Photo by Gage Skidmore.
By Janelle Clausen
On Aug. 24, 2015, I wrote an angry rant about why Donald Trump is following the fascism playbook. I avoided publishing it then because it seemed too soon to jump to conclusions. But the more I watch campaigns, the more I see it.
Take a look at Italy and Germany in World War II. Fascism, in one form or another, manifested itself through scapegoating, heated rhetoric, dangerous populism, corporatism and an unhealthy obsession with the military. You also saw a drastic curtailing of civil rights and liberties in the name of security and making a country great again.
Donald Trump, as I said before, was right about some things. It wouldn’t hurt to raise taxes on the rich or give the veterans what they deserve.
However, the vast majority of what he says, the way he acts and the policies he proposes just seem wrong. Add in his recent comments about barring all Muslims from entering the country (among other things), and there’s rational reason for some concern.
Am I saying he’s fascist? Not quite. What I’m saying is that he’s shown some signs and it’s worth taking a look at them. Here are some:
1) He’s blaming Mexico/illegal immigrants for all our problems.
Like how Hitler blamed the Communists and Jews for German ills, Trump blames a minority for America’s problems.
He blames Mexico for sending their worst people, ones with “lots of problems.” He said they’re “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Later, he said all illegal immigrants and their children “have to go [back to where they came from],” even though deporting natural-born citizens would involve changing the 14th amendment. Include the fact he wants to build a wall to keep everyone out, and it just screams anti-immigrant.
2) Trump is a master of flaming rhetoric that appeals to the worst in people.
The anti-Mexican speech inspired two Boston men to beat and urinate on a homeless Latino man. One attacker later said Donald Trump was right in saying they all need to be deported. Trump initially (he didn’t outright condemn it until later) said, “I have heard about that. I think that would be a shame.”
When asked about this hate crime, he said “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”
At a Trump rally in Alabama, a Black Lives Matter protester was beaten by eight to nine people and called racial slurs. Trump didn’t condemn it.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he later remarked. “It was disgusting what he was doing…This was a very obnoxious guy, a troublemaker, looking to make trouble.”
You know what else is obnoxious? The fact people were beaten on the streets for diverging views and merely being different in Nazi Germany, too.
This isn’t on the same scale, nor is his followers blatantly fighting any reasonable claims against Trump, but it’s still concerning.
3) Trump is exploiting deep-rooted fears — and creating a myth for people to follow.
Benito Mussolini’s once said “The myth is a faith, it is a passion. It is not necessary that it be a reality. It is reality by the fact that it is a goal, a hope, a dream.”
There’s no guarantee that Trump can make America great again. Absolutely none. His policies are thin in substance and unreliable.
But he keeps proclaiming things, like how they’re going to build a way to keep America safe, kick out all the refugees and illegal migrants and rebuild a broken military.
He’s also said that Mexico, Japan, and China are beating us at everything, not to mention making Islam seem like it’s the end of the world (it isn’t). More infamously, he said that Muslims in Jersey City cheered as the World Trade Center came down, a statement found to be completely and utterly untrue.
The reality is that illegal immigrants don’t steal the jobs Americans would normally take, most are not criminals (would you risk being deported out of America?) and contribute a significant portion of economic activity to the country.
Building a wall would cost billions of dollars and hardly do anything, and deporting 11 million non-static immigrants is impossible. Furthermore, Islam is not the end of the world — the vast, overwhelming amount of practitioners are peaceful and not involved in terrorism.
But telling people all of that wouldn’t get votes, would it? Fear is marketable.
4) He has an unhealthy obsession with our already huge military.
The draft dodger is calling for an impossibly large expansion of the military. In fiscal 2015, defense made up 22 percent of the budget on the surface. In terms of 2015’s discretionary spending of $1.11 trillion, the military consumed more than half, or $598.5 billion, while science received just under $30 billion.
It would take Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, India and South Korea, most of whom are allies, teaming up to match the U.S. in military spending.
The War Resisters League, meanwhile, calculates actual costs as high as $1.3 trillion annually between the Department of Defense, defense duties of other organizations, nuclear retainment, veterans benefits and interest on the national debt, much of which was from wars.
When social security is excluded from the budget, military spending is almost half of the total. How much higher can you get?
While yes, military spending is technically declining, it’s still four times higher than China’s. And yet, they still “mess with us,” as Trump would say.
Germany’s fear of those around them, combined with ambition and feeling wronged, drove them to military conquest. In the end, they expanded too far.
Yet Trump seems ready to continue military action against people nowhere near our borders. He’s suggested putting boots on the ground against ISIS and said he would’ve walked away from the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
5) Trump is a fiery and powerful individual promising hope (at a cost).
Adolf Hitler was an infamous orator with widespread appeal, speaking to the angst of the German people and promising to make the nation great again. He’s infamous for his charisma, not his political experience.
He spoke vaguely on his promises of grand things like an amazing economy, a great military, eliminating troublemakers and once more being respected.
It wouldn’t be outlandish to say he was considered a “German Superman,” a man — not a politician — who could make things better.
Trump likes to present himself like that. He speaks angrily and encouragingly, calling Americans “smart” and “great” in one breath, before demonizing entire subsets of the population in the next.
He emphasizes his money and independence, considering he’s a billionaire that can’t be bought, and he likes the use of force, drones on the economy and wants to make America great again.
6) Donald Trump allegedly embodies a higher purpose: the United States of America.
In fascism, the — state manifested through an individual leader — is supreme. It’s glorified and almost spiritualized, taking a form all of its own.
It is “man’s conscience,” as Mussolini wrote. Fascism “accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the state.”
Trump constantly uses the word “we” and “America” in his speeches. It’s never about the other guy. It’s about how people are beating us left and right. He allegedly represents the strength, fortitude and honesty of America.
7) He’s a corporatist.
“The corporation,” Mussolini once said, “is formed to expand the wealth, the political power, and the well-being of the Italian people.”
It is this illusion that business has cast that allows for the state to boost its ego unchallenged, while corporations are able to act as they please in a vicious cycle.
In his book “Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again,” Trump said:
We need to lower the U.S. corporate tax rate from 39 percent to zero. America’s corporate tax rate is the second highest on the planet. The international average is 26 percent. How can we expect companies to hire American workers and locate their business in America when our government taxes them at exorbitant rates for doing so? That’s crazy. I want to encourage American companies to stay here and hire American workers, and I want foreign companies to relocate their businesses to the United States and create jobs here. We are the greatest country on planet earth–the world’s companies want to be here. A zero percent corporate tax would create an unprecedented jobs boom. Millions of jobs would materialize. [Emphasis added.]
One can argue we already have a strange form of corporatism — there’s a revolving door between those in business and not, the richest among us spend millions on elections and a recent study shows that the American people have a virtually negligent influence on legislation.
Sheldon Wolin, author of “Democracy Incorporated,” wrote that the current model of corporate power is “inverted totalitarianism,” where true democracy is “subordinated now to the so-called demands of economic growth.”
But adding Trump’s idea of eliminating corporate taxes to create millions of jobs would be the nail in the coffin.
8) He’s not completely against creating a registry of Muslims and monitoring mosques.
More accurately speaking, a Yahoo! News reporter asked him about the possibility of databases and IDs, which Trump didn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Following this was his praise of police commissioner Ray Kelly, who headed the borderline illegal surveilling of mosques in New York City.
Trump then said he’d consider Kelly for a Cabinet position. He also wants to keep all Muslims from entering the country now, rather than just kick out all the refugees (mostly women, children, and the elderly).
This is scary! Remember something called “The Holocaust?”
9) Trump’s appeal is among the lesser educated.
In the 1960s, Phillip Converse devised a theory that the mass public can be divided into five groups: ideologues, near-ideologues, group-interest, nature of the times and no issue content.
He also suggested that Hitler rose to power by appealing to the latter three groups, who made up a vast majority of that bloc, no less than 75 percent. All he had to do was incite group hatred (us vs. them), emphasize the bad economy (people vote for the other guy who promises to make it better) and flash a nice smile (for the politically apathetic).
Of course, the situation has improved since then. Increased access to information and better education has resulted in a more informed populace. But follow ups to Converse’s research suggest that the bottom three groups still make up a comfortable margin.
10) Trump’s more than happy to insult other politicians, politics in general and just everyone he doesn’t like.
Hitler spent a great deal of time lamenting the workings of democracy in “Mein Kampf,” recalling the times politicians were sleeping, disinteresting, screaming and generally not intellectual. I also needn’t say the amount of hatred the man spewed towards the crippled, Communists, Jews and few opponents he had.
I can’t possibly cite the amount of times Trump has insulted someone, namely his opponents.
He insulted Rand Paul’s looks, asked people if they’d vote for a face like Carly Fiorina’s, called Governor Bobby Jindal a “lightweight candidate.” said Ben Carson was “pathological” and had the mind of a child molester and said Governor Rick Perry should have to take an IQ test before entering a primary, to name a few instances.
He’s also insulted women, Hispanics, African Americans, celebrities, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled, reporters and anyone who dares oppose him.
Furthermore, he’s got no problem calling our leaders “stupid,” “dummies,” and has contempt for the opposition, the political system, those “below” him, and so on.
It’s not at the same level, but all of this can still come across as concerning. A wise man once said, “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Donald Trump does not seem extremely religious, but he’s got no shortage of fake patriotism, promises and ego.