Donald Trump, his Administration, and the Republican Party have become fascist according to three more historians’ definitions. Part two of three.
For links to other writings on American fascism, please click here. For the other parts of this series, click here.
Yesterday I showed that Donald Trump and his Administration closely match four separate definitions of fascism that I identified in 2016. Today we’ll look at the final three definitions and see if the trend continues.
Author’s note: Due to time constraints, in most instances I have relied on recent news (the last month or two) in order to not need to provide links. Trump’s own words and the recent action of his Administration are generally enough to provide examples of whatever characteristic I’m analyzing at the time. However, between July 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019 I collected thousands of different news stories that provide overwhelming evidence of each and every claim. The database is available at this link for anyone interested in diving deeper.
Fascism according to historian Emilio Gentile’s definition
I only got partially through historian Emilio Gentile’s detailed definition back in 2018 but never published my update. Even so, we can still compare Trump and his Administration today to what I found in 2016 to determine if Trump has become more fascist or not.
[Fascism is] a mass movement with multiclass membership in which prevail, among the leaders and the militants, the middle sectors, in large part new to political activity, organized as a party militia, that bases its identity not on social hierarchy or class origin but on a sense of comradeship, believes itself invested with a mission of national regeneration, considers itself in a state of war against political adversaries and aims at conquering a monopoly of political power by using terror, parliamentary politics, and deals with leading groups, to create a new regime that destroys parliamentary democracy;
Trump followers in 2016 were largely new to political activity. Trump has generated significant support from militias and, while he hasn’t organized the militias under the umbrella of the Republican Party, they are definitely associated with the party. Trump’s followers aren’t so much invested in their class as they are in their tribe beating the “libtard Democrat party” and pwning the so-called elites. Trumpists believe that they’re pursuing a mythical America that has been lost due to so-called Democratic corruption and when men were real men (not “betas” or “soy bois”), women were subservient, and minorities knew their place – on the bottom of the heap.
Trump’s followers believe themselves to be in a war against Democrats and, in some cases like QAnon conspiracy theorists, in a war against liberal elites who are allegedly doing things that look a lot like a modern version of the ancient Jewish blood libel and the propaganda claims made against Jews in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Open-carrying militia members are showing up at protests to terrify people into not protesting. The Administration is planning to declare cities with Democratic mayors as “anarchist jurisdictions.” And Trump and the Republicans are planning to push through a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg between now and the election in a gross and hypocritical power grab.
In 2016 Trump the candidate was only a partial match to this characteristic. Today he and his Administration match it fully.
an ‘anti-ideological’ and pragmatic ideology that proclaims itself antimaterialist, anti-individualist, antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-Marxist, is populist and anticapitalist in tendency, expresses itself aesthetically more than theoretically by means of a new political style and by myths, rites, and symbols as a lay religion designed to acculturate, socialize, and integrate the faith of the masses with the goal of creating a ‘new man’
Trump is pragmatic and willing to do anything that helps him get reelected or advances his policy goals, even if it opposes traditional conservative values. He’s certainly antiliberal, anti-Marxist, and populist. He’s not antimaterialist, and he’s only anticapitalist against companies and industries who take stands opposed to him and his Administration’s policies. And so long as you choose to follow him, Trump is happily individualist. But oppose him and he’s very authoritarian, which means he’s anti-individualist too.
Trump’s perpetual campaign since taking office in 2017 has taken on many of the characteristics of a lay religion. He has built a creed on the false myths that the US is exceptional, uniquely blessed by God, and was founded as a Christian nation and added to them xenophobia against Central and South American immigrants and claims that liberals literally worship Satan, and accusations of unAmericanism levied against anyone even slightly to Trump’s political left. And there is a type of aesthetic to it – Trump shirts, MAGA and KAG hats, American flags that have been defiled (as defined by the US Flag Code) with print and photos of Trump himself, and camo-wearing/open-carrying militias. His non-stop campaigning has successfully acculturated the Republican Party into the party of Trump.
