The Anatomy Of Fascism And The Donald Trump Presidency
Fascism in the socioeconomic sense is a strong authoritarian government working in concert with, and to the mutual benefit of corporations. This is the extreme right to the communist extreme left. In both extremes citizens give up rights and checks and balances, but in communism the government assumes control of all corporate structure and private enterprise; whereas with fascism, the corporations control the government and thus are generally driving the state’s policies.
In the political sense, fascism drives a strong sense of nationalism with a state first and isolationist paradigm. It also traditionally identifies scapegoats for the woes of the state, typically minority segments of the population that have far less power than the majority that get steamrolled by the mob mentality that ensues even when many within the majority do not agree.
The latter can be very popular during times of hardship and frustration. In pre-Nazi Germany, pre-Mussolini Italy, pre-Imperialistic Japan, and pre-Franco Spain, stark economic realities facing Europe as the result of the Great Depression made these aforementioned countries ripe for this ideology. Fear and anger was easily directed at minority citizenry and the public was yearning for a blistering, charismatic leader that echoed their frustrations and anger, while giving them a target to direct it at and imparting a misguided a sense of hope.
One can argue that our country’s path to socioeconomic fascism began with the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case where campaign finance reform was overturned and unlimited corporate and private money could flow into campaigns protected as a form of free speech. What’s more, what was termed “shady money” sources no longer had to be disclosed since that decision can come now from any source, including foreign entities and governments.
Under the Trump Presidency, socioeconomic fascism is poised to gain strength starting with his cabinet choices. Betsy Devos as Education Secretary champions “school choice,” a policy which would divert tax payer money to private schools and systematically dismantle the public school system as we know it. Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon Mobile, so as Secretary of State, it is clear that corporate welfare and dismissal of climate change and other environmental concerns will drive diplomacy. Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma who famously sued the EPA on behalf of big oil is Trump’s pick that very same agency. Scott Pruitt has done nothing to address the incidence of earthquakes in Oklahoma (not a typical earthquake prone region) as the result of intense fracking in the state. These are but a few examples of Trump’s corporate takeover of the government.
In addition to cabinet positions, Trump has already signed executive orders to fast track the very controversial Keystone and Dakota pipeline projects. He champions trickle down economics which will inevitably lead to a return of the lion’s share of tax breaks for big business and the top 1%. House speaker Paul Ryan with Trump’s support intends to turn Medicare, a long held and valued government health care safety net for the elderly, into a voucher system. Instead of receiving benefits, Medicare recipients would instead receive a voucher to go toward the purchase health insurance on the open market, which will put government sponsored health care citizens have been forced to pay into all of their lives is 100% in the hands of the health insurance corporations; giving corporations complete autonomy to charge premiums and deny claims as they please.
From the political standpoint, Trump has invoked fascism by whipping up unfounded fear of immigrants and Muslims. His rhetoric resonated with those who did not necessarily share in the Obama era economic recovery with a still growing gap between the poor and the wealthy. He convinced them that illegal immigrants were responsible for taking their jobs which in reality was far more commonly the result of the emerging global economy. Unfortunately, sometimes having someone to blame is more reassuring when disillusioned and Trump capitalized on that reality very effectively.
Trump made a public fearful of domestic terrorism intent on vilifying Muslim refugees and legal immigrants when the facts do not support the danger coming from these people (the Pulse Nightclub attack came from a self loathing homosexual American citizen who happened to be Muslim and the Boston Marathon bombers were naturalized American citizens from Russia). His 7 country Muslim majority travel ban to the United States upped the stakes from anti-immigration rhetoric to policy.
The suppression of the free press, an essential component to a democracy, is another tool of the fascist. The branding of news media that may expose Trump’s flaws in character, judgement, and business interests in conflict with his role as President as “fake news,” drives a distrust of the press and has his supporters only believing news from sources that he approves. Case in point, despite Vladamir Putin’s atrocious humanitarian violations that led to many elected officials in the GOP to consider him a war criminal, and with overwhelming consensus that he incited the cyber hacking in an effort to affect the outcome of our free elections; 37% of Republicans view Putin positively. The fact a significant number of the party of Reagan has a positive view of a former head of the Soviet KGB because Trump speaks kindly of him and dismisses the media and intelligence reports is beyond astounding.
This segues well into the law enforcement and the intelligence community. Trump has been openly at war with the intelligence community. He also has now put his chief strategist and former CEO of the alt right and controversial Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, on the Principals Committee on the National Security Council. In addition to this development, the head of CIA and and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will no longer attend every Principals Committee and have been demoted to attending on as “as needed basis.” This is extremely troubling given that this new structure signifies that matters of national security will be more influenced by political agenda versus professional expertise.
In another controversial (but not unprecedented – Nixon once did the same one year prior to his impeachment) move, Trump fired the current acting Attorney General for refusing to defend the Muslim travel ban. The Department of Justice is intended to remain apolitical and such a move forecasts that under this administration, it will be the polar opposite of apolitical and will instead legally support Trump’s executive orders and constitutionality of any legislation that results in Trump’s policy positions, while going after or suppressing any opponents to his orders and/or legislation he signs.
While many may suggest that parallels to historical fascists like Mussolini and Hitler are over the top, to be sure, they are not. While he may not necessarily be capable of genocide, he most certainly yearns for as much authoritarian autonomy as he can gain and he will test the limits of the Constitution to do so. Rather than reach out to those who do not support him or vote for him in an attempt the unify the country, he branded them as his enemies in his inauguration speech.
Adolph Hitler did not attain the ranks of dictator over night. He said the right things to an angry and frustrated public to give him the political capital to gradually ship away at their freedoms over time until one day the unanimous vote was came down in the German Reichstag to dissolve their own power and cast Hitler as “Supreme Judge of the German People.”
Will the checks and balances instilled in our Constitution by our founding fathers have the tenacity to withstand such a circumstance? That remains to be seen, but it is clear that Trump fully intends to test those limits.