This is What Fascism Looks Like
The word fascism gets tossed around a lot these days, and for good reason. If we look at its origin during the Mussolini regime, it means the merger of business and government, in which case I’d say we’re already there. The main target of the word has been Donald J. Trump, and there are ample reasons for that as well. There are several lists of the various characteristics of fascism; I’ve chosen the one by political scientist Lawrence Britt, and we can examine how well Mr. Trump fits them.
Nationalism, along with powerful expression of patriotism — “Make America Great Again” is Trump’s official slogan, which he has trademarked. Make America hate again is closer to the truth. He’s going to give us our country back. Trump doesn’t own this sentiment, it’s a common theme for most presidential candidates.
Disdain for human rights — Trump has said we need to bring back waterboarding and go beyond, that we should kill the families of ISIS extremists. Last Nov. 19th, a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, he said: “We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” More from that interview later.
Finding “enemies” to use as scapegoats — When he entered the race last June, he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, “and a few, I assume, are good people.” He promised to build a Great Wall to keep them out, and make Mexico pay for it. Later he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. Back to Nov. 19th, he advocated a national database for all Muslims in the U.S. When asked by a reporter to explain the difference between this and the Nazis requiring Jews to register, four times he answered, “You tell me.” Whoever is selected as the enemy, our troubles are all their fault.
Worship of the military — He gets a pass here. The whole damned country worships the military. Every major sports event has the National Anthem accompanied by armed forces personnel bringing in the flag, as if it were some religious icon, followed by the obligatory flyover by Navy or Air Force jets. Play ball!
Rampant sexism — Guilty as charged, your honor. Trump has referred to women as pigs, slobs, and bimbos, and even referenced Fox’s Meghan Kelly’s attacks on him as being due to “blood coming out of her eyes, out of her whatever.” But that’s really no different than the usual Republican take on women.
Control of mass media — Trump gets a pass here too, but the country doesn’t. He doesn’t control the media, but he sure knows how to use it to his advantage. He’s gotten nearly $2 billion in free media exposure. He’s like catnip to them, and they dote on everything he says, rather than report news that we could actually use. But he has plans for the media. The Donald has plans for the media, though. On Feb. 24th he said “I’m going to open up our libel laws, so when they write purposely negative and horrible and fake attacks, we can sue them and win lots of money.” Goodbye freedom of the press.
Obsession with national security — Again, this is more a reflection of America in general, rather than Trump in particular. If you’re getting the impression that this piece is also an indictment of America’s slide into fascism, bingo! You win a cookie.
Religion and the ruling elite tied together — This one actually fits Ted Cruz better than anyone else, but Trump has said he’s “proud to be a Christian.” I thought pride was one of the seven deadly sins, but never mind.
The power of corporations protected — If Trump isn’t a corporatist, I’ll eat my hat. He says he wants to greatly reduce the amount of corporate tax (which they don’t pay anyway).
Labor and unions suppressed or eliminated — Trump isn’t alone here, either. That began in earnest under Reagan, but recently the workers at Trump’s casino voted in the majority to form a union, and Trump refuses to recognize it.
Anti-intellectualism — Just look at Trump’s supporters, if you want to see the antithesis of intellectuals. He speaks at a 4th grade level, using mostly one or two-syllable words. After his win in Nevada he noted he’d won heavily with the poorly educated: “I love the poorly educated!” Indeed. These people are proud to be stupid! He knows the visceral reaction he gets with them, and he plays them like a concert violin.
Obsession with crime and punishment — A few weeks ago he said that if abortion were to be made illegal, women who get them “should be punished.” Within hours he’d flipped it around to doctors performing abortions, they’re the ones to be punished (as long as someone gets punished, that’s the important part). He’s insisted that protesters at his rallies should be arrested (after a brief roughing up). I honestly don’t know where he stands on mass incarceration, but the Right has always been about crime and punishment (for the poor, of course, certainly not their billionaire buddies).
Rampant cronyism and corruption — Well, Trump is all about that, and he has lots of company, namely his fellow elites — the upper tenth of one percent. He fits right in.
Fraudulent elections — This one we’ve had since at least 2000, with the introduction of privately-owned electronic voting machines with proprietary software, and thus exempt from examination by election officials. The first tip was exit polls, so notoriously accurate they were used to call elections only minutes after the polls closed. They’re still used around the world in the other developed nations. Around 2000 pollsters began to notice that election results tilted towards Republicans by as much as 10% compared to exit polls. It was called “red shift,” and you can look it up if you want to learn more.
Okay, well I scored Trump 9 for 14 on that list. I must mention another characteristic, not only of fascism but of authoritarian systems in general. There’s a lot of violence by bully boys directed at anyone who gets in the way or otherwise opposes the leader. We’ve seen countless violence at Trump rallies, nearly all of it by his supporters, that recalls Hitler’s Brownshirts. They were volunteers, too. Trump’s reaction to protesters has been most telling: “He deserved what he got.” “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” “This was a very obnoxious guy, a troublemaker.” “Just knock the hell out of them. I promise I’ll pay the legal fees.” “These are not people,” he said, referring to Black Lives Matters protesters. “Just remember that.”
I think the point has been made. There are millions of Americans, both left and right, who are beginning to realize that they’ve been screwed. They’re angry, and history tells us this is exactly the kind of situation a strongman type uses to his advantage. Again, those who haven’t learned from history are condemned to repeat it, and the rest of us are taken along as hostages. Don’t kid yourself like we did with Ronald Reagan in 1979 — oh, this old fool, he couldn’t possibly win. If Trump is the Republican candidate, he could very likely win. He’d get a lot of Bernie Sanders voters. I know, it sounds crazy. But I can’t tell you how many callers I’ve heard on talk radio — both left and right — who were undecided between Bernie and Trump. They’re both outsiders to the political establishment, and people are sick of politics as usual.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.