“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying the cross.” (multiple sources)
“Fascism is not an idea to debate, it is a set of actions to fight.” (Aleksandar Hemon)
“Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed. That word is Nazi. Nobody cares about their motives anymore. They joined what they joined. They lent their support and their moral approval. And, in so doing, they bound themselves to everything that came after. Who cares any more what particular knot they used in the binding?”
Now that the Trump presidency is finally over - after a failed attempt at a violent coup - it is time to face some rather unpleasant and inconvenient truths.
Over the last five years, I have had a lot of people I know - friends, relatives, acquaintances - take strong exception to my use of the word “Fascism” to describe Trump and Trumpism. (And also exception to my use of “theofascism.” I hope to address that one in a future post.)
The problem is, Trump is a textbook Fascist. He may be an incompetent one, who never succeeded in creating a Fascism regime - our democracy managed to survive for now - but it wasn’t for lack of fascist beliefs, actions, or attempts on his part.
Likewise, Trumpism as a movement IS a fascist movement - a textbook fascist movement. And, unlike Trump, Trumpism - American Fascism - is not going away. Those of us who still believe in democracy are going to have to deal with this fascist movement for years to come. A crucial weapon in that fight is truth, and we need to say the truth loudly, and constantly:
Trumpism is Fascism.
Trumpism is based on fascist ideology. It promotes fascist policies. It has zero respect for democratic ideals, American institutions, or the rule of law. This was obvious (to those who know their history) from the start, but it became undeniable on January 6, 2021, when Trump, having failed in his attempts to get the courts, then elections officials in swing states, and finally Congress, to approve his coup d’etat, encouraged his followers to storm the capitol.
Now, I get it. It is emotionally traumatic to be told that you support fascism. None of us wants to believe that we would do that. But lying will not get us anywhere. If you voted for Trump, whether you like it or not, you voted for his fascist ideas and policies. Full stop. Actions speak louder than words, and having good motives doesn’t negate evil actions. As Saint James put it, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works...For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Trump voters: Nobody gives a flying fuck about the supposed goodness that dwells in your heart. Show us that goodness by your actions.
You claim you aren’t racist? Stop voting for racists. You claim you aren’t xenophobic? Stop voting for people who literally campaign on xenophobia. You claim you don’t support fascism? Stop voting for - and defending - fascists. You claim you don’t hate immigrants, Muslims, minorities, LGBTQ people, and the impoverished? Stop voting for people who promise policies that will hurt them.
It really is that simple.
And it also isn’t that simple - because the problem is that most Trump voters are attracted to at least some fascist policies. They want the policies without the stigma. (More about this below.)
Now, while I feel it is in some ways silly to have to point out the obvious, I decided I should run through the basics of why Trump and Trumpism are Fascist. Let’s start with the ideology. Not because Fascism starts with ideology - it starts with racism - but because ideology is used to sustain the movement, give cover for the atrocities, and feed the emotions that drive the actions.
Fascist ideology is best summed up with a narrative.
Once upon a time, there was a great nation. That great nation was strong, and powerful, and healthy, and full of goodness. Men were manly, women were feminine and knew their place in the home, and racial and religious minorities knew their place on the margins of society.
But then, the true people of the nation were undermined by enemies within and without. This rot happened because the true people of the nation were diluted by other people, who were not the true people. Even the true people became soft, abandoning their traditional values and hierarchies. The soft liberals undermined the manliness of the men, encouraged the women to leave the home, and invited in all sorts of “those people.”
As a result, the nation lost its greatness.
In order to restore national greatness, traditional values must be restored, men must be men again, women must return to the home, and the true people of the nation need to wrest control of the levers of power back from “those people” who are not the true people. And “those people” must be prevented from diluting the true people. They must be kept out, and evicted if necessary, so that the nation will once again belong to the true people.
That is the story that Fascists around the world have told every single time. That ranges from the most famous (Hitler) to the smaller scale (Pinochet and Franco) to the obscure (Quisling) and a lot in between. Nazism is just one particularly nasty form of fascism, but it is hardly the only form. In fact, perhaps the reason Nazism became the best known is that Germany in the 1930s and 40s had a unique level of economic and military power that enabled it to start a world war, whereas, say, Chile in the 1970s was not in a position to throw its weight around, even locally. There are, however, common elements to fascism around the world and throughout time. Umberto Eco wrote a long article back in the 1980s which is my go-to reference for the elements of what he called “Ur-Fascism,” or the universal constants of fascist movements. Britannica also has a good discussion of the key values of fascism.
