Is Donald Trump a fascist? If so, is that a bad thing?

According to Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, Donald Trump constitutes a “singular threat to our democracy.”[1]  Trump’s chief pull on his supporters “is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.”  He “provoke[s] and play[s] on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger [directed against] Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees…His program,…consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.”

According to Kagan, Trump has aroused the “mobocracy” dreaded by the “Founders.”  Alexander Hamilton feared that “the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.”  “[I]n other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, [this] has generally been called “fascism.”  “Fascist movements had no coherent ideology,… fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation.”  “[If Trump] wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation.”  “This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.”

Well, no.  “Fascism” and “national socialism” (another term that Kagan throws around in a devil-may-care fashion) were born of grave social and economic crises ineffectually faced by liberal[2] governments between the two world wars.  The fascist movements adopted an emphatically anti-democratic stance.  They commonly resorted to “exemplary” violence.[3]  They sought to commandeer elections to create an obstructionist group in the legislature so as to paralyze democratic politics.

None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has never proclaimed his opposition to democracy.  The Trumpsters have engaged in minor violence on rare occasions and usually only when provoked by leftists trying to prevent Trump from speaking.  Trump has no party.

Undoubtedly, the established parties have been put through the wringer in the past decade.  The Republican Party has been battered by the Tea Party movement and now by the Trump insurgency.  The Democrats saw their settled succession overthrown by Barack Obama and now tested by Bernie Sanders.  American voters aren’t just falling into line.  The question of what is behind these movements is enormously important.

I’m not planning on voting for Trump, although his opponents may yet talk me into it.[4]

[1] See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-is-how-fascism-comes-to-america/2016/05/17/c4e32c58-1c47-11e6-8c7b-6931e66333e7_story.html

[2] Small “l” liberal: representative governments; an executive that can be evicted from office when it loses the support of the majority in the legislature; checks and balances; bills of civil rights and the rule of law; more or less free and fair elections.  The New Deal’s reliance on Southern white voters doesn’t disqualify it.  I suppose.

[3] Tying a Socialist mayor to a tree in the town square, then pouring castor oil down his throat, or kicking a newspaper editor to death in front of his wife and children for example.

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiM9L49j7HY

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