Trump’s Authoritarian Rhetoric Displays Classic Fascist Tone
Finally, major news organizations are calling Trump’s extreme positions and language what it is. Ark Valley Voice has been for months.
This country has been listening to Donald J. Trump since his first, then deemed improbable, bid for the White House in 2015. Back then most of what he said seemed so ridiculous, so impossible in this oldest of the world’s democracies, that his claims and positions were dismissed.
During his term as president (2017-2020), there were people and guardrails around most of his outrageous behavior. After his response to the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, after his demands for a southern border wall, and deportation of immigrants, even as he cozied up to Vladimir Putin and flamed international unrest with his anti-Muslim rhetoric … we still knew that the rule of law held. The checks and balances were in place. The military would never allow itself to be ordered to attack Americans.
Yes, the man incited his crowd of admirers to attack the mainstream news media. Yes, he advocated violence against anyone who disagreed with him, as well as his opponent (the chants of “Lock Her Up” haven’t been repeated about him, but with 91 indictments filed against him in four criminal counts, they would surely be more applicable).
But after he lost his second bid for the presidency in 2020 and staged a violent insurrection to attempt to stay in power — scholars, Democrats, and Republicans who didn’t support Trump began to point out Trump’s intense leanings to authoritarian forms of government. Heavens, he surely reiterated his love for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, his admiration for Putin, and his approval that Chinese President Xi Jinping was elected for life.
Now that he’s in his third presidential bid, it is no longer possible for sane defenders of this democracy to ignore Trump’s increasingly extreme speeches and demands. In fact, three-fourths of Americans are now worried that the seemingly unstoppable Trump’s candidacy for the 2024 Republican nomination threatens this democracy.
At campaign stops his words are increasingly violent, increasingly whiny that he and his supporters are being victimized by — the rest of us. There’s a reason for that, and it’s fascism.
The Hallmarks of Fascism
By way of a reminder, historians tell us that these are some of the key marks of a population of people, or a government tipping toward authoritarianism, AKA “fascist-sounding” territory:
- Hypernationalism — where the followers claim extreme allegiance to their definition of “patriotism”, rejecting globalism, anything they define as “foreign”, or anyone else’s version of citizenship other than theirs.
- A Cult of Personality — in which extreme loyalty to the person or the platform of that leader is required.
- A sense of victimhood — a belief system encouraged by the cult leader that he and his followers have somehow been wronged and require retribution.
- A redefinition of what is “true” — truth for the followers is defined by the cult leader or his ruling group. The spreading of disinformation is usually combined with attacks on news media.
- The justification of violence — Based on hypernationalism, the cult leader, and this sense of victimhood, fascist followers justify all manner of violence in the name of their own rights as senior to any others.
- Obliteration of the norms of behavior — a steady deterioration of civil behavior and actions, and the normalization of not just unseemly (crazy-talk) behavior, but of violence.
- The targeting and dehumanization of groups of people, who are deemed to be “other”‘ — or not like us. This dehumanizing is used to justify attacks on minorities, LGBTQ+, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim populations.
- Minimization of and the setting aside of all or parts of the Rule of Law — departing from actual democracy, the leader and his followers set aside law, tradition, and accepted process for the whims of the leader, and the plans of the behind-the-scenes- power brokers.
- Consolidation of all power and authority — into a single person or office.
Combine all of these and what do you get? A population of formerly free citizens who live in fear. It goes without saying that this is not democracy.
“War” being the most extreme polarization, Trump is working on that. He has declared that the greatest threat he sees is domestic — meaning the rest of us who don’t agree with him. He is purposely fueling his followers’ taste for what they see as a coming civil war.
It is possible that Gen X and Gen Z and whatever it is the next generation is being called aren’t familiar with the history of the mid-20th century. We need them to understand what this is.
In a 1948 speech to the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill, who led Britain through World War II, paraphrased an original comment by George Santayana, saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
Those who study this, and finally the news media covering his actions, reveal that Trump has shown all the hallmarks of the kind of fascism that arose in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, under Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini. The resulting World War killed more than 65 million people; including many millions of ordinary civilians.
These days, Trump is on the record as admiring two other dictators: Victor Orbán of Hungary and Recep Erdoğan of Turkey.
Trump and his followers are on the record as seeking to dismantle key elements of democracy, as outlined in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 Plan:
- They have announced they want to use the Department of Justice to take vengeance on his political rivals. “I am your retribution,” Trump said when he announced his third bid for the presidency.
- Trump has said out loud that he wants to get rid of big parts of the United States Constitution (that’s the Rule of Law we live by and the Constitution to which we all swear loyalty) and consolidate power into the presidency — and presumably loyalty as well.
- Lately, Trump has announced that he wants to declare martial law and deploy the U.S. Military (which is a civilian-controlled military that fights foreign wars and defends the country against foreign invaders) against — you guessed it – the rest of us.
- In the past few days, Trump has said that once back in power, he’ll get rid of the Affordable Care Healthcare program, leaving many millions without health insurance. Since he has never developed any other alternative, and indeed Republicans appear disinterested in anything resembling human health other than being anti-abortion (which is healthcare) this isn’t surprising.
- He and his followers say he’ll also dismantle the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation …. you get the idea.
This is a recipe for not just chaos –but the destruction of democracy.
“Trump is Trump. He has no particular philosophy,” said former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (a Republican who served in former President Barack Obama’s cabinet). He went on to call Trump’s campaign speeches, designed to stoke growing polarization as “damn dangerous.”
The religious right — described as the Evangelical right — appears increasingly willing to go along with a man who has been criminally-indicted for everything from election fraud to insurrection and is described as bigoted, terminally unfaithful, already convicted of rape, and tax fraud. He has claimed his right to “vengeance and retribution” and spouts anger and hatred as readily as the rest of us say “please” and “thank you.”
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, a recent survey* recorded that 38 percent of Americans support having a president “willing to break some rule” to “set things right”. Among Evangelicals and Republicans, that number is even higher.
In a recent New York Times article, Texas A&M University Professor Jennifer Mercieca, noted that Trump’s language is being used as a weapon “to chip away at democratic norms.”
She added: “Normally, a president would use war rhetoric to prepare a nation for war against another nation. Donald Trump used war rhetoric domestically.”
*Editor’s Note: AVV will be examining this report in more detail in the coming days.