Much has been made of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s inability to explain the difference between a Democrat and a socialist. It was an obvious question, considering that her main opposition for the Democratic nomination has been self-described socialist Bernie Sanders. It went a long way to revealing Clinton’s shallowness and exposing the unsettling squishiness of the Democratic agenda.
But now it’s time to put a similar question to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump: What is the difference between fascism and whatever you’re peddling, which has come to be called trumpism.
There are a number of definitions: Says a Hill article, Trumpism has four components: Celebrity,
nativism, the outsider and populism. The Urban Dictionary calls it, “The belief system that encourages abrasive, pretentious, narcissistic behavior as the way to achieving money, fame and power. A man is referred to as a Trumper and the female a Trumpet. The Guardian defines it: “Trumpism is not a program or an ideology. It is an attitude or pose that feeds off of, and then reinforces, widespread anger and alienation.” I could go on.
A true enough. But I think Trumpism shares some frightening similarities to fascism.
Merriam-Webster says fascism is “a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government.” The Free Dictionary says it is “A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression ofthe opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.”
No, not completely identical. But the part about “belligerent nationalism and racism” is entirely accurate. As far as “centralization of authority,” Trump has given no indication that he understands the tripartite nature of our government.
As with other conservatives, there’s no deference to Congress or, as his recent goofy insistence that a “Mexican” judge cannot be fair to him in his Trump University case, he’s got no concept of an independent, objective judiciary. His promises are typically couched in the first person singular, such as “I will build a great wall. I will make Mexico pay for it.” No he won’t; not unless he can persuade Congress to authorize and pay for it and not unless he can clear any legal challenges that might be thrown in his path in a court of law. I have a good hunch that as President Trump, he would issue more executive orders than President Barack Obama.
It’s arguable about where he stands on the role of “a capitalist economy by centralization of authority under a dictator.” But he rarely tempers his talk about, for example, how he (again) would cancel treaties and trade agreements not to his liking. Hey, Don, it takes an act of Congress. He claims that he would be free of corporate influence in his actions as president, yet he brags about how he has paid very, very smart people to do exactly that–manipulate government to his own ends. Once in office, you can imagine he would do that in spades, Congress and everyone else be damned.
To ask whether his administration would “allow no disagreement,” to ask the question is to answer it.
Every time he opens his mouth, it’s clear that he is an authoritarian personality run amok. One can argue that the the Twentieth Century despots such as Hitler, Lenin and Mussolini exhibited so many of the personality disorders exhibited by Trump: Overwhelming and unrealistic confidence in the ability to single-handedly make earth-shattering changes; an ego that knows no bounds; thin-skinned temperament that tolerates no disagreement. Etc.
Trump is a truly frightening candidate, and although I agree with deep-seated and legitimate worries about the ride that Clinton would take America on (e.g. Ron Grossman’s superb analysis in the Chicago Tribune), I also think about history. How could the Germans ever hand over power to a Hitler? How frustrated and hopeless must a nation be to rationalize turning to a megalomaniac and unbalanced man like Trump? We’re about to find out.
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