By Al Carroll | (Informed Comment) | – –
Numerous analysts, journalists, publications, and scholars judge Mr. Trump to be a fascist. These range from academics to Newsweek to Salon to the New Republic to even Forbes magazine and conservatives like Max Boot and Jeb Bush. He is authoritarian, appeals to irrationality, is highly nationalistic, extremely bigoted, and calls for the defense of capitalism at the expense of democracy. The only things missing from this textbook definition of fascism for Trump and his followers are the uniforms.
In spite of or more likely because of the threat Mr. Trump represents, he has little chance of winning. Most likely he will be defeated by 15 to 20 percentage points and over 150 electoral votes, the widest margins lost by any presidential candidate since 1984. Or perhaps a better parallel would be Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, where he lost the election but redefined the party and conservatism.
In my history classes I always teach using counterfactuals, alternate history questions asking college students “What If?” Even though Trump has little chance of winning, it is interesting to consider what form Trump Fascism would take. What if he had a chance of actually winning? What if America’s billionaires lined up behind him instead of against him as they are now doing? What if he actually had the cash to self-finance? Truthfully, he does not and never did, which is why he relies on provocative Twitter wars, media manipulation, and loans to himself he hopes will be paid back by donors or be tax write offs.
What if Trump Fascism became the law of the land? It likely would have these ten traits:
1. Trump Fascism would be brazenly racist, but claim not to be.
Trump’s racism is undeniable. White supremacists, white nationalists, and white separatists support him with good reason, seeing him as like them. That he will disappoint them on Israel and their belief in a worldwide Jewish or Zionist conspiracy does not deter them. He is still their best recruiter in several generations.
But Trump’s racism is far more haphazard and opportunistic, and far less coherent and encompassing than that practiced by the likes of the KKK, neo-Nazis, militias, and even white supremacists passing as conservatives such as Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. Trump likes to pose as “the least racist person” to spread confusion and because he grasps it would cost him support to openly admit to being racist. Trump wants the votes of those who are like himself, racists but not willing to admit to it, of which there are many.
Trump also wants the votes of self-hating minorities, those who wish they were white or who hate other minorities or some combination of the two. The best known public example of that is Ben Carson, and there are other examples who have made a career of being attack dogs on behalf of white racists, such as that most bizarre creature, Filipina and white supremacist Michelle Malkin.
That is why Trump likes pointing to minority tokens in his audience or among his supporters, “my African-American” that he pointed to in one rally like he was property. Or his incredibly clumsy attempt to prove he was unprejudiced by posting a tweet of him eating the nastiest of fake versions of Mexican food, a taco bowl. In these tokenism practices, Trump is only following a long precedent. Previous Republicans have been using minority tokens all the way back to Clarence Thomas.
Don’t misunderstand the distinction. Obviously a minority can be a conservative or a Republican based on sincere and devout convictions. The most numerous examples are strongly anti-Communist Cuban-Americans. Tokens minorities by definition are willing to be used by the openly racist for the token’s own benefit, or do so from their own confusion, self-hatred, and hatred of other minorities. So a Trump fascist organization would gladly take minority members on the condition that they take part in disparagement of their own backgrounds. Such people make up from 5-15% of minority groups, and they will support Trump.
2. Trump Fascism would be nominally Christian only.
Much like Trump and his supporters, any Christian aspect of his fascism, whether belief or practice, would be in name alone. Trump was a serial adulterer divorced several times, indifferent to his children by previous marriages, and with little understanding of the faith he only recently claimed publicly to profess. As a child, Trump’s family sometimes attended services by Norman Vincent Peale, a salesman widely accused of heresy, cultism, trivializing Christianity, and being a con artist. And that is the extent of Trump’s “faith,” period.
In fact, Trump publicly declared he has never asked God for forgiveness because he never did anything wrong. He refers to the Eucharist as a “cracker” and could not name any Bible passages, mistakes no actual Christian would make and many non-Christians would not either. Trump’s followers largely do not attend church. Most of the devout among Republicans voted for Ted Cruz or Ben Carson in the primaries. Trump and his followers regard Jesus, as Michael Horton said in Christianity Today, as a mascot rather than a savior. Horton argues Trump’s success among some self-professed but only nominal Christians proves the secularization of Christianity rather than the strength of their faith. Call them CINOs, or Christian In Name Only.
Perhaps the only part religion plays in Drumpf fascism is virulent hostility to Muslims. Christian churches and believers would likely face persecution if they opposed Trump, as many currently do.
3. Trump Fascism would use violence and threats of violence.
That Trump has nothing but contempt for the rule of law and democracy is self-evident. Protesters at his rallies have been beaten, with Trump urging on the violence and promising to protect the attackers by paying their legal fees. Salon magazine has a running tally of the violence at Trump events. So far the count is nine unprovoked attacks by his followers upon critics, compared to three incidents of violence on both sides.
