Donald Trump is no stranger to controversy. He’s always been a highly polarizing figure ever since his rise to national prominence as a business tycoon in the ‘80s. And this year isn’t the first time he’s considered running for president, but hopefully it’s his last. Most people treat Trump’s decisive rhetoric the same way one would treat their racist drunk uncle at Thanksgiving dinner — a roll of the eyes followed by “there he goes again, always saying crazy things.” But when you give that type of voice a national platform, it can’t be taken as a joke anymore. And Trump’s fascist tendencies are more terrifying than funny.
According to the famous British sociologist Michael Mann, fascism is marked by “the pursuit of a transcendent and [ethnic and political] cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism.” Nowadays, it’s usually used as a last-ditch and unoriginal insult toward political opponents, something spoken off the top of one’s head without any hint of hindsight.
However, when examining many of Trump’s speeches and gaffes from this year, it’s startling to see how they contain a fascist undercurrent.
The game of American politics is well-acquaintanced with dog whistles — the notion that a seemingly innocent phrase is actually coded to speak to or for an unseen audience. And in essence, that’s the game Trump’s been playing while campaigning for president. His support base is largely white, conservative, traditional and very, very angry at our ever-changing and diverse world. To them, Trump is the answer they’ve been looking for: somebody who’ll return America to the good ol’ days. Whether or not Trump likes it (or is even fully aware of it), his fascist, dog whistle rhetoric is getting the attention of very unlovely people (including the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke),believing that Trump’s cult of personality will save America , which is fascistic in nature — the idea that a single person will carry the political weight of a group wrongly obsessed with decline, victimhood and reinvigoration.
Even when it was reported that a few Bostonian men had beaten a homeless Hispanic man and were quoted as saying, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Trump’s initial response was that his followers are very passionate. The tenets of fascism support racial hierarchies and racial and ethnic purity on a national level. Trump’s unwillingness to immediately distance himself from those xenophobic attackers, his willingness to do away with Muslim Americans’ civil liberties by monitoring and closing mosques and his increasingly (and openly) racist supporters fall in line with fascism’s idea of keeping one’s nation pure. Trump’s presidential platform has become the platform for white nationalism — a type of fascism.
Trump’s foreign policy reflects this too. Like many in the anti-Obama crowd, Trump will criticize any part of Obama’s foreign policy while refusing to give much depth on his own. He believes that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese (because reasons), and demands Mexico pay for the giant border wall he wants to have built. He also wishes to deport the reportedly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America, but is pretty okay with invading either Mexico or the Middle East (again).
Under a fascist government, the state and the general sense of community, are everything. Anything that isn’t unified with the greater whole — which includes international neighbors — is deemed an enemy. And that’s the effect Trump is having with his words. He’s painting a picture of a hostile and un-American globe surrounding a weakened America that’s eating up its shrinking living space. Trump’s extreme nationalism and fascism go hand-in-hand here.
The most frightening aspect of Trump’s fascist tendencies lies in how he carries himself. He’s a multibillionaire who believes himself to be a non-elitist outsider. His businesses have filed for bankruptcy four times, yet he thinks he’ll have a wall along our southern border (to keep out all the “scary brown people,” of course) without any serious economic or human rights consequences. He’s a non-politician who sees himself as presidential material. Like many pro-fascists of the ‘20s and ‘30s, he eschews the graceful art of politics (which is the art of compromise) in favor of a black and white worldview. He vows to do away with empathy, complex solutions to complex problems and a diverse future in favor of “making America great again.” His words strike a dangerous chord with a fringe section of American politics by giving it an authentic mainstream voice. Trump’s very being is the opposite of rational political discourse.
Trump may not be an outright fascist, but his words and policies eerily echo the central tenets of fascism. The extreme nationalism and paramilitarism, the outright racism and xenophobia, the obsession over (white) America being in decline, the apathy for complex politics — it’s all there. If “the American Dream is dead,” it’ll truly die the day Donald Trump is elected president, and our American Nightmare begins.