There is a famous quote frequently attributed to either Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long that states “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.”
Watching the campaign of Donald Trump it certainly appears as if he is following a step-by-step guide he copied out of his own personal “Fascism for Dummies.”
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each.
So, let us examine each point and look at specific examples of the Trump campaign enacting them as we go.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
From his simplistic “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, to his oft repeated calls to build a border wall, The Donald has made this Nationalism, specifically White Nationalism, the cornerstone of his campaign. His continued acceptance of his own supporters use of Confederate Battle and Nazi flags and paraphernalia at his own events also speak volumes to his manipulation of this Nationalist anger. Episodes of racial violence are a recurring theme at his rallies to the extent that he’s even offered to pay the legal fees for those that commit it.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
The most glaring example here is his stated desire to kill the families of enemy combatants, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families,” Trump said.
He has also called to reinstate torture techniques that are now considered both human rights violations and war crimes.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
From the moment his campaign began he has been scapegoating Mexicans as violent criminals, all Muslims domestic and foreign as terrorists, and all Black people are ignorant, uneducated, poverty stricken, violent criminals.
4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
Trump has held frequent fund raisers supposedly for the benefit of our veterans, using them to boost his image, only to fall through on delivering the funds raised to the organizations.
While constantly berating our current military as not being good enough, from ignorant generals who don’t know as much as he does, to claiming women are only being sexually assaulted in the military because they’ve been allowed in, and saying that those that suffer PTSD just weren’t emotionally or mentally strong enough to handle their service, he is also calling for major increases in military funding so that we can increase our efforts in the Middle East and make our military great again.
5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
An entire book could easily be written about the rampant sexism of “The Donald.”
The obvious place to start is with his video confession while at work, to a peer from another company, of a history of criminal sexual assault, abuse of power, coercion, and workplace violence upon women that he and his supporters have attempted to dismiss, normalize, and trivialize as “locker room banter.”
We even have the video of him finding a 10 year old girl so attractive that he plans to date her in just a few years. As of today, we are seeing an increase in the number of women coming forward with allegations of their own encounters resulting in being assaulted by him.
6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
As of May, MarketWatch estimates that Trump had manipulated roughly $3M worth of free advertising for his name brand and presidential campaign from our corporate funded mass media outlets. That total has been increasing steadily since then, with the most dramatic example being when he used a campaign stunt tricked the media into airing a 30 minute infomercial announcing the opening of his newest hotel venture.
At the same time, he is threatening to change the laws to make it easier to sue journalists who say things about him that he doesn’t like; a move that some claim would put an end to Freedom of the Press. And on the campaign trail he is refusing access to reporters by banning certain outlets from his public events.
7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
Not only does Trump fear immigrants, he encourages others to be afraid, too.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
First up, here, we have Trump’s desire to turn the mega-Churches into the new Super-PAC powerhouses of our political system by promising to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which would end a ban on non-profit churches politicking for candidates and the implementation of religious laws.
9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
At least we know where he stands on the intersection of cronyism and politics; and it’s not pretty. He is a man who admitted during the Presidential debates that he explicitly rejects the free market and has enabled corruption.
Then we have Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination offered promises of tax reductions and regulatory relief – while simultaneously promoting trade protectionism that would inflict a severely regressive tax on poor and middle-class consumers.
While he claims to feel “in a certain way to be a blue collar worker,” himself, the New York Attorney General states “This is a guy who leaves a trail of broken contracts, unpaid bills…and ruined lives everywhere he goes,” on his way to being a self-proclaimed “successful businessman” with a perpetual string of failed business endeavors.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Mr. Trump, as he courts working-class votes, has said that he has “tremendous support” from unions, however as his own employees attempt to unionize for their own benefit he has instructed his businesses to refuse to negotiate and has tried to block their efforts at every turn, including disciplining or firing employees who wear pro-union buttons.
National union leaders representing the AFL-CIO, laborers, teachers and public sector employees have already laid the groundwork for a campaign to hammer the real estate tycoon as anti-worker.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
“It’s actually been part of the Republican Party brand for a long time,” Max Boot says. “Republicans going all the way back to [Dwight D.] Eisenhower have masqueraded by pretending to be dumber than they actually were by attacking elite intellectuals and snobs and so forth [as a way] to identify with the common man. This was a strategy pursued by Richard Nixon, by Ronald Reagan, and by George W. Bush.”
But according to Boot, Trump is different.
“Those leaders were not themselves actually stupid or ignorant,” he says. “If you think about Eisenhower or Nixon, they were actually incredibly worldly, sophisticated, and knowledgeable. The problem is that Donald Trump is every bit as ignorant in reality as his predecessors only pretended to be. In a way, the joke’s kind of on the Republican Party because after masquerading for decades, the Republican Party has actually become the ‘Stupid Party.’”
On the campaign trail he promises to go so far as to eliminate or drastically cut the U.S. Department of Education.
And he has an ongoing track record of denying science and experts on many subjects.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
Donald Trump has amplified his focus in recent weeks on a strident nationalist and law-and-order message, emphasizing rhetoric that has fueled his popularity among white working-class voters but which also threatens to antagonize the centrists likely to decide the November election.
He has called for a return to racial profiling stop-and-frisk to selectively violate the 4th amendment rights of people of whom he disapproves and to have police arbitrarily confiscate their weapons in violation of the 2nd amendment rights, despite the fact that he was wrong about Stop and Frisk — and the ruling that called it racial profiling and being wrong about the success of the process in New York before it was declared unconstitutional.
Then, when asked about growing concerns over police brutality toward black Americans, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that more power should be given to the police.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
We can begin here with his own debate admissions of gaming a corrupted system by buying off politicians on a regular basis and continue through his own direct efforts to lobby for the law that allowed him to let tax payers pay the taxes on a business loss of nearly $1B.
But Trump is not just shamelessly self-promoting; he’s shamelessly crony capitalist, often trying to expand his business by using the power of government. And in an election where the Republican candidate will claim that entrepreneurs — not the government — can create jobs and prosperity for all, Trump’s record makes him a liability.
14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
We’ve already addressed the manipulation of the media above.
For decades the Republicans have been building legislative means of obstructing the supporters of their opposition from being able to vote, even though those laws are consistently overturned, they are often left in place until after the election ballots have been cast.
After a spree of favorable court rulings that softened or blocked Republican-passed voting restrictions, voting rights advocates are engaged in a new phase of trench warfare with a mere month left before November’s election and early voting in some places already underway. There was no time for civil rights groups to rest on their laurels after winning the high-profile legal challenges. In many states, such rulings were met with attempts to undermine or circumvent court orders meant to make it easier to vote.
And yet, after all that, Mr. Trump is already creating a narrative of the election being rigged against him, instead of in favor of both himself and the party supporting him.
He has even gone so far to call for the establishment of a brute squad of Poll Watchers for intimidation at the election polls, and claiming that he and his followers may not abide by the election results as his supporters threaten a civil war uprising if he looses.