The Corner

Is Trump a Fascist?

Excellent rundown, Jay, of some of the reasons to be disturbed by Donald Trump (there isn’t space enough to mention every item). You’ve taken the bull by the horns and I would like to add just a couple more tugs. 

You note that the word fascist has been the favorite epithet among leftists for nearly a century. I too have had the word flung my way for decades. Who knew Mussolini was so big on school choice and balanced budgets? As you note though, the fact that the word has been abused does not mean that it can never be accurate. In 1995, William J. Bennett accused Pat Buchanan of “flirting with fascism.” He told The New Yorker:  ”This ‘fortress America’ stuff, this ‘you the people’ stuff — I think it’s tricky.” He urged Republicans to reject Buchanan’s style and tone. In 2016, very sadly, Buchanan and Bennett are united – supporting Trump.

I don’t know exactly how to define a fascist — there were a number of varieties in the 20th century. But a dictatorial leader with a cult of personality was a big part (and yes, Obama rose to power on a cult of personality and I said at the time that it was disturbing). Fascists also showed contempt for democratic norms and procedures. Threats and intimidation were Mussolini’s style. Everyone knows about Hitler. Franco was the mildest of the bunch, not really a monster, just a dictator who brooked no opposition. 

Some scoff that Trump is just a buffoon, not a Mussolini. But 1) that’s exactly what they said about Mussolini, and 2) Trump has transgressed the bounds of political decency not once but dozens of times. What I find most worrisome is his encouragement of violence. Not only has he famously encouraged people at his rallies to beat up or punch protesters (or promised to pay their legal bills if they did — and by the way, based on his many failures to pay creditors I wouldn’t bank on that), but he essentially threatened the entire Republican Party. Before he had wrapped up the delegates, when it still looked as if there might be a contested convention (and, who knows, what’s old may be new again!), he warned that even if he failed to get the delegates required by the rules, he should be handed the nomination or there would be riots in the streets. That’s mafioso talk. That’s Al Sharpton talk. That’s fascist talk. And ditto for Roger Stone’s threat to disclose the hotels and room numbers of delegates who failed to bend the knee.

During this campaign, Trump has unleashed his Twitter followers to harass and bully opponents, often women, online. His hesitation to condemn the KKK was like something out of a bad parody of a Republican conjured by Black Lives Matter. One could say the same of that hands up pledge that looked uncomfortably like the Nazi salute. Trump could easily say a few words of condemnation about his most vicious followers. He could disavow them. But he doesn’t. He wants the mob. He plans to use it. He tried to use it against a sitting federal judge. 

That’s more than enough for me. The point is not name calling but line drawing. We’ve long said the man is not a Republican, but the most important thing is that he is not a democrat. 

 

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