Trump only partially matched this characteristic in 2016, but today he matches it in most respects.
a culture founded on mystical thought and the tragic and activist sense of life conceived of as the manifestation of the will to power, on the myth of youth as artificer of history, and on the exaltation of the militarization of politics as the model of life and collective activity
Trump and his Administration have courted the support of fundamentalist evangelical Christian who are antagonistic to science because it supposedly denigrates God and the revealed Truth of the Bible. Trump is all about the will to power and he supports the ultra-rich who, according to the prosperity gospel heresy, are blessed by God with wealth (and, conversely, the poor are hated by God or else He would have made them rich). Trump’s appeal to youth remains one of his weaker points, but he has definitely exalted the militarization of politics through militias, calls by members of his Administration to be prepared for an armed insurrection, and so on.
Trump did not meet this criteria in 2016, but he certainly meets it today.
a totalitarian conception of the primacy of politics, conceived of as an integrating experience to carry out the fusion of the individual and the masses in the organic and mystical unity of the nation as an ethnic and moral community, adopting measures of discrimination and persecution against those considered to be outside this community either as enemies of the regime or members of races considered to be inferior or otherwise dangerous for the integrity of the nation
Trump sees “patriotism” (actually nationalism and jingoism) as an integral part of being a moral American, and has come to define patriotism in part as personal loyalty to him. The Trump Administration and the Trump-dominated Supreme Court have essentially re-legalized discrimination and persecution against immigrants both documented and undocumented, against minorities, against LGBTQ+ people, and has authorized kidnappings without charge against liberals in Portland by unidentified federal agents using rental vans instead of official vehicles.
In 2016 this was one of the few characteristics of Gentile’s definition that Trump fully matched. Today both Trump and his Administration (especially key actors like Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli, William Barr, Micheal Caputo, and Stephen Miller) match this characteristic completely.
a civil ethic founded on total dedication to the national community, on discipline, virility, comradeship, and the warrior spirit
Right-wing anti-government militias being organized into de-facto security and partisan police and who have been called upon to intimidate Americans on behalf of Trump. Trump supporters who buy action figures and paint adoring portrayals of Trump or compare him to Jesus dying on the cross. Trump didn’t match this characteristic in 2016 because he’s one person, but his followers have certainly developed the kind of civil ethic that Gentile was talking about.
a single state party that has the task of providing for the armed defense of the regime, selecting its directing cadres, and organizing the masses within the state in a process of permanent mobilization of emotion and faith
Again we go back to Trump’s permanent campaign as a way to permanently mobilize emotion and faith. Then Fox News et al that have been working non-stop for years, even before Trump, to keep viewers terrified of their fellow citizens (and successfully at that). Trump doesn’t view any political party other than the Republican Party as legitimate, or even legitimate conservatives who have rejected his leadership like the Lincoln Project. And members of the Administration have started to call on Republicans and like-minded Trump followers to be prepared to defend America against their fellow Americans.
Trump couldn’t match this characteristic in 2016 because it only applies after a party has taken power. But he and the Republican Party match it almost perfectly today.
a police apparatus that prevents, controls, and represses dissidence and opposition, including through the use of organized terror
Portland, where unidentified federal agents (most associated with the Border Patrol, Trump’s favorite federal enforcement agency) kidnapped people off the street into unmarked vans. Kenosha. Rochester. Buffalo. And Trump’s repeated calls for “LAW AND ORDER” that are both racist dog whistles and incitement of police brutality as organized federal terror against Americans.
As above, Trump couldn’t have matched this characteristic in 2016, but he certainly does today.
a political system organized by hierarchy of functions named from the top and crowned by the figure of the ‘leader,’ invested with a sacred charisma, who commands, directs, and coordinates the activities of the party and the regime
Trump has actively purged anyone and everyone who needs Senate confirmation and who wasn’t personally loyal to him over the values enshrined in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He’s claimed that no-one else in the Administration matters because only his opinion and his decisions matter, and every one of his interim or acting Cabinet members does exactly what he wants them to. He believes himself to be a king or emperor, an “alpha” who can do whatever he wants, and he’s said so explicitly.
This was the only characteristic that Trump matched completely in 2016, and the evidence has only grown stronger since.
corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions
Unions are a favorite target of the Trump Administration, especially public sector unions for government employees. Trump widely supports national corporatism and rewards corporations who support what he defines as the national interest and punishes those who oppose those same interests. With respect to government, Trump does not follow technocracy (leadership by experts), and he is only willing to accept expert opinion when it aligns with his pre-existing biases and policies. He is strongly focused on preserving private property except when his/national interests demand that the property be claimed by the government (such as eminent domain along the US-Mexico border). And he’s strongly interested in maintaining existing class divisions, with wealthy white men on top, followed by wealthy white women, and then progressing down to minorities, minority women, and with minority immigrant women at the bottom of the list.
This was only a partial match in 2016, and given Trump isn’t interested in organizing the economy productively according to actual expertise, this is still a partial match today.
a foreign policy inspired by the myth of national power and greatness, with the goal of imperialist expansion
Trump has never claimed to be interested in imperialist expansion. Even his bellicose rhetoric against Iran hasn’t been in service of conquering the country. But it’s always been firmly anchored in American exceptionalism and the related myths of manifest destiny and America’s presumed uniquely Godly nation. As a result, I identified this as a partial match in 2016 and it remains one today.
In summary, in 2016 Trump fully matched only one characteristic, partially matched five others, and didn’t match the last four, leading to a conclusion that Trump was neither a proto-fascist nor a fascist according to Gentile’s definition. But in 2020, with 3 1/2 years of his Presidency behind us, we can see that he now fully matches eight of Gentile’s characteristics and partially matches the last two. This is a radical shift toward fascism according to Gentile’s definition.
Fascism according to historian Robert Paxton’s definition
Historian Robert Paxton developed a relatively simple definition of fascism against which I analyzed then-candidate Trump in 2016.
I’ve taken his definition and split it up into the various sections that I analyzed against in 2016 so we can more easily perform a direct comparison.
- A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood: Trump’s followers overwhelming see themselves as victims of liberal elites (see also: QAnon) who spend money on coastal Democratic cities and ignore the more Republican heartland where “real” Americans live. Trump uses Fox News and other right-wing media to feed this perception. And given there has been a real decline in small towns as younger people leave for the cities where there are more jobs and opportunities, the community decline is somewhat true.
Trump met this criteria in 2016 and still matches it today.
- and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity: Trump followers are all about “rallying around the flag” and rallying to Trump’s defense even when Trump does something that should be disqualifying (such as revelations about sexual harassment and rape). The concentration camps and child separations (even the forced hysterectomies of detained immigrant women) along the US-Mexico border are justified by maintaining the unity and purity of America. Calls for ending birthright citizenship, which is part of the Constitution. It was unclear in 2016 if his followers would form “compensatory cults,” but they clearly have since he took office, so this criteria is now met as well.
- in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants: Militias that used to claim to be “anti-government” have become pro-goverment militias since they agree with Trump’s racist, xenophobic, and sexist policies. The Republican Party now overwhelmingly supports Trump even though there was a strong undercurrent of disgust with him in the 2016 election. When Trump’s followers show up to counter-protest, they’re nearly always carrying clubs, open-carry firearms, and the like. And the nationalism – pickup truck bed flags, flags desecrated by having faces, symbols, or quotes printed over them, and the like – is glaringly obvious.
There were early indications in 2016 that Trump’s followers might meet this criteria at some future date, but this criteria hadn’t been met yet. It has definitely been met in 2020.
- working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites: Trump and his Administration work well with fundamentalist evangelical Christians against Muslims and Jews. The Administration rewards the wealthy with tax cuts and in turn they support think tanks and PACs who support him. Trump works with Congressional Republicans to give them what they want with respect to abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, legalizing discrimination, and in return they support him against impeachment and every form of attack, however logical or based in evidence that attack may be.
Trump’s alliance with traditional conservative elites was evident in 2016 and it has become even more so since.
- abandons democratic liberties: Trump’s people are calling for armed insurrection if he doesn’t win the 2020 election. He attacked the freedom of the press and threatened to defund sanctuary cities even though the Constitution doesn’t give him that authority. He’s said that he deserves at least a third term, if not more, because he “was treated very unfairly” in his first term, again against Constitutional term limits.
Trump partially met this criteria in 2016 but meets it fully today.
- and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion: Again, Trump has no apparent desire for imperialist expansion, but Trump continues to call and approve of the use of violence (such as the police “retribution” against a murder suspect in Oregon that may have been an extrajudicial murder by police) against liberals. Followers who are also police have provided radical rightists a roadmap to murdering liberals during protests and getting away with it.
There were enough indications that Trump might support this in 2016 that he partially met this criteria. He fully meets it now.
So how does this add up? In 2016, Trump fully met two of the six criteria, partially met three, and didn’t meet the last. In 2020, Trump fully meets all the criteria. That is another massive shift toward fascism in the last 3 ½ years.
In addition, Paxton was one of several historians who were interviewed about Trump’s apparent fascist tendencies prior to the 2016 election. I quoted him as follows
Trump shows “a rather alarming willingness to use fascist themes and fascist styles.” And Paxton worried that Trump “would indeed take some kind of nonconstitutional action [in the event of a deadlock with Congress], and people would be afraid to say no.” But Paxton thought that the lack of a blackshirted militia fighting “in the streets” kept Trump and his movement from being actual fascism.
Trump’s use of fascist themes and styles has become more common and sustained since 2016 when Paxton observed that this tendency had become “rather alarming.” And Trump and his Administration have taken many nonConstitutional actions ranging from repeatedly ignoring the separation of powers to attacking the freedom of the press to ignoring due process protections for liberal protesters. And now we have the functional equivalent of a blackshirted militia intimidating and murdering Black Lives Matter and liberal protesters in the streets.
In his 1998 article titled the “Five Stages of Fascism”, Paxton asked the following questions about fascism:
The right questions to ask of today’s neo- or protofascisms are those appropriate for the second and third stages of the fascist cycle. Are they becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on the political scene? Is the economic or constitutional system in a state of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities? Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge? It is by answering those kinds of questions… that we may be able to recognize our own day’s functional equivalents of fascism.
In 2016, the answers to Paxton’s questions were all yes. Since Trump became President, the evidence in support of those “yes” answers has only become stronger.
Fascism according to Italian intellectual Umberto Eco’s definition
Italian intellectual and novelist Umberto Eco grew up in Fascist Italy, and in 1995 he published an essay in the New York Review of Books called “Ur-fascism,” for universal fascism. He . In it he identified 14 archetypes of fascism, and in 2016 I compared Trump’s behavior against those archetypes and concluded that Trump met enough of the archetypes to qualify as a fascist. This is especially true given that Eco himself claimed that only one was needed to serve as the seed from which fascism could germinate.
Trump hit nine and had aspects of the other five.
What about today?
Author’s note: the quotes below are the summaries of Eco’s archetypes I wrote in 2016. Please read Eco’s essay itself for everything he says about each of them.
Archetype 1: a cult of tradition
A cult of tradition wherein revelation is “received at the dawn of human history,” where “truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.” Furthermore, the cult of tradition is also syncretistic, accepting that different versions of received wisdom are all “alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.” Note that this cult of tradition is fundamentally anti-intellectual, since it rejects the idea that there is anything to be known beyond the original, revealed, primeval wisdom.
The marriage of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity to the near (and unwarranted) deification of the authors of the Constitution. Anything that’s not in the Bible or in the original text of the Constitution, interpreted as the fascists believe the Framers would have meant it, is false. The Administration’s COVID-19 “experts” have gradually shifted from authentic experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci to people who sound like experts but are more valued as Trump loyalists, the State Department has been hollowed out of experienced diplomatic staff, and moving the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, CO drove large numbers of experts to quit government service entirely.
This archetype applied to Trump in 2016 and still does today.
Archetype 2: rejection of modernism
The rejection of modernism insofar as it is a rejection of democracy and the ideals espoused in the French and American revolutions – liberty, equality, brotherhood and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Fascism is also irrational, since the rejected ideals are based on “the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason,” and how those are “seen as the beginning of modern depravity.”
Trump has been falsely claiming for months that the 2020 election will be stolen from him by mail-in ballot fraud and he’s been threatening to not leave the Presidency. He has claimed that he should get a third term since he was treated “unfairly” in his first term. His administration has tried to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, women, and minorities. He claims liberty is critically important, yet he only believes in liberty for his followers, not for all people. He put undocumented immigrants into concentration camps, tore children away from their families, and allowed American parents to adopt those children without permission of their birth families. And then there’s the Administration’s anti-scientific views on subjects like evolution, climate disruption, geologic time and plate tectonics (since they prove the Earth is older than 6,000 years or challenge the specialness of humanity), pollution, vaccines, et al.
This archetype also applied in 2016 and still does in 2020.
Archetype 3: a cult of action
A cult of action for the sake of action, where action is “beautiful in itself” and should be “taken before, or without, any previous reflection” because “thinking is a form of emasculation.” In addition, fascists attack “the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.”
It’s unclear whether Trump’s followers believe that action is beautiful (although some militia members, such as the Kenosha shooter, appear to), but Trump is famous for making decisions on the spot without forethought. So much so that the White House staff is regularly blindsided by Trump’s tweets and policy shifts based on the latest news item he watched on Fox News.
Trump partially matched this archetype in 2016 but evidence since then shows he fully matches it now.
Archetype 4: disagreement is treason
Criticism is a sign of modernism and intellectualism, so criticism is viewed negatively. Or, as Eco puts it, “disagreement is treason.”
Anyone who has tried to argue with a Trump follower on social media knows that their response to reasoned and evidence-based criticism is “libtard,” “DemocRAT,” “that’s what a pedophile would say,” “you’re no patriot,” “that’s unAmerican,” or just stubborn insistence that up is down and black is white. Trump accepts no criticism himself and never apologizes for being wrong about anything.
This archetype applies to Trump and his followers as much today as it did to Trump alone in 2016.
Archetype 5: racist by definition
Fascism uses the “fear of difference” as an “appeal against the intruders.” As such, fascism “is racist by definition.”
The policies of the Trump Administration – family separation, putting undocumented immigrants into privately-run concentration camps, now forced hysterctomies of immigrant women, reducing access to healthcare for women and minorities, the racist “law and order” campaign in support of police brutality, attacks on black athletes for taking a knee during The Star Spangled Banner, and so on all show that Trump and his Administration continue to meet this archetype, just like they did in 2016.
Archetype 6: appeals to a frustrated middle class
Fascism makes its strongest appeal to “a frustrated middle class” that is “suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation,” as well as being “frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
Trump’s biggest support comes from the rural middle class (who tend to be upper-middle class compared to everyone else in their area) who believe that the economic recessions since 2000 have hit them the hardest and that the recoveries largely helped urban, more liberal areas. They also resent the opportunities available in cities that are a siren song to their children, and they feel humiliated by terms like “flyover country” and by educational discrimination. They see immigrants and minorities who are willing to work longer hours for less money as a threat to their livelihoods. And when people from cities seek to relocate to small towns, Trump supporters resent them for bringing their money and their values with them.
This archetype clearly applied to Trump’s supporters in 2016 and it still does in 2020.
Archetype 7: xenophobic and conspiracy prone
Appeals to xenophobia provide fascism a way to create an “obsession with a plot,” be it national, international, or both. And when people are feeling besieged and “feel deprived of a clear social identity,” they fall back on nationalism to give them the sense of belonging because they were all born in the same nation.
As mentioned previously, Trump and his followers are xenophobic toward brown-skinned immigrants like those crossing the US-Mexico border or fleeing sectarian and political violence in Africa and the Middle East (such as Muslims). In this way the diversity of the United States that has been viewed as a strength for so long is now viewed as a weakness by Trump, and so his Administration has reduced the number of visas, refused to allow the spouses of people here on visas to work themselves, dramatically cut back both legal immigration and refugees, dehumanized brown-skinned immigrants as criminals, rapists, and terrorists, and even pulled back from international agreements on human rights and public health. Trump’s “birtherism,” the continued existence of New World Order and “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theories, and the rise of QAnon and it’s modern revamping of the centuries-old Jewish blood libel all show that there is a deep obsession with plots against America by Trump, his Administration, and his followers.
This was true in 2016, but is even more obviously true today.
Archetype 8: simultaneously too strong and too weak
In addition, fascists simultaneously “feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies” and yet be “convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies.”
While Trump himself (as well as his plutocratic cronies) are ostentatious in their wealth, they’re often held up by Trump’s supporters as examples of what they’d be like if they were billionaires, while people like George Soros, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other less Trump-supporting ultra-wealthy people are seen as weak for caring about others and overwhelmingly powerful because their companies have an outsized influence on the US (Microsoft for Gates and Amazon for Bezos). As mentioned above, the educational attainment of liberals and even suburban/exurban moderates is simultaneously humiliating to people who worked their whole lives with no more than a high school diploma (if that) and a source of wounded pride. The sheer number of weapons owned and carried by Trump supporters makes them feel that they can overwhelm liberals with force if need be, but if they tried to take cities by force they’d be crushed in the process.
This archetype only partly applied to Trump in 2016 because it applied more to his followers than him.
But with 3 1/2 years of the Trump Administration behind us, there’s no question it applies now.
Archetype 9: life is permanent warfare
The glorification of action for its own sake results in a belief that “life is permanent warfare,” where struggle is inherent to the human condition. And if conflict is inherent, Eco writes that pacifism becomes “trafficking with the enemy,” whether inside or outside the nation, and thus a form of treason.
In Trump’s world, if an immigrant has a job, that means an American doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants are leeches that drain resources that should go to Americans. The economy is a zero-sum game and so take what you can before someone takes it from you. The media are the “enemy of the people.” So are liberals, judges who rule against Administration policies, Democratic politicians and mayors, even generals who won’t bow and scrape to Trump himself. As for pacifism, I don’t know that Trump himself believes that it’s treasonous, but it’s certainly considered to be an exploitable weakness.
While Trump matches this archetype better in 2020 than he did in 2016, this remains only a partial match.
Archetype 10: popular elitism and contempt for the weak
Fascism results in a form of elitism where the leaders despise their underlings, and those underlings despise their inferiors, and so on down the hierarchy. This ultimately results in fascists feeling “contempt for the weak,” including not just the disabled and poverty-stricken, but also the public in general. After all, the public was so weak that they required a leader to rule them.
Trump thinks he’s above everyone else and that no one has the authority to stop him from doing anything he feels like. He’s said so explicitly on multiple occasions, and anyone who claims otherwise is singled out for abuse, fired, beset by pro-Trump trolls, or all three. He has fired everyone in his Administration who refused to swear a personal loyalty oath to him and there have been reports of his Cabinet secretaries (confirmed and acting both) abusing their underlings just as Trump abuses his.
Even the victims of COVID-19 have been treated with contempt because, if you were strong and healthy, you wouldn’t have been infected. And this contempt has been transferred from Trump to his followers who believe that kindness, compassion, empathy, etc. are signs of weakness. And Trump’s disdain for the public, including his own followers, is pretty obvious at this point.
This archetype was clearly matched in 2016 and the evidence, and the spread beyond Trump to his Administration and his followers, has become even clearer since.
Archetype 11: twin cults of heroism and death
Two cults, one of heroism and another of death, drive fascists to be superheroes and to die in a heroic fashion. Eco writes that the fastest way to achieve “supernatural happiness” is to die heroically. As a result of these cults, fascists are often quick to send others to their deaths as well.
Trump’s egotistical leadership style is that of someone who thinks he’s above and outside the law in the same way that superheroes usually are portrayed. The vigilante Punisher is often idolized by Trump supporters, and now we’re seeing an uptick in actual vigilantism like that claimed by the Kenosha shooter.
What is still unclear is whether this points toward a Republican death cult. Outside of stochastic terrorism there much evidence to support that aspect of this archetype. As a result, this archetype still only partially applies today, just as it was only partially applicable in 2016.
Archetype 12: machismo
The focus on strength, action, violence [“the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons”], and heroism results in a fascist transferring “his will to power to sexual matters” and a resulting “disdain for women and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
Trump was caught bragging of grabbing women by their genitals in 2016. He has had three wives and committed adultery on each of them multiple times. He believes himself to be the ultimate “alpha,” and his male followers agree. Recently Trump even asked the women attending a rally if they had their husbands’ permission to attend the rally. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and systematic misogyny are all part of Trump’s personality and have become part of this Administration too. For example, the Administration has overturned regulations that required birth control coverage for women and there have been ongoing attacks on access to women’s health.
And his homophobia, transphobia, and policies intended to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are obvious.
Trump matched this archetype in 2016 and continues to do so.
Archetype 13: devolving individual rights into a common will
Fascism ultimately eliminates individual rights in favor of rights for “The People,” with the Leader serving as the “interpreter” of the People’s “Common Will.” This is fundamentally anti-democratic, and Eco writes that “Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.”
Trump has claimed that only he can fix what ails the United States since 2016, and he’s claimed to be the one true voice of “real” Americans. He’s unConstitutaionlly ignored the will of Congress repeatedly, and he’s publicly mused on how he might delay the election or simply ignore the outcome of the election. He’s even attacked Republican Senators and Representatives who criticized him and even driven some of them out of Congress entirely. And in response to voters sending much more liberal Representatives into Congress in 2018, he attacked the voters in those districts as well as their new Representatives.
And as far as Trump is concerned, the only people who matter are real Americans, and only people who support him are real Americans.
Trump matched this archetype in 2016 and still does today.
Archetype 14: Orwellian Newspeak
Orwellian Newspeak, or the use of an “impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
If you’ve ever listened to Trump speak, you know he speaks in short sentences, uses simple words, and rambles a lot. He also uses dog whistles for racism, homophoba, Islamophobia, and more. This is part of why his supporters follow him – they don’t feel that he talks down to them by using “50 cent words.” So there’s no question that Trump himself uses an impoverished vocabulary.
What is still unclear whether Trump is doing it on purpose in order to keep his followers from critical thinking. Sometimes Trump’s actions seem to show intent, other times they don’t. On the other hand, if you’ve engaged with Trump supporters on social media, you’ll be aware of just how simple their reasoning is and how little critical reasoning they’re capable of at the moment.
Trump only partly matched this archetype in 2016, and he matches it better now than he did then, but I’m still not sure he fully matches it in 2020.
Overall, in 2016 Trump matched nine of Eco’s 14 archetypes and partially matched the other five. In 2020, Trump now matches 11 of the archetypes and partially matches the other three (and archetype 14 is a judgement call). That is another significant shift toward fascism in the last four years.
To summarize, Trump has shifted significantly toward fascism as defined by all three of these experts.
Today’s conclusion matches yesterday’s – this is not good.
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up with a summary of all seven definitions and some thoughts on where we go from here.
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