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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/19/20

How Trump Exploited The Legal Infrastructure To Advance Fascism In America

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This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

The debate over whether Donald Trump is a fascist is no longer confined to a narrow segment of the far left. It is now out in the open. Even mainstream columnists like the New York Times' Michelle Goldberg and the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor and influential Democratic politicians, such as Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, have come to use the "F" word to describe our 45th commander in chief.

Although it is an emotionally loaded and often misused term, fascism is as real today as a political and cultural force, a set of core beliefs, and a mode of governance as it was when Benito Mussolini founded the Italian Fascist Party in 1919 and declared himself dictator six years later.

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Nor is fascism a foreign phenomenon restricted to South American banana republics or failed European states. As University of London professor Sarah Churchwell explained in a June 22 essay published in the New York Review of Books, fascism has deep roots in the United States, spanning the decades from the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s to the rise of the German-American Bund in the 1930s, the ascendance of Depression-era demagogues like Huey Long, and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Churchwell's article is aptly titled, "American Fascism: It Has Happened Here." In it, she offers a working definition of fascism, noting that fascist movements, both past and present in America and abroad, are united by "conspicuous features [that] are recognizably shared." These include:

"[N]ostalgia for a purer, mythic, often rural past; cults of tradition and cultural regeneration; paramilitary groups; the delegitimizing of political opponents and demonization of critics; the universalizing of some groups as authentically national, while dehumanizing all other groups; hostility to intellectualism and attacks on a free press; anti-modernism; fetishized patriarchal masculinity; and a distressed sense of victimhood and collective grievance. Fascist mythologies often incorporate a notion of cleansing, an exclusionary defense against racial or cultural contamination, and related eugenicist preferences for certain 'bloodlines' over others."

Anyone who has studied Trump's campaign rhetoric or watched the brutality of federal law enforcement officers deployed against protesters in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, can plainly see the features at work.

But what about the legal structures that have permitted Trumpian fascism to take hold in a nation known for its resilient democratic institutions and traditions?

Like other fascists before him, Trump's path to power was made possible not by outright violations of the law, but by fundamental flaws in existing law, embedded in Trump's case in the U.S. Constitution and key federal statutes that were in place long before he descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his initial presidential bid.

These are the loopholes and voids in American democracy that were waiting for a would-be strongman like Trump to exploit. Although there are many such loopholes, Trump has benefitted from nine in particular.

1. The Electoral College

The Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution were visionaries and revolutionaries. But they were also wealthy white men of property, elitists, and in many instances, slaveholders, who deeply feared the potential "tyranny" of majority rule.

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Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal (more...)
 

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