Here is what I see as the universals that are particularly applicable here:
1. Extreme nationalism (usually with a racial flavor to it.)
2. An authoritarian view of government (at least directed toward minorities.)
3. A contempt for democracy (unless the fascists win.)
4. A contempt for political and cultural liberalism.
5. A believe in natural social and economic hierarchies resulting in conservative economic policies.
6. Scapegoating of minorities.
7. Traditionalist gender roles and hierarchies.
9. Reactionary response to the Enlightenment and subsequent progressive movements.
It isn’t difficult to see these traits in fascist movements around the world, both in the past and today. I’m not going to extensively link to all of the ways that Trumpism fits the fascist paradigm, because we have literally had thousands of examples over the last five years, starting with the lie about President Obama’s birth, through the attempted coup this month. Fortunately, McSweeny’s has a running list. Not all of these are fascist offenses - he is also a sexual predator and pathological liar. But plenty of these fall into the category of fascist ideology and action.
But just take a look at the narrative I gave above, and see how perfectly it fits Trump’s rhetoric. America was once great. But then we let in all of these brown-skinned people and Muslims, and let “liberals” and “socialists” teach at our universities and make our policies. America became weak, men were no longer manly, and these damn feminists (“nasty women!”) started asserting themselves, and gay and transgender people were allowed access to society, and religion declined. Therefore, we need to make America great again by building a giant fucking wall to keep the brown people out, deport as many as we can, ban Muslims from coming here, kick the “liberal” experts out of the bureaucracy, lock up those uppity female politicians, throw our weight around on the world stage again, and bring back the golden age.
That is literally the Trump campaign in a nutshell. It is so obviously fascist that I just can’t even with people who are so willfully ignorant as to refuse to see it. Had Trump found a literal Fascist Playbook and xeroxed it, he couldn’t have created a more stereotypical and textbook fascist movement. He literally uses the exact words, phrases, and rhetoric of actual neo-Nazi groups when he speaks about immigrants. He is literally parroting what they say. As A. R. Moxon put it, “it's the sort of things Nazis said last time they were in political power, and it's the sort of things people who call themselves "Nazi" have said ever since, up to this present day.”
Trump isn’t the cause of all of this, although he certainly caused it to coalesce around his person. The ideas have been around for a long time in American culture. The Tea Party movement - which, as Doug Muder pointed out a few years back, is nothing more or less than a revitalized Confederate movement - birthed Trumpism. (On a related note, notice all the Confederate Battle Flags being waved by the rioters? Same thing with the MAGAheads in my own neighborhood.) American Fascism is nothing new, but it really gained steam with Obama’s election.
On the ideological front, I could also mention the adoration so many within Trumpism have for the Neo-Nazi novel The Camp of the Saints.
At its heart, though, Fascism isn’t primarily about ideas - it is about violent actions against minorities and against democracy itself.
Let’s look at a short (and very incomplete) list here:
1. Build a wall to keep brown-skinned refugees out.
2. Deport over 10 million people who happen to be brown-skinned. (Commonly known as Ethnic Cleansing)
3. Ban travelers from majority-Muslim nations.
4. Change immigration law and regulations to exclude most immigrants from the third world.
5. Repeal the Affordable Care Act - AND gut Medicaid, which is perceived to benefit minorities while taxing whites.
6. Abolish regulations that protect the environment and the general public.
7. Massive tax giveaways and subsidies to the ultra-rich and giant corporations.
8. Oppose police reforms, condone violence against minorities.
9. Call for imprisonment of political opponents.
10. Call the press the “enemy of the people” and call for prosecution of journalists.
11. Collusion with foreign powers to interfere with US elections.
12. Calls any restraint on his power the “deep state.”
13. Violation of norms in refusing to vote on judicial nominees.
14. Political party platform is simply “Trump.”
15. Multiple attempts to undermine and reverse a lawful election.
16. Bypassing the congressional approval process for political appointments.
That’s just a few of the openly fascist acts of the Trump administration.
If you look at how he has governed for the last four years, it has been straight up fascism. He hasn’t been that successful about it, because our system of checks and balances, as well as the Democratic Party, have pushed back and prevented the worst of his actions. In particular, I am proud of the way the Judicial Branch has stood firm on so many issues.
