On the right-wing side of the dictatorial strongmen’s political spectrum, we find the philosophy and practice of “fascism.” While also deployed as an epithet by some, fascism developed as a form of radical authoritarian nationalism in early-20th century Europe in response to liberalism and Marxism on the left.
While fascist elements have always been ingrained in United States political systems, even before the term was coined, Fascist is now the ruling party with Donald J. Trump as its leader.
Political scientist, Lawrence Britt, enumerates 14 tenets of fascism:
- Powerful and continuing nationalism,
- Disdain for the recognition of human rights,
- Identification of enemies/scapegoats [of the country’s problems] as a unifying cause,
- Rampant sexism,
- Supremacy of the military,
- Controlled mass media,
- Obsession with national security,
- Religion and government are intertwined,
- Corporate power is protected,
- Labor power is suppressed,
- Disdain for intellectuals and the arts,
- Obsession with crime and punishment,
- Rampant cronyism and corruption, and
- Fraudulent elections
While many governmental leaders and candidates for public office may push for a number of these tactics while remaining outside the definition of “fascist,” the cumulative effect increases depending on the severity of and the degree to which they initiate these measures.
Donald Trump clearly acts and reacts in words and policy initiatives directly within the parameters of fascism. Using Britt’s taxonomy, Trump’s positions and actions include:
- Appeals to “nationalism” (with isolationism, building walls, and talk of “shithole countries”) presented in the guise of “popularism,” feeding on people’s fears and prejudices, which has resulted in the segregation of people and nations from one another, and threats and dangers of violence. He attacks and attempts to separate from long-established allies, while having obsessive admiration for tyrannical dictators.
- Threats to and roll backs of many of the rights and protections minoritized peoples have tirelessly fought for over the past decades: reproductive rights, voting rights, citizenship rights, human rights, anti-torture guarantees, immigrant rights, rights of unreasonable search and seizure, rights of assembly, disability rights, freedom of religion, transgender rights, marriage equality and equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
- Scapegoating of already disenfranchised identity categories as the internal and external enemies of the United States: Muslims and anyone from Muslim-majority countries, Mexicans and all Latinx people, urban “thugs,” the press, Somalis, President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, the ACLU, liberals, immigrants, anyone who disagrees with the President, Robert Mueller and his panel of investigators.
- Toxic misogynistic utterances and allegations of sexual harassment by numerous women reaching historic proportions.
- Promises to enlarge and improve our “failing” military and fire generals whom Trump “knows more than about ISIS,” and his apparent lack of knowledge about or fear of nuclear weapons.
- Threats to employ libel laws to sue the “crooked and lying” media (Lügenpresse, “lying press” popularized by the German Nazis to silence opposition) and anyone accusing him of a crime.
- Continual cries against “Islamic jihadist terrorists” and immigrants as the major threats to our nation thereby exposing U.S. Muslims and Latinx people to increased calls for a “national registry,” arrests, separation from their children, and surveillance to track their movements.
- Attendance at several Christian prayer vigils and appearances at conservative right Christians conferences and universities like Liberty University, with calls “Make America Great Again” giving the subliminal dog-whistle message of making America white and Protestant again. Misuse of scripture to justify oppressive policies.
- Increased deregulated of the energy and corporate business sectors with massive tax cuts and other financial incentives. “I will formulate a rule, which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.”
- Reduction in the rights of workers to organize and negotiate collective bargaining agreements, privatization of entitlements, advocacy for the abolition of a national minimum wage (while relenting somewhat to a minimum wage for the present time at least).
- Resentment and attacks on the political, media, and intellectual “elites” to the point of instigating scorn and harassment at the “elite media” covering Trump and demanding an apology from the cast of the Broadway show, “Hamilton: An American Musical” for voicing concerns over a Trump presidency with VP Mike Pence in attendance.
- Near obsessive calls for “law and order” involving draconian (and possibly unconstitutional) measures of surveillance, torture, and arrest.
- Increasing deployment of his adult children and son-in-law as close trusted political operatives, who meet with visiting diplomats and travel to foreign capitals to negotiate political and business deals, plus continuously unresolved conflict-of-interest issues and “emoluments” breeches between his position as President and his worldwide business interests, with so many probes into corruption it has become a common occurrence.
- Assisted by the larger Republican Party and the Supreme Court, gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights law, which has resulted in voter suppression campaigns effectively reducing the number of polling stations in primarily minoritized racial communities, and limiting days and times for pre-election-day voting, and help by foreign government to impact elections in Trump’s favor.
The time has long-since past that we can compare the fascist direction the world took during the 1920s through the 1940s with the direction the United States and many other countries are taking today. Have we learned anything from history?