Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.
A lot of people are making comparisons of President Trump to the fascist leaders of the 1930s. Is that fair? Well, first let’s consider what fascism is. This article, which I strongly recommend reading now, describes 14 features common to fascist governments. It wouldn’t be fair to throw the word “fascist” at Trump unless he matches all 14 items on that list. Here they are.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Yes. This is the “Make America Great Again” guy, after all. Trump has repeated “America First” like a mantra, a phrase is not just nationalistic on its face, but was the slogan of some of the most prominent anti-Semites who opposed U.S. entry into World War II.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Yes. Trump is unambiguously in favor of torture. He turns away refugees fleeing war zones, supports racist voter suppression, and rolled back protections for transgender children. He plans to have the Border Patrol separate children from their parents in detention, as a deterrent to illegal border crossing.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – Yes. He tried to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. He wants to create a registry of Muslims, just like the Nazis did in the 1930s with Jews.
4. Supremacy of the Military – Yes. He proposed a $54 billion increase in military spending. He claims to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS (in 30 days, which expired a month ago at this writing). He has promised to deport immigrants in a “military operation,” a disturbing way to talk about domestic policing.
5. Rampant Sexism – Oh yes. He has already ordered cutbacks in U.S. funding of international family planning organizations. He has bragged of sexually assaulting women. Over and over again, he has referred to women as sexual objects, criticized women for their looks, and joked about dating underage girls.
6. Controlled Mass Media – Yes. He wants to make it easier to sue the press into submission, and has a media enemies list, and literally used the Stalinist phrase “enemy of the people” to describe the press. It wouldn’t be accurate to say he controls the media, in the present tense, but his desire to do so is not a secret.
7. Obsession with National Security – Hell yes. Fear is central to Trump’s appeal. We are told to be afraid of immigrants, afraid of African Americans, afraid of Chinese. We are told that police are under attack. We are told in ominous tones that something is going on. He has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. murder rate is the highest it has been in 47 years, when the opposite is true.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Yes indeed. Trump has made no secret of his intention to prioritize Christian immigrants to the U.S. He has promised to lift the political restrictions on religious nonprofits, making it possible for churches to participate directly in political campaigns, with anonymous tax free money. He has promised to appoint antiabortion judges. He promised to get cashiers in stores to say “Merry Christmas.” He promised to bring back prayer in public schools.
9. Corporate Power is Protected – Yes. Trump promises to reduce taxes on corporations to zero, and cut regulations. He has the CEOs of many of the most powerful companies in the world attempting to curry favor with him. His cabinet is dominated by corporate executives.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Yes. Trump’s first pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is a fast food CEO, with a long history of fighting against the $15 minimum wage, whose employees complain of wage theft and sexual harrassment. His current nominee, Alexander Acosta, refuses to say he’ll enforce current regulations that protect workers’ overtime pay. Trump has been overtly hostile to labor unions.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Emphatically yes. Trump has taken anti-intellectualism to new levels. This is the guy who doesn’t need to read much because he has so much “common sense.” He literally stands opposed to the idea of the very existence of objective truth. He proposes eliminating the arts and humanities endowments. He has described art he dislikes as “degenerate,” a chilling choice of word that we have heard before, from actual Nazis.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Yes. Trump favors the death penalty and asserts against the evidence that the death penalty deters crime. He thinks we have to give more power to police, including the power to stop and frisk people without suspicion, a practice already ruled unconstitutional in New York.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – To an unprecedented level, yes. Trump has refused to put his assets into a blind trust, so anyone wishing to curry favor with the President of the United States can literally give him money, by staying at a Trump hotel, or playing at a Trump golf club, or just buying one of his many properties, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. He will fill vacancies in the National Labor Relations Board, which will referee matters between Trump hotels and labor unions. He will fill vacancies in the General Services Administration, which will administer the lease of Trump International Hotel.
14. Fraudulent Elections – And…yes. We know that Russia intervened in the U.S. election, according to U.S. intelligence officials. There is evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in that effort. On top of the Russian angle, Trump and the Republican Party have engaged in systematic voter suppression.
Perhaps this is why Trump has an actual sworn Nazi working for him as an adviser. Perhaps this is why the Nazi web site Daily Stormer celebrates Trump’s victory and calls him “our God Emperor.” Perhaps this is why the Ku Klux Klan’s official newspaper endorsed Trump. Perhaps this is why radical Serbian nationalists, who carried out actual genocide in the 1990s, support Trump.
“Fascist” isn’t a word that means “someone I don’t like.” It’s not a word to be thrown around lightly. It has a specific meaning. And if you’ve read this far, you can’t escape the conclusion: Donald Trump is, indeed, a fascist.