Fascists in the Administration
This one is kind of obvious, actually. Who was the one person who survived the entire Trump administration without being fired, and ended up being the architect of Trump’s immigration policies? You know, the one who set as his agenda for Trump’s second term to virtually eliminate legal immigration from non-European countries? Who promoted the The Camp of the Saints? Who repeatedly and constantly cited white nationalist and neo-Nazi group websites? Who even other denizens of Breitbart considered to be too fascist for their tastes? Who literally said in a cabinet meeting that it was crucial to separate immigrant children from their parents, because “If we don't enforce this, it is the end of our country as we know it."?
That would be Stephen Miller.
Or how about the person who created Trump’s campaign strategy, the promoter of the anti-immigration rhetoric, the appeal to xenophobia? Who, after leaving the administration, spent the next few years over in Europe speaking with openly fascist far-right groups, promoting Trumpism as the future of Europe? Who recently got pardoned by Trump? Who also heavily promoted The Camp of the Saints?
That would be Steve Bannon.
There is no need to pussy-foot around this. The two most influential persons in the Trump campaign and administration are open white supremacists who associate with fascist groups and promote fascist policies and rhetoric.
The Fascists Know Trump is Fascist
One of the bizarre things about Trumpism is that only one group of people seem to have difficulty admitting who he is and what he stands for. Everyone else can see it. For example, people like me, who are center-to-left in 21st Century America (I am slightly to the right by world standards, while the Democratic Party is split between people on the right like Biden and people in the center like Sanders - by world standards) have been warning about Trump ever since he announced his run. We have never had any difficulty recognizing him as a textbook fascist.
But, there is another group of people who also never had any difficulty recognizing him: Fascists. They have always known he was one of them, speaking their language, furthering their goals. They claimed him from the start, and continue to rally around him. Let’s look at highlights (lowlights?):
During the primary, David Duke, grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, endorsed Trump, calling him the “best case scenario for our goals.” In my opinion, that should have been the end of any decent person ever voting for Trump. You never want to be on the same side as the KKK. (And yes, the KKK is a fascist group.)
On inauguration day, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer stood in front of a crowd, leading them in the seig heil, chanting “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” The literal Nazis knew Trump was one of them.
At the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” march-turned-riot, Trump flags and swastikas were paraded side by side, with rioters chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Trump said their were “very good people on both sides.” About the literal Nazis.
Check out a pro-Trump rally. You are almost certain to see Confederate flags. This year, our neighborhood had a “Trump Train” parade (giant trucks with flags) every Saturday afternoon for months. Guess what? There was a Confederate flag in the bunch. Along with “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings.”
Oh, and the attempted coup? Confederate flags paraded in the Capitol building, Auschwitz hoodies, 6MWNE signs and clothing (Six Million Was Not Enough - you can guess what that means…), a noose was set up for executing the next three in line of succession to the presidency. Trump openly encouraged the march for over a month, and praised the rioters and terrorists. Because he does that.
Vox did a good piece on the history of Trump inciting violence and encouraging fascists. It’s worth a read. It is no secret that Trump despises democracy and embraces fascist behavior.
The Police State
It is not an accident that the de-facto flag of Trumpism isn’t the American flag, but rather the “Blue Line” flag. (You can see that change in Trump’s 2020 rallies. And also in the fact that one of the rioters in DC literally removed the American flag of the Capitol and replaced it with a Trump flag. This is not a pro-American democracy movement at all.)
Just to be clear about the meaning of the “Blue Line” flag, let’s review its history. After the Black Lives Matter movement arose, triggered by a series of police murders of people of color, this flag started popping up. (As well as the “Blue Lives Matter” hashtags and shirts and things…) This was no coincidence. The Blue Line flag was always a response to BLM. As I put it, the meaning has been “Black lives don’t matter.”
This became blindingly obvious during the Capitol riots, when an officer was literally beaten with a Blue Line flag pole. Yeah, it never was about blue lives. In fact, a nice little Freudian slip occurred during those riots. As reported by The Nation:
“This is not America,” a woman said to a small group, her voice shaking. “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”
Indeed, that is the meaning. It is an expression of the view (more widely held by white people than we want to admit) is that the purpose of the police is to protect white people from the scary brown people. The police are expected to function as they did in the Jim Crow South, brutalizing and keeping the African American population “in their place” so that whites could feel superior, and safe from the consequences of their oppression.
