Donald Trump and American Fascism?

The Donald has done it again, winning decisively in South Carolina. Back in July, I wrote this article on Trump and how he was tapping a “fascist spring” in American politics. Since then, he’s vilified Muslims as well as Mexicans, called for torture, made fun of women, mocked a reporter with a physical disability, and on and on. At the same time, he keeps promising to make America big and bad again — a promise he doubtless intends to keep.

I’ve heard people say that Trump will change if he becomes president. Even Trump claims he’d be a different man in the Oval Office. Don’t believe it. Trump is what he is: a demagogue and a chauvinist who enjoys scapegoating the vulnerable. Presidential he is not; dangerous he is.

Bracing Views

The Donald: Easy to make fun of ... too easy The Donald: Easy to make fun of … too easy (AP/Seth Wenig)

W.J. Astore

A reader wrote to me this morning about Donald Trump and American fascism.  Is Trump, with his anti-immigrant posturing and his generally bombastic demeanor, tapping into a “fascist spring” in America?

The question seems unduly alarming as well as absurd.  But let’s pause for a moment.  I recently saw on TV the results of a poll in which Americans were asked, “Which presidential candidate would best revive the American economy?”  The clear winner: Donald Trump. Yes, maybe it’s just name recognition or an association of Trump’s name with money-making, but the result was nevertheless disturbing.

Here’s the thing: It’s easy to view Trump as a joke.  His bad hair.  His vulgar manner.  His obvious bombast.

But guess who else was dismissed as a joke?  Adolf Hitler.

Before he got his grip on power, many in…

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8 thoughts on “Donald Trump and American Fascism?

  1. Bill.

    Would you be so quick to call Obama on the same “Hitlerism,” or Hillary? Forget Obama’s promise, made before God, to see “The law faithfully executed,” but don’t forget his wide ranging undeclared war and his aquiesence in torture. He didn’t do it, but he excused it, which means, I quess, we are all torturers now.

    I believe our dead Constitution is the final and most consequential casualty of the Vietnam War. Let’s just fake a PT boat attack on the Maddox, something like Germany faking a Polish attack on a radio station. Works every time.

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    1. Walt: I’ve strongly criticized both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But Trump is a horse of a different color. His inflammatory attacks on Muslims and Mexicans are more than offensive: they could very well lead to violence and oppression.

      I have my biases, but I used to support Republicans, including Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. But Republicans in general have drifted rightwards since the 1980s, and now we’re stuck with Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, three men for whom I have no sympathy.

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      1. When the Pope criticized Trump, I heard the shuffling sound of thousands of Muslim feet turning toward Vatican City. let’s see what happens when they get there.

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  2. Regarding that whole “political” thing in the United States, the late Sheldon Wolin best explained its true nature in Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, especially:

    Chapter Ten: Domestic Politics in the Era of Superpower and Empire

    “In a one-party state, politics is, in effect, “privatized,” dissociated from the practices of citizenship and confined within the party, where it takes the form of intramural rivalries for the privileges of power and status. It is a politics that never goes public except to orchestrate unanimity.”

    The Republican Party is not, as advertised, conservative but radically oligarchical. Programmatically it exists to advance corporate economical and political interests, and to protect and promote inequalities of opportunity and wealth.

    “Yet the same citizen who is told to follow the instructions of authorities has had it drummed in that ‘big government’ is the enemy who threatens to take away his money and freedom. The citizen is left with no political ally responsive to his economic fears. Unlike classical totalitarianism, which boasted of the unanimity of its citizens, inverted totalitarianism thrives on ambivalence and the uncertainty it breeds.”

    “Antipolitics is expressed as patriotism, antiterrorism, militarism – subjects that brook little or no disagreements, provoking fervor while stifling thought. … Big government may be the problem; big military is the solution.”

    That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate. Similarly in his/her new status as imperial citizen, the believer remains contemptuous of bureaucracy yet does not hesitate to obey the directives issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the largest and most intrusive governmental department in the history of the nation. Identification with militarism and patriotism, along with the images of American might projected by the media, serves to make the individual feel stronger, thereby compensating for the feelings of weakness visited by the economy upon an overworked, exhausted, and insecure labor force. For its antipolitics inverted totalitarianism requires believers, patriots, and nonunion ‘guest workers.’”

