When people on the Left or the Right don’t like somebody and often endeavour to shout them down they label that person a ‘fascist’ or a ‘Nazi’, but as more and more of his policy positions are made clear I have come to the realisation that not only is Trump a populist, he is actually a fascist. Some of his policy positions are not inherently fascistic but when put together into a programme for government this is the only conclusion that can be drawn.
A key theme of fascist governments is the increased role of the military. Expanding the military and increasing its budget has been a historical trend among fascist governments and Donald Trump has also echoed this sentiment on various occasions: in a speech in Mobile, Alabama Trump said that he would “rebuild the military”, and in a speech aboard the decommissioned USS Iowa, he said “we’re going to have a President respected by Putin, respected by Iran”, which is playing into his narrative of America not being taken seriously or having the country not respected by other countries. Militarism more broadly is venerated by fascist governments as well as the use of military force in relation to foreign policy. On the Iran deal Donald Trump has repeatedly stated his opposition to the deal calling it a “disgrace”; the use of the same disgusted tone by Adolf Hitler in reference to the Treaty of Versailles with the people who signed the treaty called “the November Criminals”.
The most obvious comparison between Trump and history’s other fascists is his scapegoating of ‘the constitutive other’, which in this case has been Muslims and Mexicans. At a recent campaign rally in Rochester, New Hampshire a man in the audience asked Trump how he was going to deal with the “Muslim problem” with the man also asserting that Obama was a Muslim; Trump was widely criticised for not correcting the man and instead saying that “we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things”.
Without laying it on too thick its worth pointing out that the infamous Nazi programme known as ‘The Final Solution’ actually had a longer name which was ‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Question’; tacitly accepting that there is a problem with Muslims, rather than an extremist interpretation of Islam, is using the same inflammatory rhetoric that Nazi leaders used to whip-up anti-Semitic attitudes. Calling Obama a Muslim, which Trump had done in the past, is another way that fascists in the past have attacked leaders they disagreed with as associating them with a group that society despises makes them less popular. Indeed Hitler spoke about how the Communist Party was “run by Jews” in reference to the Jewish heritage of influential figures like Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky; the propagation of insults based on people’s religious beliefs as being “contrary to American values”, which presidential candidate Ben Carson has said in the last few days, is another hallmark of this far-right ideology.
On the point about demonising Mexicans, Trump’s bombastic and racist comments have become well known when he called Mexicans “criminals and rapists”. Mussolini in Italy said similar things about Romani gypsies and actually expelled gypsies from Italy in 1926, and Hitler’s persecution of not just Jews but other groups like black people and people from Slavic countries, is not dissimilar to what Trump’s comments imply. However we don’t need to read into what he said because Trump, along with other GOP candidates like Ted Cruz, have now called on birthright citizenship to be abolished, which would result in millions of people being deprived on their citizenship and possibly being kicked out of the US.
In July 1933 the passage of the Nuremberg Laws stripped naturalised German Jews of their citizenship with this being expanded to black people and Romani gypsies in November of the same year, with classifications of ethnicities also a key provision of the law. Trump’s suggestion doesn’t actually deprive naturalised citizens of their citizenship, it’s actual more extreme as it deprives people of their citizenship if their parents themselves were not citizens even if the person in question was born in the US and has lived there all their life.
Trump’s social conservatism, although not as conservative as some others in the GOP, is also a cause of alarm. There are many tenants of social conservatism such as the veneration of the past and the use of historical methods to improve the future, anti-intellectualism in favour of nostalgic practices and the rejection of cultural vices. Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “make America great again”, which not only implies that the past was better than the present, but the slogan itself is the same as Ronald Reagan’s 1980 Presidential slogan. I don’t think it requires much proof that Trump is an anti-intellectual, but for us who require evidence to back up assertions: Trump thinks that giving vaccinations to children gives them autism and doesn’t believe in evolution. Despite his repeated marriages, Trump favours “traditional marriage” which deprives civil rights from the LGBT community in what could be described as ‘the rejection of cultural vices’, but this last one is a stretch as he also made money in the gambling industry so he probably doesn’t conform to that last aspect of social conservatism.
Social conservatism also plays a role in two other aspects: crime and punishment, and the role of the family in society. In 2000, when he identified as a Democrat, he came out in favour of the death penalty, which considering his apparent shift to the Right would seem likely to remain his current position. Donald Trump hasn’t yet addressed the perennial presidential election issue of “family values”, which is actually a euphemism for being social conservatism in regards to marriage and relationships more broadly, however his comments about immigration point to his views on the issue: “we’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go”. The focus on a strong or united family unit was also present in fascist countries in the 20th century with women expected to have many children, tax breaks given to assist couples with many children as well as making divorce very difficult.
I have tried very desperately to avoid making the comparison between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump lest I be accused of reductio ad Hitlerum, and by no means are the two similar in terms of the severity of what they say or the intention behind it, but there many views held by Trump and 20th century fascists that make the Republican frontrunner’s polling numbers scary. If Donald Trump is elected I do not think he will create concentration camps and commit a genocide, but one thing must be acknowledged: Trump is popular because people in the Republican base approve of his intolerant authoritarian style.
When people say that the GOP has moved to the Right they are correct but people are unwilling to accept that many in the GOP base would be perfectly happy to elect somebody who, based on a number of different policy positions, could easily be called a fascist. It doesn’t matter how many talk shows he goes on, and how many jokes he tells, if the media doesn’t call a spade a spade millions of people could end up voting for somebody that generations before would have identified as having fascistic tendencies. The GOP establishment may fail to stop Trump’s rise so all we can hope is that if he does become the GOP nominee journalists or the Democratic Party call him out.