Unfortunately, this view has a lot of basis in reality. The police have always functioned to a degree as a violent means of managing the inevitable effects of economic injustice and inequality. Which, here in the United States, has a strong correlation to race. (I highly recommend The End of Policing by Alex Vitale for the history.) Now, as many in the US are waking up to racialized police brutality and calling for reform, the Trumpist/Fascist movement has arisen in opposition to BLM. It is no accident that Trump whined that police were afraid to smash the heads of people (meaning non-white people) that they arrest. Or that he called for Colin Kaepernick to be fired for protesting extremely peacefully.
Oh, and as often as the flag, you will see the Blue Line Punisher. This one is extremely troubling. First of all, “to protect and serve” is, if not always accurate, a better aspirational idea for police. Our courts can indeed punish those who violate the law, but the police are not there to punish. They can and should prevent wrongdoers from further harming people, and deliver them to our court system for trail and - if convicted - impose punishment. Police are not to do the punishing. That’s just vigilante “justice,” not something acceptable in a civilized society. But of course the Fascists – and Trump - love the idea of extrajudicial “punishment” - persecution and violence - of minority groups. That’s what Fascism does.
So, it should be no surprise that a Fascist movement would embrace as its symbol an emblem of violence and terrorism against the minorities they hate.
“Socialism” as the Bogeyman
Around the rest of the first world, people are laughing at the United States. And no wonder. We look at the basic social contract that the rest of the first world has, and run away terrified of “socialism.” People able to access healthcare regardless of their wealth? “Nooooo!!! Socialism!!!” Affordable higher education? “Next will be the Gulags!!!” Tax the billionaires? “Communism!!!”
“Joe Biden is a radical socialist!” Don’t make me and the rest of the world laugh.
Fascism, since it first appeared, has used “Socialism!” as its bogeyman. The Nazis claimed they were the only bulwark against those evil Communists. Who were Jewish, of course, according to the Nazis. But it isn’t just the Nazis - literally every Fascist movement has used Socialism as the Bogeyman. But here in the US, what are we calling “socialism” anyway?
Socialism, per Merriam Webster:
1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
There is literally no mainstream Democratic politician calling for the abolishment of private property or government ownership of the means of production. In fact, Biden, anywhere else in the first world would be considered a center right to right wing politician. Hell, even right winger Boris Johnson supports the NHS and subsidized higher education. It is only in the United States that we are terrified of basic social infrastructure. It is beyond the scope of this post to get into the details, but the US has a long history of using the epithet of “socialism” for every single civil rights movement. Because American white people tend to view any redistribution of economic, political, or social power away from them and toward minorities as being “socialism” and unfair to them. You can see this immediately after the end of the Civil War, when the former Confederates opposed public schools for African Americans as “socialism” and an unfair taking of bread from the mouths of white children to pay for lazy “negro brats.” Nothing has changed.
Whenever you see cries of “But, SOCIALISM!” regarding basic social infrastructure that most functional societies take for granted, you can bet that something else is going on, usually some form of ethnic antagonism. “Socialism” as a bogeyman is one of the hallmarks of Fascism. By itself it isn’t enough, but it is a definite red flag.
The Big Lie
In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
Anyone recognize that quote? Who said it, and where?
That’s Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. Hitler, of course, meant it to be an accusation against the Jews, claiming that they were incapable of being truthful. But, like pretty much everything fascists say about the left, it is nothing more or less than projection. Hitler, and all Fascists, tell The Big Lie. The biggest is, of course, the narrative I described above: “All your problems are because of those people.” Along the way, there are other Big Lies - things that are clearly, obviously, flagrantly false. Colossal untruths. But which are believed because they provide cover for the socially unacceptable desires of those who believe them.
Trump is a master of The Big Lie. He’s had a lot of practice, from “I didn’t inherit my money” to “I’m a brilliant successful businessman.”
His political career literally started with a Big Lie: “President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” Which is obvious malarky. And also doesn’t matter, or neither John McCain or Ted Cruz would have been eligible to run for president either. (If you want to get into the legal issues, the Harvard Law Review has what you are looking for.)
Trump hasn’t slowed down, of course. The Washington Post has tracked more than 30,000 lies just since Trump’s inauguration. The man is a constant, pathological liar about everything, from petty and meaningless things to the fundamental reality of an election he lost.
