Quantcast
Connect with us

Robert Reich explains why he was hesitant to call Trump a fascist — but isn’t any more

Published

on

- Commentary

I’ve been reluctant to use the  “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

ADVERTISEMENT

Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

ADVERTISEMENT

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”

The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.

Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying“people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.

In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.

ADVERTISEMENT

Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.

Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)

Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.

It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.

ADVERTISEMENT

 

This article first appeared at RobertReich.org


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Biden beats Trump to the punch with massive ‘Buy American’ spending package — and GOP allies are fuming

Published

on

Some of President Donald Trump's "economic nationalist" allies are furious that Joe Biden beat the White House to the punch with a "Buy American" policy push.

The president's former chief strategist Steve Bannon told the Washington Post's Jeff Stein that Biden's $300 billion domestic spending proposal was "very smart," and said the likely Democratic nominee had scored a win.

"The campaign and White House have been caught flat-footed," Bannon said. "Biden has very smart people around him, particularly on the economic side."

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Fox News pundit: Tax returns ruling against Trump is ‘a win for him’ and ‘will help the president’

Published

on

Fox News pundit Katie Pavlich argued on Thursday that a Supreme Court ruling which opened the door for prosecutors to obtain Donald Trump's tax returns is actually "a win" for the president.

Pavlich made the remarks after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can request the president's tax records in a public corruption case.

"I think it's a win and a little bit of a loss for President Trump," Pavlich explained. "In the sense that he will now have to deal with a number of these issues and other presidents in the future will as well, whether they are valid requests for information or not and whether they are being made for political for reasons or for valid criminal investigations."

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump melts down on Twitter after his own Supreme Court nominees rebuke him on financial cases

Published

on

On Thursday, following the 7-2 rulings from the Supreme Court rejecting President Donald Trump's claims of absolute immunity in the New York tax returns and House financial oversight cases, the president took to Twitter to complain.

In the thread, Trump whined that he was being unfairly targeted by the Supreme Court decisions — which were joined by the two justices he appointed — and claimed he was a victim of "prosecutorial misconduct."

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAIGHT...and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear....

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image