Tom Nichols has a great piece in The Atlantic in which he comes around to the idea that Donal Trump is a literal fascist. I have long thought that Trump is a textbook fascist—he has a cult of personality around him, he pines for an imagined past, and he is perfectly fine with using the power of government to punish his enemies. That America did not fall under the first Trump “administration” was due to the fact that Trump is also profoundly lazy and he had some guardrails around him. A second Trump term would still see a lazy Trump, but he would be empowered by a burgeoning movement of radical right-wing elements that have openly declared their intention to turn America into a one-party police theocracy. As Nichols defines fascism:
Fascism is not mere oppression. It is a more holistic ideology that elevates the state over the individual (except for a sole leader, around whom there is a cult of personality), glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances. It asserts that all public activity should serve the regime, and that all power must be gathered in the fist of the leader and exercised only by his party.
That is the Trump ideology (such as it exists) in a nutshell. Trump is playing from the same old playbook that every fascist and caudillo has since time immemorial. And sadly, it is a playbook that works.
Where I disagree with Nichols is here:
But here I want to caution my fellow citizens. Trump, whether from intention or stupidity or fear, has identified himself as a fascist under almost any reasonable definition of the word. But although he leads the angry and resentful GOP, he has not created a coherent, disciplined, and effective movement. (Consider his party’s entropic behavior in Congress.) He is also constrained by circumstance: The country is not in disarray, or at war, or in an economic collapse. Although some of Trump’s most ardent voters support his blood-and-soil rhetoric, millions of others have no connection to that agenda. Some are unaware; others are in denial. And many of those voters are receptive to his message only because they have been bludgeoned by right-wing propaganda into irrationality and panic. Even many officials in the current GOP, that supine and useless husk of an institution, do not share Trump’s ambitions.
I have long argued for confronting Trump’s voters with his offenses against our government and our Constitution. The contest between an aspiring fascist and a coalition of prodemocracy forces is even clearer now. But deploy the word fascist with care; many of our fellow Americans, despite their morally abysmal choice to support Trump, are not fascists.
This is technically true—most Trump supporters might not be in favor of turning America into an anti-democratic police state. But that also does not matter in the slightest.
When the Nazis rose to power, the German people did not vote for crematoria and conquest. But they got both anyway. Most Germans were not ardent Nazis, but the Nazis controlled Germany anyway. The fact that most GOP voters are not on board with a fascist America means very little. Enough are, and history has shown time and time again that an illiberal and dangerous minority is all it takes to transform a society into a totalitarian hellhole. Anyone who supports Donald Trump is voting to end American democracy. Period. Whether they do so out of ignorance or malice does not make anything more than an academic difference.
I disagree that calling Trump what he is is dangerous. The threat that Trump poses is enhanced by euphemizing his conduct and treating him like just another political sideshow. In 2016 the media breathlessly covered his every move because it goosed the ratings. The results were Trump magnifying his bullshit personal “brand” to the Oval Office and the near destruction of this country. And today, the media is still too cowardly to openly speak the truth. The media still lavishes coverage on Trump, still tends to treat him like a normal candidate rather than an abject fascist. Trying to hide the truth will not serve this country’s interests.
We cannot afford another four years of Trump, because if he gets power again he will ensure that he remains in power for the rest of his life. There will be no guardrails, no people who will tell Trump no, no limits on what Trump will do. The best outcome we can hope for is what amounts to a civil war or coup. We cannot afford this. It might be that many of Trump’s supporters do not call themselves fascists, but at the end of the day they are enabling it. We can either grapple with that fact honestly and boldly or we can risk watching this country fall. I, for one, am tired of the euphemisms. Trump is a wanna-be dictator, a fascist, a totalitarian. He may be a stupid, unstable, and lazy dictator, but that makes him potentially more dangerous, not less.