Trump also called for violence, “riots,” if he was not nominated at the convention. He openly longs nostalgically for the “good old days” when protesters were carried out in stretchers or body bags. A Trump police state would see both state sanctioned police and military violence against protesters, and also by Trump supporters formed into militias against critics. Trump supporters have already called for their own militia named the Lion’s Guard which imitates the British Union of Fascists’ imagery. Journalist Bob Dreyfus imagined a scenario where Trump called for armed rallies to form a Second Amendment Society, seizing power by force without needing to win any elections. It is easy to imagine Trump using threats of violence from his followers to intimidate Congress and the courts, effectively becoming a dictator. Such violence would be a more extreme form of that from Tea Party protests in 2009, which saw heavily armed racist militia demonstrations, death threats, attacks on Black congressmen, and vandalized offices.
4. Trump Fascism would be completely intolerant of dissent.
That Trump is notoriously thin skinned, bristling at the slightest criticism, has not been news for years. Keep in mind this is a man obsessed for decades with insults over the size of his hands. This is a man who filed a lawsuit against an artist for painting him nude in an unflattering way. This is a man currently engaged in race baiting a federal judge largely to poison the jury pool as well as energize racists.
Trump has also publicly vowed to “open up libel laws” to use against reporters for “negative” and “horrible” stories against him. He bars reporters from his press conferences based on their being Latinos, or simply for asking questions in the normal course of their work. Even Fox News he complains were being “unfair” to him, with its largely puff piece segments passing for news. Crowds of his followers at primary debates shouted down even mildly critical questions. Recently he called for people to be imprisoned for not informing on their neighbors. The next step for Trump and his regime would be imprisoning reporters and dissidents.
5. Their fascist uniform would likely be red shirts, plus those baseball caps.
Where Hitler had brownshirts and Mussolini had blackshirts for their storm troopers, and American fascists in the 1930s were the Silver Shirts, Trump’s favored color is red. Not only are his caps already red, GOP-voting states are commonly referred to as red states since the 2000 election. Choosing red would also be a way to appropriate its association with the working class and labor. Red shirts plus baseball caps also would give a militia deniability of being an actual militia, since they slightly resemble baseball fans or blue collar workers.
6. Trump Fascism would always be in conflict with the military.
Many on both the political left and right have false ideas about who makes up the military and their political points of view. There is the same diversity of opinions among soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as among the rest of America. Keep in mind the US military has produced leftists like Smedley Butler, humanitarians like George Marshall, lunatics like Curtis Lemay, and bigots like Bo Gritz.
The military is nearly one third minorities, which is actually down from its previous high of one half minorities. One sixth of the military is female. Gays now serve openly, and join in proportionately higher numbers than the general population. Immigrants are 5% of the military. All these groups oppose Trump in high numbers. One Military Times poll claimed to show high support for him, but even the paper itself cautioned its results were unscientific. A more accurate measure is campaign contributions. The amount of military and Department of Defense workers’ contributions to Trump is dwarfed by 17 times as many giving to Clinton, and an amazing 25 time as many to Sanders.
Trump’s own checkered history does not help. He avoided the draft in Vietnam using suspicious medical claims. Trump held an event for veterans in January 2016 and had to be shamed by the media into finally actually donating the money four months later. He still has yet to donate other money promised on several previous occasions. Trump insulted prisoners of wars as losers and his companies fire reservists. He argued for torturing prisoners and targeting the families of the enemy. Such a claim brought a public rebuke from retired officers that soldiers would be duty bound by law to refuse such obviously illegal orders.
7. Under Trump, relations with the rest of the world would dramatically worsen, likely including the most poorly planned wars in US history.
In a short time campaigning Trump has managed to worry and alienate most US allies and praised some of the worst US enemies. Erecting trade barriers is just the start. Trump called for Japan to have nuclear weapons, encouraging its hard right and even crypto fascist fringe. His call to ban all Muslims alienates every US ally in the Mideast except Israel’s hawks, and he is the best recruiting tool ISIS and Al Qaeda could have.
His incompetence at war planning could not be worse. “Bomb the shit out of them!” As if no one ever thought of that, had not tried and failed at it before in not just Syria but Iraq, Libya, and all the way back to Vietnam. Even World War II massed bombing just made the enemy more resolute. Even a first year military cadet knows that civilians constantly overestimate air power and imagine it to work like a videogame. But of course Trump imagines that dress uniforms at an elite prep school somehow made him “part of the military.”
8. There will be a permanent US fascist movement, whether it calls itself that or not.
Trump Fascism may become the permanent face of the Republican Party. The party’s own leaders such as Lindsay Graham publicly worry so. So do stalwart conservative publications like the National Review. Even Glen Beck worries Trump is too crazy. The Republican Party could well become America’s own version of the National Front. Or it may be like the Peronists of Argentina, with nostalgic views of dictatorship and occasionally winning elections. Other Republicans likely will leave the party to reform it elsewhere. Libertarians may hope to become the alternative for rational conservatism, but most business elites like government aid.
Trump’s health or mental problems may fell him at some point. Who would take his place? Perhaps his own sons, who are equally sheltered and clueless sons of privilege. Or whoever is foolish enough to run as his Vice President and tie their fall to his.
Al Carroll is Associate Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a longtime human rights activist for NewAgeFraud.org. He is the author or editor of six history books and numerous articles for Articles Base, Beacon, Bristle, Counterpunch, History New Network, LA Progressive, Truth Out, and Wall Street Examiner. His next book will be Trump Fascism. See www.alcarroll.com .
Related video added by Juan Cole: