Let’s pause for a moment and look at what we’ve learned over the last two days.
The table below shows the sources of all seven of the definitions I’ve analyzed, the number of criteria in each one, how many criteria were met in 2016 and my conclusions based on that number, and then the same for 2020.
|History of Fascism & Nazism class||10||10 fully met||Fascist||10 fully met||Fascist|
|Stanley G. Payne||13||9 fully met
4 partially met
|Not a fascist. Probably not even proto-fascist||11 fully met
2 partially met
|Roger Griffin||3||3 fully met||At least a proto-fascist, probably even fascist||3 fully met||Fascist|
|Kevin Passmore||10||6 fully met
1 partially met
1 not met
|Not a fascist. Probably a proto-fascist||9 fully met
1 partially met
|Emilio Gentile||10||1 fully met
5 partially met
4 not met
|Not even a proto-fascist||8 fully met
2 partially met
|Robert Paxton||6||2 fully met
3 partially met
1 not met
|Probably a proto-fascist and maybe moving toward fascist||6 fully met||Fascist|
|Umberto Eco||14||9 fully met
5 partially met
|Probably a fascist||11 fully met
3 partially met
In case your eyes can’t quite believe what you’re seeing, let me state it plainly and simply.
Donald Trump is a fascist. Trump’s Administration is a fascist government. Trump’s followers have radicalized into fascists themselves. And all seven definitions show it.
So what now?
What will happen between now and the election?
Let me start with a disclaimer – I don’t know what will happen. Anyone who says they know what will happen is lying. But my studies of the history of fascism and my observations of Trump provide me some ideas of what is likely, and it’s bad. Really bad. As in, “worse than anything in the history of the United States that I’m familiar with except for the Civil War” level of bad.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what I think will happen between now and the election.
First, Trump is going to continue to beat the drum of voting fraud non-stop. He believes himself to be the rightful ruler of America, a king who can do no wrong and who was placed above the people by divine right of his good breeding. He doesn’t accept that anyone has the authority or right to remove him, and certainly not voters who he feels treated him so unfairly during his first term. This is a man who has suggested that the US needs a “president for life” and who does not joke. So the only election that isn’t riddled with fraud is an election that has him winning, and by huge margins.
Second, Trump is going to push through a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg as fast as he can and to hell with any political consequences. He recognizes that the Supreme Court played an important role in George W. Bush winning the Presidency in 2000 and he’ll want a staunch loyalist in RBG’s seat before the election in case SCOTUS rulings are needed to help provide “legitimacy.”
Third, there will be more protests, and more violence, and Trump will stoke the flames. He thinks it will intimidate voters to stay away, and he might be right. He’ll also hope that liberals will respond to fascist violence with violence of their own, even in self-defense, because any violence is something that Trump can and will use for propaganda purposes.
Fourth, Trump will deploy thousands of federal agents to Portland, Seattle, and New York City, as well as any other “anarchist jurisdiction” he can find. Don’t be surprised if he declares an insurrection and tries to deploy the military or nationalize the various state National Guards. Anything he can use as a pretext to limit voting.
Fifth, Trump will lie ever more brazenly as we get closer to the election, and his lies will be even less grounded in reality than they usually are. But his followers will either ignore the lies or accept them as truths.
And I’m sure there’s more I’m just not thinking of at the moment.
What happens if Biden wins?
First, it doesn’t matter how much of a landslide Biden wins by, Trump is not going to concede defeat. He’ll claim widespread fraud and a stolen election no matter how badly he loses. If Trump has to be hauled physically out of the White House by the Secret Service and a group of SEALs he’ll be screaming the whole time that he actually won the election and that he’s the true President.
Second, millions of Trump’s followers will believe his fraud claims and believe that he won. Trump and his Administration and proxies have been prepping the country for accusations of a stolen election for months now, and as a result, millions of his followers will claim, however large the loss is, that Trump actually won the election. The larger the loss, the fewer the number of followers who will believe Trump, but there will always be some. And when we’re talking about a third of registered voters, “some” is still likely to be millions of Americans.
Third, a significant number of those followers who believe Trump will be willing to resort to the threat of violence – open-carry firearms, clubs, and the like – as well as actual violence to intimidate Biden supporters into backing down and not pushing for the removal of Trump. Intimidation only works if the threat of violence is real – anything else is a bluff. As a result, there will be actual violence, and the chance of some of Biden’s supporters being murdered by Trump supporters is, in my opinion, 100%. The questions aren’t if and where, it’s “how many” and “how widespread.”
Fourth, even against intimidation and actual street violence, the only way Biden gets into the White House is with mass protests standing up against that violence. And by “mass protests,” I’m talking national strikes, tens of millions of people walking off their jobs every single day until Biden is inaugurated. Tens of millions of people marching every single day in every state, city, and town across the nation, and doing so knowing full well that they might get beaten, stabbed, shot, or killed by Trump supporters and/or by the police themselves. And the darker your skin or the “gayer” your appearance and actions, the more likely it is you’ll be singled out for violence.
Fifth, if you’re openly gay, a minority, have publicly supported Biden, or have marched against police brutality and for racial justice in a way that can be tracked back to you via your photo or name, you will be targeted at home and at work for harassment or violence. Expect to be pulled over for minor infractions that others would not be. Be prepared to deal with vandalism, bricks through windows, power or phone cut off (most breaker boxes are on the outside of homes, for example), etc. And don’t assume that the police will help you. Whether they do or not may be dependent on the dispatched officer and the jurisdiction you live in.
What happens if Trump “wins” or wins
The best guidance I have come up with for if Trump wins is this: no government can stand without the consent of the governed. So the only thing to do is for the majority of Americans to deny Trump their consent to be governed by a fascist.
There are only two ways to do this. The first and preferred way is mass protests, but protests even larger in scale than if Biden wins. Protests by everyone who voted for Biden, everyone who voted third party, and everyone who sat home instead of voting. Protests so large and sustained that the government is literally unable to function until Trump resigns. Protests so large that the fascists realize they are in a minority and cannot win against such numbers. Protests the like of which the United States has never seen in its history.
The problem is that protests like this are going to be hard to organize immediately after a Trump win, and there will be much more pushback from Trump’s followers. And, because a Trump win will give his supporters some legitimacy (how much depends on whether he wins just the Electoral College or if he wins the popular vote too), the pushback will be stronger.
Which means that protests on the scale of a national strike are going to have to wait for some kind of catalyzing event other than the election. And that means a Trump win has the US living under a fascist dictatorship for at least a little while. Marching against the continued attacks on the rule of law, American values, the US Constitution, and even just common decency. Doing your best to protect those less privileged than you
The second way is the only way left if mass protests aren’t enough to drive Trump from office – violence. Whether that’s a coup organized by the military or descent into civil war or something else entirely I don’t know. I do know that any secession by liberal states or a civil war is likely to be far messier than the Civil War was because the battle lines won’t be so neat as the Mason-Dixon line. The battle lines this time would literally be between individual states, counties, towns, neighborhoods, and neighbors.
The best way to avoid this worst of all possible outcomes is to vote Trump out in numbers large enough that allegations of fraud are obvious lies and all but his most militant followers are forced to accept defeat.
Recommendations either way
First, plan as if you’re facing a large-scale natural disaster like wildfires or earthquakes. The basics are having food and water for several days without power (so you can’t rely on frozen foods), having a “go-bag” packed with the essentials including vital documents, having multiple escape routes, and a safe place or two you can retreat to, and having a safe place in your home to retreat to if escape is not an option. For a far more thorough list developed by experts, here’s a link to CalFire’s wildfire preparedness site and the California Earthquake Authority’s preparedness guides, but I’m sure there are others. But unlike fast-moving natural disasters, fascists are people who can think around barriers, so if you haven’t already made your home defensible for some other reason, there’s not much point doing so now.
Second, plan for not having immediate access to your bank accounts. This means having enough cash on hand to get from your home to wherever you are planning to escape to and still have some in reserve.
And third, as uncomfortable as the conversations will be, talk about your plans with your partner, older children, and whomever owns the safe place to which you plan to retreat. You won’t have time to argue or debate your plan if the fascists have come to your home or place of business with clubs or guns. And the higher profile you are in your support for Biden and your liberal values, the more likely it is you’ll be targeted.
I hope I’m being paranoid here. I hope I’m overreacting and nothing like this happens. In ten years I hope to look back on this and laugh at how out of touch these recommendations seem in hindsight. But hope is not a plan, and it’s far safer for you and your family to have a plan and not need it than to have hope and then wish you’d had a plan.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I am overreacting in part because I’m not the only person who sees the threat. Here are a bunch of other people screaming into the ether about how we have to take this seriously.
- Survivors of authoritarianism warn that what’s happening in the US now is exactly how it happened in their original home countries.
- How to prepare for Trump to stage a coup in order to stay in office
- The Transition Integrity Project’s transition “war games” showed similar concerns to what I wrote.
When the Democratic and Republican experts (former governors, members of Congress, generals, etc) say that this is a real possibility, it’s fair to say that I’m probably not overreacting.
This is essentially the situation we’re in right now. We the People are riding a bus on a freeway, Trump is the driver and has sped by every other exit at 120 MPH. One third of the passengers are freaking out and trying to get him to slow down, another third are adrenaline junkies and cheering him on loudly enough that the pleas to slow down are being drowned out, and the last third of the passengers are desperately pretending nothing is happening. And all the while, a one person who knows the bridge is out ahead is desperately trying to wrestle away control of the wheel before the bus passes the last exit and literally everyone is telling that person to sit down and not make things worse.
We the people are about to live through a hell that we haven’t experienced since the Civil War. The country is facing a situation where the great-grandchildren, grandchildren, and even in some cases the children of the people who last defeated fascism have chosen to become fascists themselves, As a result they are not going to be inclined to listen to you if you call them “fascists” or “Nazis.” They simply aren’t going to accept that they have become the very enemy that their ancestors fought and died in Europe and the Pacific in order to defeat. They can’t accept that they have become an enemy of not just American values, but of basic human decency. They will deflect when they can and deny when they have to, but no matter how well researched and supported your argument is, they will never accept that their political opinions and actions are that of fascists.
We essentially have one chance left to divert the United States from becoming Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany, and it’s the run up to the electon on November 3, 2020 and, assuming Biden wins, the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021.
Let’s make it count, because if it doesn’t matter today, it never will again.