Trigger Warning: Contains references to anti-semitism, racism, violence.
Since Donald Trump was sworn into office in 2016, many critics have called him a fascist. The word can seem an exaggeration, a cheap and tired shot from the far left aimed at a figure they dislike.
But after the attempted siege of the U.S capitol by Trump supporters last week, it may be time for the word ‘fascist’ to go mainstream when describing the outgoing President.
After all, Trump incited the attempted coup in order to re-install his own unelected government.
What do you call that? Selfish, maniacal, egotistic? Well, yes. Typical characteristics of a fascist leader.
But the most vocal and popular critics of Donald Trump don’t draw that political conclusion. They maintain a more popular criticism: that Trump is a madman, a psycho, a nutbar, a lunatic, unstable, crazy.
In the MAGA hat and confederate flag laden wake of the Capitol hill attack, President-elect Joe Biden labeled Trump as “unfit to serve as President,” a statement he’s reiterated throughout his campaign.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump a “deranged, unhinged, dangerous president.” A poignant and poetic analysis of Trump’s wild characteristics, but a tired one.
Trump is all of these things — deranged, unhinged, unfit — but these labels fall short of identifying what he really believes and wants.
What makes a fascist a fascist?
Fascism is difficult to define, which is part of its strength.
There are very few fascists who call themselves fascists. Benito Mussolini did, but there’s no record of Hitler using the term for himself. Fascism rarely defines itself, but is something that must be identified.
Instability. Fascists leaders tend to arise out democracies they deem unstable, or worse, make unstable.
Destabilizing a democracy includes getting any political opponents out of the way, inciting violence, and sewing distrust in the democratic process.
Like fascists in history, Trump has turned on former allies who are not blindly loyal to him. And like a fascists followers, the mob at Capitol hill was prepared to execute those former allies and any political opponents who stood in the way of their leaders power.
With zipties, bombs, guns, and a gallows.
Trump himself may seem unstable, but the democracy he’s supposed to run is the thing with screws loose. To his supporters, Trump is as solid as a confederate monument in Alabama — not budging.
Scapegoating and conspiracies. Weather it’s the anti-semitic scapegoating in 1930’s Germany, or the fear of Communists in Francoist Spain, fascist leaders always have a mysterious enemy. A justification for their reign.
Like Hitler’s Reichstag fire, which he blamed on Polish Jews, Trump has blamed the Capitol attack on “Antifa people.”
The Q-Anon conspiracy theory, which Trump has helped accelerate, is another example of this scapegoating. These conspiracies always follow dirty paths to terrifying conclusions.
We now know there were members of the Trump mob donning anti-semitic iconography including shirts reading “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWE” meaning “six million wasn’t enough.”
By not condemning these anti-semites, Trump invites them into his mob. At the attack we saw Confederate flags next to Union flags and Gadsden flags, but the historical ignorance of these people doesn’t matter to Trump. Nor does their racism, hatred, and violence.
What matters is they stand behind Trump.
What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man. What’s it all for? The conspiracies, the scapegoating, the destabilizing of democracy, this is how fascists behave, but what do they believe?
If there’s one thing every fascist believes, it’s their man. And it is always a man.
A strong, military minded, “law and order” sort of man. The sort of man who should keep running the country. If supporters have to “fight like hell” to keep him there, so be it, he’s their man after all.
The bottom line is this: Trump wants to stay in power despite losing an election. Trump wants to rule against the will of the people. Trump wants to remain in the highest office, perhaps indefinitely.
This behavior can be labeled as deranged, whacky, or coo-coo-bananas. It can also be identified as what it is: fascism.
As history digests this President, we’ll see which criticism holds up, and which words stick to him and his followers.