Continuing the 6/42020 posting.
I wrote the blog posting below one month into the Trump administration...February 2017. It was my reason for not calling Trump a fascist. Name-calling and using the word fascism and Trump in the same breath is admittedly inflammatory and I stated why I did not call him a fascist then and why he did not yet fit the definition.
Here is why I am using it now 1. In three and a half years his racism and appeal to white nationalism is not subtle. It was not a show business device. His view of Justice is not equally applied or color blind and he uses racism to feather his political nest, divide and conquer 2. Hoodwinking US military officials into intervening to promote his political agenda 3. Calling all demonstrators, peaceful and violent, thugs to be dominated by force and oppression. 4. Willful ignorance of Constitutional constraints on the executive's power and protections of peaceful demonstrations. Update: 7/9/2020: No, Mr. President. You are not a king or a dictator. This is the most important part of the 7-2 Supreme Court decision yesterday. President Trump had asserted he could not be investigated or charged with a crime as president: The rule of law and Trump's compliance was upheld. Being the president did not give him special immunity. He had absolute immunity in criminal matters, he claimed. He did not have to comply with subpoenas in criminal matters from grand juries. No, said the court. He does not. He has the rights of any ordinary citizens and he had to respond to subpoenas in criminal cases, even if issued by State or Federal prosecutors. The checks and balances on presidential power held. The President was not above the law, though the president had claimed he was. This confirms the basic tenant of the Constitution and it was upheld by even Trump's recent appointees, Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. The political impact is that we will not get the President's tax returns before November. The Congressional subpoena of Trump's financial records issued for legislative oversight reasons was also sent back to the lower courts. The New York state case regarding tax returns was sent back to the grand jury process. The grand jury process is secret unless there is an indictment resulting in a trial, and the other concerning Congress oversight was sent back to narrow the scope of the subpoena. Congress had the power over the executive branch of oversight was untouched. It does.. The reason for the New York case was to see if Trump committed a tax crime in the Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen payoff case. Congress wanted to see if financial crimes were involved, with an underlying suspicion that Russia had something on Trump that explained why he kowtowed to Putin in so many matters. https://www.newsweek.com/colin-powell-donald-trump-america-we-people-madeleine-albright-constitution-1157119?fbclid=IwAR18fW3EczffZLXVdiTCPKZeJ8cgMePJ_cFfqsChsetAkhFAZDy--ma3xbk5. Announcing his intent to use US military against our own civilians. These put him firmly in the ranks of the 1930's fascists.
Some intellectual roots of the Tea Party and racist movements of the Trump era may be found in the following:https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/meet-the-economist-behind-the-one-percents-stealth-takeover-of-america The phrase that curled my hair was that once oligarchs take over, a stronger government was needed to put down a populist revolt.
One of the most damning comments about what would happen in a Trump second term would be the end of democracy..and this came from a respected Republican, William Cohen: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/former-secretary-of-defense-william-cohen-on-the-election/?fbclid=IwAR0YyjwgZnoApMxPPIuPKCqDTLirv6DKa_FQsA536J5YEDoysWXuHW4cWFo
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, if that were to take place, then I think we would not recognize America as a democracy. I think President Trump is taking us down the road to tyranny, to one-man rule, to try and replicate what he sees as a positive in Moscow with President Putin or in Turkey with President Erdogan, or over in China or North Korea. I think he wants to have one-man rule, and it’s not the rule of law but just the opposite. It’s the law of rule, where he only can make decisions. And he said quite, you know, publicly on multiple occasions, I’m above the law. The law doesn’t apply to me. I’m the chief law enforcement officer. I am the commander in chief. Nothing I do is illegal because I do it. And so, if you take away an obligation to run for reelection, now, he has absolute authority to do whatever he wants because he feels he’s not even bound by the law. And so, I see a very dictatorial absolutist type of rule in the country, and again, I don’t think we’ll be a democracy at that point.CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I guess, you know, you’ve been on the cutting edge of foreign policy for so long. What do you see and what do you expect if there was to be a second Trump administration?
The term fascism is not a swear word; it is a governmental system, a method of governance. It is the diametric opposite of democracy. Born in 1938, I have early memories toward the end of World War II of how it met its fate and in the late 1950's I spent a year in war-torn Germany, Italy, and the Balkans wondering how it could have happened. In most cases, a willing populace voted them in and supported its rise. The blame is shared by both their leaders and the people who supported them for reasons ranging from ethnic/religious/racial hatred to fear of communism to economic gains in a time of economic stress and political turmoil. Germany 's Nazism was the most extreme form of fascism. Hitler's Third Reich was a popular enough solution to boost him to power since many believed it served to restore Germany's greatness post defeat in World War I with the devastating reparations, and later coupled with the depression.
Updated blog posting: Feb. 17-25 2017
I have refrained from calling the Trump administration fascist. It is not there yet. It is too early to tell and the constraints of law and the Constitution may keep President Trump from putting some of his innate tendencies into practice. However, every day it seems Trump's actions resemble even more the examples of fascism as practiced in the 20th century.
The definition of fascism as a philosophy is complex, but actions can be the definer, too. Calling someone fascist brings to mind Hitler, the gas chambers, the hyper-nationalism, the rallies and parades, and a goal of economic recovery based on ramping up the military/industrial complex, blaming and scapegoating minorities, and feeding on the emotions of those who hate "others". Hitler seems to personify it in many minds, though the 20th-century ideological roots are actually in Italy and Mussolini and not all authoritarian governments are fascist.
