic||90%|
|Total fascism score (average)||76.7%|
Of course, the word “fascist” is overused as a political propaganda tool. When Obama was first elected, it was common to see posters of him with a Hitler moustache. I personally dislike using the word for the very reason that it’s been so often misused.
I also have seen numerous cases in which those who accuse others of being fascists often act kind of fascistic themselves on a personal level, and – if in power politically – on a political level as well. For example, Vladimir Putin and his supporters accuse Ukraine’s government of being “fascist” or “Nazi,” while at the same time Putin’s government scores high on the above checklist.
One bright footnote on all of this is something my daughter observed recently: Trump is a pragmatist. Since “winning” the 2016 election, Trump has walked back many of his more incendiary campaign promises, such as banning Muslims, building a Great Wall of Trumplandia, totally abolishing Obamacare and cancelling the Paris climate change agreement. Let us hope he keeps walking.
Otherwise, our nation’s cities could soon look like this: