Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Is Trump a Fascist?

I have been reluctant to call Trump a fascist.  Why?  Seems too high falutin', too organized, too disciplined.  Sure, Trump has aspired to be an autocrat, a dictator, but not all authoritarians are fascists.  This may not matter to you, but this is my blog and I am using it to ponder this.  Maybe I will figure out how it matters by the time I get to the end of this post (semi-spews are supposed to be half baked).

Fascism is more than just dictatorship--there have been plenty of autocratic regimes, where there is not rule of law, but rule of one over many.  Indeed, Barbara Geddes (and others) have come up with at least three types--personalist, party, and military.  Note that none of these is "fascism."  There are lots of definitions of fascism, and, yes, some kind of racism tends to be associated with it, but one can be a racist autocrat and not be a fascist.  From what I remember from grad school and elsewhere, a key ingredient of fascism is not just nationalism and authoritarianism but domination of society.  Not all totalitarian regimes are fascist (see Stalinism or see North Korea today), but all fascist regimes are totalitarian.  That is, the entire political and social system is organized by the government to support one way--a person and/or a party. 

Trump's kleptocracy makes it look like an alliance with capital.  His xenophobic and white supremacy obviously matter, but thus far, there does not seem to be a plan or a desire to micromanage society.  He rules to benefit himself, not to perpetuate an ideology.

What does Trump believe?  He believes he is always right, that trade is a sucker's game, that people will always rip other people off, that the variety of ethnic stereotypes are true (Jews are clever, Black people are criminals, etc), that the rules don't apply to him.  None of this is an ideology about how society should be ordered by the state.

It has always wrankled me that folks call Trump a fascist.  Part of it may be my scholarly desire not to stretch concepts.  Part of it is that I don't want to overestimate Trump (although I probably underestimate him).  There is no grand plan besides enriching himself and trying to use the state to harm his enemies. 

Some of his supporters are fascists (Stephen Miller comes to mind), but I don't think that all of the folks supporting Trump fit into the same basket.  Well, they are a basket of deplorables, and it is a cult of personality (which causes people to think of totalitarian regimes of yore).  There is now state media (Fox and its ilk) of a kind, but it ain't the same thing as Goebbels and the rest.  Trump's degree of control and the fear he fosters is not the same.  Yes, immigrants have much to fear, and ICE is awful, but I am wary of historical parallels.  Yes, we have concentration camps in the US now, but they are not death camps.  The tragedy is real, we don't have to exaggerate how awful things are.  And I do fear for the future of democracy.  I just don't quite fear the rise of fascism.

I guess, in the end, that is my point--that we have much to fear, and we should focus on the real sources of misery than imagined ones.

So, I will keep calling Trump an autocrat, a kleptocrat, a wannabe dictator, but not a fascist. 

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