    “Instead of reflecting love of the nation’s democratic heritage, patriotism has become xenophobic; fixated on might, preemptive war, and hatred of terrorists; suspicious of Muslims and liberals alike; and contemptuous of former allies. The new militarism, glorifying war and sacrifice, and boasting an imperial reach, is being made an integral element of the public piety so conspicuous in American politics.”

    Militarism is not only a distraction from social problems but confirmation that warfare is now a joint undertaking (sic) of corporations and state. Government. Soldiers fight side by side with enterprising corporate warriors who, fittingly, are paid thousands of dollars more than GIs. The United States remains the world’s biggest arms dealer. It is no surprise that ever since the Reagan administration, the Republican party, which successfully pinned the label of ‘big spenders’ on the Democrats, should be the prime mover for making [war] appropriations the largest item by far in the annual federal budget. It highlights a consistent inconsistency: big spending is anti-American when directed to social programs but patriotic if it is funneled to the beneficiaries/defenders of the corporate state.”

    “All this suggests that inverted totalitarianism has evolved a politics to support its imperial ambitions.”

    While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats.
    The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working class, anticorporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf. And this despite the fact that these elements are recognized as the loyal base of the party. By ignoring dissent and by assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the party serves as an important, if ironical, stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

    Yes, I think that about covers the essentials of American “Democracy.” The Republicans enthusiastically serve the uber-wealthy corporate oligarchs while the Democrats make sure that no popular unrest can ever arise to inconvenience the Republicans. The personal identity of the particular puppet fronting for the scam matters little, if at all.

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    1. I have an anecdote to support this critique. I knew a military officer, field grade, who complained about “jackbooted government thugs” infringing on his liberty. He NEVER thought of himself as one of those government thugs. He simply couldn’t admit the possibility. By being in the military, he somehow saw himself as being apart from and against the government that he apparently loathed.

      I agree on the dangers of militarism and the drive toward oligarchy in a one-party state. This will only intensify if it’s Hillary versus Trump/Cruz/Rubio.

      Soon we’ll be standing for our corporate anthem, just as the players and audience did in Rollerball (original movie).

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      1. I, too, have many such anecdotes I could share. Just one involved a conversation I had with a very conservative Republican colleague at the Hughes Aircraft Company wherer we both worked. I once asked him how he could rail against government spending when government spending provided us with our aerospace, or “defense” incomes. He just looked me square in the eye and said — with a perfectly straight face — “No! Governemnt spending is only spending on social programs.” So, you can’t talk to these Republicans about “government spending,” because they refuse to mean the same thing as anyone else who includes military or “defense” spending in spending that the government does. Like Upton Sinclair said: “It’s hard to get a man to see the truth when his salary depends upon his not seeing it.”

        The Demorcratic Party, though, really takes the cake when their erstwhile standard bearer says to the downwardly dropping middle class and working poor: “You can’t have anything you want from your government because the Republicans won’t let you have it.” Something like that. You-Know-Her, the Candidate of Can’t. What a farce.

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  3. Of course, there’s that classic quote from the Obamacare debates: “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare.” As if Medicare was not a government program.

    Too many people see defense spending as necessary, as untouchable, because “it keeps us safe.” Of course, it’s a form of tax. We as taxpayers fund it, just as we fund all the other government programs and agencies.

    And people see welfare and food stamps etc. as handouts or give-aways to the shiftless and lazy, and of course there’s often a racial bias to this.

    It’s an amazing thing that people get upset about $50 in food stamp benefits, but the fact that an F-35 jet fighter costs $200-$300 million per plane makes no impression on them whatsoever. It’s partly because they don’t want their neighbor to get that $50, but it’s also difficult to imagine $300 million. And they’re constantly told “those other people are lazy” and also “we need expensive jets to keep us safe from evil-doers.”

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