The Ruling Party is Fascist

The ruling party of the United States is assembling a fascist regime. The American people must prevent them from establishing a fascist order.

A powerful segment of the party that controls the executive and legislative branches of the federal government is stepping from authoritarian leaning right-wing into actual fascist territory. To recognize the danger we should understand what fascism specifically has meant, and also recognize that fascism might not look like it used to.

As I have written in a previous article, fascism in history is a particular kind of violent authoritarianism:

It promises a radical transformation of society based on particular national and racial symbols, mass mobilization against internal and external enemies, the command of a charismatic leader who gained his position through struggle, and a violent vanguard. Fascists’ enemies are those they blame for weakening their concept of the nation. They typically say the nation is weakened by class conflict associated with socialists, by individualism associated with liberals, and by internationalism associated with both. Fascist movements find some combination of political minorities to target, whether they be Slavic, Jewish, black, or LGBT people. Fascists usually present their nation or race as the victim of a serious injustice that can be redeemed through some kind of conquest. Fascism can be described, as Hitler did, as National Socialism. The word “national” is an important modifier, as fascist solidarity is neither rooted in economic class nor international in nature, but is instead exclusively national and designed to cut across class lines and embrace hierarchy. In power, fascists keep intact the economic elites whose politics and ethnicity they can accept, and make few changes to property relations.

Under fascism, the individual has no liberties and is totally subordinate to the dominant community. Some individuals will have the opportunity to substitute their lost liberty with a sense of personal empowerment gained by participating in fascist violence and domination. For others, the role of enemy is assigned to them. With a totalitarian spirit, fascism seeks to invade and control spaces of private activity that it does not suppress. Typically it prescribes relatively strict roles for men and women of the nation. Always, fascism is against democratic government, and it only uses parliamentarians as allies when they are useful in consolidating power. Usually passion and will, especially as embodied by the leader, are emphasized over intellect and reason. Despite its propaganda of order and precision, fascism is disorderly and violent.

Fascism goes beyond the authoritarian nationalism that is taking over countries across Europe, supported by the authoritarian nationalist Putin. It goes beyond putting more rules on people in a project of strengthening the nation according to a set of chosen traditions. Trump has reflected the style of fascism since he began his campaign, and he has had friendly relations with fascists. Yet at some point his regime crossed a tipping point. It may be tempting to shrug it all off as a big con job and label it kleptocracy – yet fascists in history looted their way across Europe as they killed.

Three points mark the fascist progression. The rulers want the broad population mobilized, not merely passively accepting the status quo. There is a kind of official lawlessness where the ruler sets the rules without regard to administrative procedures or precedent. Political leaders openly express racist views in a way that was previously unacceptable.

Fascists seek to mobilize a broad segment of the population against internal and external enemies. Historically this was accomplished through rallies and propaganda, as well as an official party paramilitary force. The uniformed party militants might not be seen today, but perhaps they were more of a relic of interwar Europe’s fondness for military formation than a unique sign of fascism. The role of far-right groups in prosecuting the J20 Inauguration Day protesters does provide a taste of the party enforcers: a nominally private and clearly biased force providing information to law enforcement without the limited restraints that government agents are supposed to operate under.

However, mobilization of the population takes other forms today. The fascist leader is not a former soldier with a paramilitary group, but a reality television star with an outsized media presence. His followers are not merely sitting in their homes grumbling at state television but are actively involved in shaping the landscape of discussion by joining in campaigns of outrage on social media. It is a lower commitment than marching in uniform and assaulting people, but it is part of the process. It should be clear by now that creating a social media outrage can trigger harassment and lead to death threats. Without the official violent street gangs that have been common to fascist movements in the twentieth century, the administrative style of fascism may not appear to be as dangerous. Yet its violence is expressed in different ways and needs to be dealt with in different ways.

While laws are often repressive, an administration that tries to take the law seriously is at least somewhat restrained it what it can do to people. For authoritarians in general, but certainly for fascists, rules are dictated from the top. The Trump administration decided, without any legal requirement that they do so, to separate families crossing the border and deny them contact with one another. They alternately say that it is right to do so, and deny that it was them who made the decision to do so, giving a series of contradictory talking points for supporters to use.

Joe Arpaio, a sheriff who actually called the prison camps his office operated “concentration camps,” was convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order on racial profiling. Trump pardoned him quickly, showing that courts will have little power over officers who go after people of color.

Leaders of the Republican Party are making little effort to disavow actual fascists, and are sometimes promoting them. The rot starts from the top and seems to have resulted in few official consequences. President Trump endorsed Senate candidate Corey Stewart, a neo-Confederate with ties to the organizer of the violent Unite the Right rally. Stephen Miller, a past associate of white nationalist Richard Spencer, was central in creating the heinous policy of breaking apart families of refugees and preventing them from contacting each other. Iowa Congressman Steve King shared propaganda from an open neo-Nazi. King was among five Republican congressmen scheduled to meet in the Czech Republic with a far-right party, a prominent member of which said Jews, gays, and Roma should be killed. The meeting did not happen, reportedly because of budget debates in Congress.

The accelerating dehumanization of designated enemies is also alarming. The obvious racism that was on display when candidate Trump associated Mexicans with rapists overshadowed an even more sinister element of his remark. They weren’t simply crossing the border, they were being “sent.” Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” One of the categories of people being sent was rapists. Here was not only a disgusting bigoted caricature of people crossing the border, but the hint of of a broader conspiracy to hurt the American people.

Trump continues to associate undocumented people with violent crime, especially associating undocumented immigrants from Spanish speaking countries with gang violence. A frightened refugee from Central America is supposed to be viewed as an MS-13 criminal ready to do the shocking acts of violence that official pronouncements describe in detail. For the Trump supporter, it is easier to accept the cages when anybody inside them is likely a dangerous criminal.

Trump himself is not averse to taking innocent lives. As a candidate he openly stated that killing the families of terrorists was a good idea before public outcry got him to walk back his remarks. As president, he reportedly asked officials why they would delay a strike to avoid killing civilians. It is telling that a historical president he praises is Andrew Jackson, who is known for initiating the death march of Native Americans called the Trail of Tears.

Many of the Trump supporters who accept concentration camps may not wish to see anybody killed for crossing a border, but they may just want them to go away – to have someone remove them from society without much thought to what happens to them afterward. The process of deportation was part of Nazi and Soviet crimes against humanity. Both would take people from their communities to perform hard labor under brutal conditions, and the Nazis also brought them to killing facilities, as being “deported to the east” meant almost certain death for Jews.

The war mentality pervades the Trump camp. The photographs and boasts coming from the Singapore Summit cannot hide the fact that it was Trump himself threatening to incinerate millions of people if he did not get the praise and spectacle he expected, bringing war with North Korea closer than any recent president. He stirs up hostility against friendly neighbors Mexico and Canada. He has already deployed troops to the southern border to further militarize the repression of undocumented people coming into the US.

Trump did not need an emergency situation to establish the apparatus of oppression, as it was already created in a previous atmosphere of emergency. Following the September 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was created, as was the agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which goes into American communities to capture people who do not have their papers in order. Militarized policing and mass incarceration, which the Border Patrol and immigrant detention centers are part of, have been problems for a long time. Trump is drawing from the worst of American history and tapping into resources and traditions with dangerous potential for repressive use, to assemble a fascist order.

Americans have an obligation to resist the spread of fascism whether by speaking to peers, speaking to the public, engaging in confrontational civil disobedience, donating time or money to assist people targeted by fascism, boosting legislative opposition, defending communities from violence, or any other action that prevents fascism from sinking its roots into American society and spreading out to ruin lives.

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