While President Trump certainly does not fit the extreme Hitler mold, there are some similar elements to the rise of fascism in Europe found in Trump's tweets and orders and techniques, such as holding rallies to whip up supporters' enthusiasm and hyper-nationalism, exaggerating potential external security threats and the weakness of our military, and the failure of an economy,. He is ignoring the fact that the economy has the lowest unemployment rate since 2009 and had a pre-election robust Wall Street. True, the blue-collar middle class has been left behind. Whatever Trump advocates, the US in 2017 is nowhere like Germany in the early '30s that was decimated by reparations and the Depression.
With crowd-pleasing rhetoric and tweets, Trump claims the only facts that are not fake are those considered true by the Trump administration. He verbally delegitimizes other centers of power, courts, and their judges, and media. Stephen Bannon is the president's most trusted and closest adviser and is also an example of the hatred factor found in fascism. Bannon had been CEO of Breitbart, the media public platform for white supremacists and ultra-nationalists. Leading to Trump's own rise on the political scene was "Obama was born in Kenya" birtherism crusade, considered by many to be dog whistles to racists. Whether or not Bannon and he are racists and bigots themselves is the lesser issue. Like Bannon Trump tolerates and exploits racism for political gain, even being reluctant to condemn bigotry until forced to. His Muslim ban obviously appeals to religious bigots. Pressed for weeks to condemn Jewish cemetery vandalism and threats against religious centers, he finally made a statement last week condemning anti-Semitism.
These last couple of weeks of his media relations were particularly disturbing and brought him a step closer to qualifying as at least a wannabe fascist. Looking at how the fascist movement got into power in the last century, we can see some similarities. One is an attempt to bully and control the press and to take over the messaging. Trump is beginning the process by excluding "opposition" outlets. CNN and the New York Times were kept from the press "gaggle"at a non-televised briefing at the White House and Trump and his spokespeople have refused to call on reporters who represented media promoting stories critical of him. These were obvious attempts at "punishing" CNN and the Times. Their sin: reporting on Trump's possible even closer relationship with Russians during the campaign. (Added June, 2020. John Bolton's tell all book, Trump called journalists scumbags that should be executied;https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/503244-bolton-claims-trump-called-for-scumbag-journalists-to-be-executed)
The most serious media-related event raised the question of whether his administration had tried to influence the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's colluding with the Russians. One version reported by the media was that Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, had approached the FBI director asking him to tamp down a report being leaked from the agency as flawed because there was no evidence any Russian contact involved Russian agents. The Trump administration did not deny the contact had been made with Russians, but said it was not their agents, and counterclaimed that the FBI director had approached Priebus. If the latter is true, then the FBI's impartiality and credibility in their Russian related investigations into Russian hacking and meddling in the 2016 elections are jeopardized. If the administration initiated the contact with the FBI, then they are verging on a Nixon-like cover-up and look guilty that there is a fire in the smoke. Adding to suspicions that there is something there there, as many have noted, Trump has never flatly denied that contact with Russians and his campaign staff occurred but instead has tried to deflect attention to "illegal leaks", as a way to direct public attention and media focus elsewhere and a way to scotch deeper probes.
Either way, the exchange with the FBI flap is not good news for the Trump administration. In that dust-up, what has been clear is that the Trump administration is fearful that the FBI or the other investigations being conducted by intelligence agencies will find the smoking gun of collusion with Russian agents. If that collusion turns out to be sanctioned or conducted by Donald Trump himself or others in his campaign acting under his direction, that could lead to impeachment at worse or destroying the credibility, legitimacy, and effectiveness of the administration at best. The stakes are very high.
.Populism has also been an element in the rise of fascism. Candidate Trump's appeal to the blue-collar working demographic was more populist than corporate. Ironically, a corporatist element has been added to Trump's presidential administration with the appointment of the team of billionaires to the various cabinet posts. These cabinet officers have been charged to de-construct their departments, eliminating consumer and environmental protections that were designed to protect the middle class from corporate excesses.
The populist rationale Trump has pitched to the public is that this pro-business, anti-environment/consumer approach will lead to high paying job creation in the rust belt and national economic growth. Those most affected by economic struggles are without a college education and robotics have replaced many of those jobs once held by human beings. Some blame unions, too, for holding back efficiencies. Trump has not provided any plan to fix those problems but instead has blamed bad trade policies. Whether protectionism will result in high paying jobs with a workforce ill-equipped to fill them or reduce robotics is doubtful. If proof of Russian collusion does not lead to his defeat in 2020, his failure to provide promised economic growth and high paying job creation will. As counties who voted for Obama in the past then went for Trump in 2016 showed, populism is a fickle beast.
Another parallel with the practice of German fascism is Trump's reliance on militarism to promote US leadership in the world. The current world order he is de-constructing is one based on mutual defense treaties (NATO) and multinational economic and trade arrangements. Instead, Trump's vision of leadership is relying on military muscle power as a threat to deter attacks and as a "might makes right" bully power over the rest of the world. Where it does differ from Hitler's rise is that Hitler used military buildup in manufacturing as an argument to the public, promoting it as a way to pull Germany out of the depression.