Speaking of that, “Stop the Steal” is his latest and worst Big Lie. It is utter baloney. Numerous courts have found no evidence of widespread fraud. His own elections guy said it was the most secure election in US history. (That’s true, by the way…) States with Republican elections officials have certified that Biden won their state. The Supreme Court, one third of which Trump has appointed himself, ruled unanimously against him.
There. Is. No. Evidence. That. Trump. Won. The. Election.
He lost. Badly. There is overwhelming proof of that.
Three out of four Republican voters believe the election was stolen.
How on earth could that possibly be? The Atlantic has a compelling theory. At its core is the belief that only Republican votes are legitimate. And that minority votes are particularly suspect.
And thus, Fascism looks attractive. When your side cannot win, and you view the votes of the other side as illegitimate, then you often start looking at violence as acceptable. Which is exactly what happened on January 6.
The attempted overthrow of democracy
Finally, let’s talk about the undermining of democracy. Fascism has never respected democracy, but it has always been willing to use it. So, when Trump was elected in 2016 (although he failed to actually win the popular vote), he was more than happy to benefit from our election process. And so have other fascist leaders. Likewise, the Trumpist movement was all “yay, democracy” when it benefited them, but when they lost, they were eager to burn democracy to the ground so they could win.
Again, I feel silly that I have to say this, but Biden won the election. By a lot. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Sure, every election in history has had a few glitches. But overall, ever Trump’s own people confirmed that this was likely the most secure election in American history. Given over sixty lawsuits, Trump’s people utterly failed to produce evidence of their claims.
As a lawyer, it was fascinating to read the transcripts and decisions. In essence, in case after case, a Trump lawyer would make a wild claim, the judge would demand evidence, and the lawyer would back down. If you are not a lawyer, it might be hard to understand what happened, but let me explain it to you.
As lawyers, we are considered “officers of the court.” We have a duty to the administration of justice that goes beyond mere loyalty to our clients. When we file a lawsuit, we are representing to the court that we have a case. Not necessarily a winning case - in most cases there is a winner and a loser.
What we are representing to the court is that we have evidence for our claims. That we aren’t making stuff up.
So, when these Trump lawyers made a claim, the judges asked if they were willing to claim, as an officer of the court, that they had evidence to back up that claim. The judges were clearly indicating to the lawyer that they had three options:
1. Put up - show your evidence.
2. Shut up - admit you have no evidence and withdraw the claim.
3. Continue to lie to the court, and be reported to the Bar for disciplinary proceedings.
Most lawyers not being stupid, they took option number two rather than sacrifice their careers lying for Trump. Smart move, guys and gals.
Notwithstanding the fact that he lost, Trump refused for MONTHS to concede and cooperate with the incoming administration. This was an unprecedented series of actions, and completely out of line with democratic values.
Instead, Trump continued to insist that the election was stolen. AS DID HUNDREDS OF GOP LAWMAKERS! He tried to intimidate state election officials into cheating for him - it is literally on tape what he said. He filed a never-ending series of frivolous lawsuits not backed up by actual evidence. He fired people who wouldn’t cheat for him. He eventually incited a riot in Washington DC. And it wasn’t just Trump, but people working for him and a shocking number of GOP lawmakers.
These are fascist actions. Full Stop.
They are also undergirded by fascist ideology:
Trump and his supporters believe that there are the “true people” who have the right to vote and determine the course of our country. And then there are the “other people” whose votes do not count. The “true people” - if you listen carefully to the rhetoric - are: white, rural, conservative. The “other people” whose votes shouldn’t count are: urban, minority, liberal. Which, of course, explains the endless attempts at voter suppression over the last few decades.
This is ultimately why a huge majority of Republicans insist the election was stolen. Not because there is evidence of widespread fraud. But because the votes of Democrats are not legitimate. They are not the “true people.”
“When they say the 2020 election was stolen, Trumpists are expressing their view that the votes of rival constituencies should not count, even though they understand, on some level, that they do. They are declaring that the nation belongs to them and them alone, whether or not they actually comprise a majority, because they are the only real Americans to begin with.”
This is just another in the long line of anti-democracy sentiments expressed by the American Right over the last few decades. I have seen acquaintances say pretty openly that they support minority rule - that is, that they should be in charge even if voters disagree. And it very much is because “those people” are not the “true people.” Oh, and in what surely is a coincidence, those expressing that belief are overwhelmingly white. The “true people” indeed…
[Also good is fivethirtyeight’s take on the attempted coup as an expression of white supremacy.]
Finally, it is illuminating to read this study on the link between anti-democracy sentiments and ethnic antagonism. Nearly half of Republican voters believe that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” Which is what the rioters attempting a coup believed they were doing. The “traditional American way of life” isn’t just words - it is a specific vision of a mythical past when women and minorities “knew their place.” It is a vision of a whiter America, one where political, economic, and social power were firmly vested with white christian males. Now that our world is inexorably changing, all too many are willing to violently end democracy to preserve white male power. And the President of the United States called on them to do it. There is a word for that. And that word is Fascism.
So, in summary, Trumpism has classic Fascist rhetoric, including scapegoating of minorities; Fascist policies; Fascist members of the administration; and contempt for democracy culminating in an attempted overthrow of a democratic election.
For those in my acquaintance who are sore about being identified with Fascism, the solution is obvious: stop supporting fascists and fascist movements. You are known by the company you keep.
I have been unable to confirm the source of a quote that is making the rounds on the internet, but it has been attributed to Rich O’Connor. (If anyone can find a link to the original, let me know - I try to attribute.) It really encapsulates the issue.
“I have found that in times of political confusion, particularly when emotions are running high and creating tunnel vision, the presence of Nazis can be an extremely helpful indicator.
If I am attending or watching a local demonstration or event and I see Nazis… neo-Nazis, miscellaneous-Nazis, master race Nazis, or the latest-whatever-uber-mythology-Nazis, I figure out which side they are on.
And if they are on my side of the demonstration? I am on the wrong side.
It is tough to argue moral equivalence when I am standing next to a Nazi. Look to my right. Is there a guy wearing a 6MWE (6 million wasn’t enough) t-shirt? I am on the wrong side. Look to my left. If that guy is wearing a Camp Auschwitz t-shirt? Wrong side. Are Speakers being applauded for referring to things that Hitler got right? Wrong side. Team-spirit face paint and hat with animal horns? This is actually an unclear indicator that could mean anything, but safest to keep my distance from that guy, even at a football game.
However, I can always, always, always rely on the presence of Nazis as a guiding light through a fog of disinformation.
Some things are relative, and politics can absolutely have it’s opposing sides and grey areas.
But evil and good are absolute. As are the lessons of history. So, just look for the Nazis, and make your own decisions."
When David Duke endorsed Trump as the “best possible scenario” for the KKK, that should have been the end of his candidacy. Don’t make common cause with the literal Nazis. Don’t want to be called a Fascist? Don’t associate with these guys.
...and it’s a big BUT…
The problem is that most Trump voters actually WANT fascist policies. They want “Diet Coke” fascism. All the benefits, but without the stigma. Here is a good example, from someone I used think knew better:
“I don’t like Trump’s style, but at least he is finally doing something about the Hispanic problem.”
Does that sound familiar? Didn’t someone once promise to solve the “Jewish Problem”? That’s literally a fascist term being used. While not every Trump voter is as obvious about it, there are very few Trump voters I know who haven’t used some form of this sentiment. Heck, look at polls of Republican voters: a huge majority think “immigration” is either the greatest or next to greatest “problems” facing America. Take a look at the specific questions too. 81% think we should have soldiers on our southern border. To do what, I wonder? Soldiers are trained to kill people and break things - it is literally their job. Fascist much? Hell yes it is.
It’s not just that. Fascist movements don’t always get as violent as the Nazis. More common is simply denying full access to society to minorities. You can see that in the various fascist regimes past and present. Even where overt racism is lacking, the results have been that income, education, and living standards for the bottom third of society fall, while oligarchs greatly increase their wealth. Which, well, that’s how the US has functioned all too often.
The American Right - and particularly Trumpism - have long advocated for policies that seem literally targeted at denying minority rights. A shocking number of Republican voters are in favor of voting restrictions that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities. In the circles I used to run in, I heard quite a few propose a return to only landowners voting. (With a straight face, believe it or not. I guess poor or urban people shouldn’t have a say in how our country is run? Or is that just another dog whistle for “only white votes should really count”?) You can see this in North Carolina back in 2017, when a republican-appointed judge struck down laws that “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” And that’s just one example of many across the US. And ditto for “work requirements” for Medicaid that are targeted at removing benefits for minorities. It has been surprising to me how many I know on the Right who have no problem with poor people starving or going without healthcare. Sure, some live in the Conservative Fantasy World and believe pretty lies rather than accept the nasty consequences of their policies, but more than I thought really don’t care what happens to people less privileged than them. I guess I was naive.
Or, another one I ran into again today. The 1619 Project from the New York Times is a project to reframe the founding of our nation, which has, for centuries, been significantly whitewashed, and told as a mythology of noble white men forming the perfect form of government. Whether you agree with all of the details of the project, it is long-overdue for us as a nation to recognize that we were literally birthed in a genocide and rose to economic power on the backs of the enslaved. The Project is letting those voices be heard - and many white Americans on the Right are flipping out. I could write a whole post on this, of course, including the Trump Administration’s attempt at rebuttal, using no actual qualified historians, naturally. But this too is very relevant to the discussion. Minorities in our country are gaining political, economic, and social power, and the old hierarchies are starting to show cracks. Many on the Right desperately want to be able to continue to control the narrative in our country, and are fearful that they are losing that power. Yes, they are losing that power. And attempts to use the force of government to control the narrative are classic fascist (and totalitarian) goals. Control the stories we tell ourselves, and you control how we view reality. It’s rather as if Germans objected to a project showing that antisemitism goes back nearly two thousand years in Europe, and pogroms were promoted by Martin Luther. Which is true, by the way. But does not reflect well on the “The Holocaust was just an aberration” narrative. We need to hear the voices of those we as a nation have trampled on our way to our “Manifest Destiny.” And we need to recognize another uncomfortable truth: Hitler himself took great inspiration from our policy of genocide and enslavement. To ignore the evil we have done - nay, to insist that we ignore it - gives cover to our modern fascist movements, who still yearn for the injustices of the past.
Even those I know on the right who would adamantly deny that they have fascist leanings seem to have this desperate resistance to a changing America, one where their voices aren’t the only ones - and not automatically the dominant ones. Minorities - racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual - and women are gaining power, and that scares them. And so, when someone like Trump promises to use the force of government to restore their preferred narrative and silence - or at least marginalize - the other voices, too many seem willing to throw democracy out the window.
None of this is new. What is new is that Trump said openly what people were ashamed to admit in public. It was no longer necessary to pretend that the policies were driven by some commitment to ideology or economic theory. Now, one could simply say MAGA - and know that it meant “Make America White Again.”
As the same person I quoted above said on an earlier occasion:
“There really is nowhere in American anymore where you can get away from that culture. It’s sad.”
The culture referenced? Minority culture, particularly low-income minority culture. This is the longing for that mythical Mayberry, where the problems of poverty and racism could safely be put on the “other side of the tracks” - literally in that Jim Crow era. Where we don’t actually have to deal with the consequences of decades or centuries of white supremacy, bad economic policies, overpolicing, mass incarceration, meddling in Latin America, and so on. Easier just to bring more incarceration, more brutal policing, and economic policies designed to increase inequality instead.
So that is the challenge. Many - not all - but a lot - of Trump voters do indeed want the policies without the stigma.
It is beyond the scope of this post to try to propose a response to the Fascist Trumpism movement. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of answers. However, the first step has to be calling things what they are, and acknowledging that we are dealing with literal Fascism. Classic, textbook Fascism.
Obviously, prosecuting the insurrectionists is a good first step. So is impeaching Trump for his role, and letting him experience the consequences of his crimes through the state and federal justice systems. But we also have a problem in that a huge portion of our population is unwilling to accept the results of elections - or are so alienated from reality and truth that they cannot absorb the truth at all.
I also want at some point to address Theofascism. In most of its incarnations, Fascism has drawn its support from religion. In Germany, the Nazis won the wholehearted support of the Protestant church, and got the Catholic church to agree to a truce. There is a lot of ideological overlap between reactionary religion and reactionary politics. It is not an accident that white Evangelicals (and to a lesser extent, white Catholics) have been and continue to be Trump’s staunchest supporters - and the core constituency for Trumpism in general. But the two are not identical, and the United States right now has a political Fascism problem, but also a religious Fascism problem, and the two pose different challenges. Perhaps I can find time for a post about that soon.
A final link. Doug Muder has an excellent blog on current events that is worth following. This post is particularly on point. Trump may be gone, and will, we hope, be prosecuted. But this is just the beginning of an open Fascist movement here in the United States. We need to deal with it as the existential threat it is.