"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.... Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing." - President Franklin D.
The power of gigantic corporations has been steadily growing in the 82 years since FDR said this. It is likely, based on this quote, that FDR would not recognize the United States of today as deserving of the term democracy (former President Jimmy Carter doesn't), and instead FDR would see it as more deserving of being called fascist. click here
The coming to power of President Donald Trump has many people talking about, and worrying over, the rise of fascism, or neo-fascism. There's good reason for that. Trump's constant hate speech makes use of classic fascist rhetorical devices. His nationalist appeals to "make America great again;" demonization of immigrants; attacks on corporate media outlets which oppose him; huge increases in spending on the military and the police; and his contempt for even the extremely limited protections provided by bourgeois democratic government institutions; are straight out of the fascist playbook.
Trumps fascistic discourse has also given comfort to hardcore fascist forces. These forces, openly racist, some proudly declaring their allegiance to fascism, have existed in the U.S. for a very long time. They are now emerging from the shadows to try and claim legitimacy and space in public. Just days ago, there was the effort by fascist forces, under the relatively innocent sounding "Unite the Right" slogan, to occupy public space in the nation's capitol. There have been many examples of this recently, including fascist rallies in Portland and Berkeley, with the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, being the most outstanding. https://patch.com/us/across-america/white-supremacists-plan-more-rallies-antifa-fights-back-post-charlottesville.https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/being-black-in-america-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health/561740/
Is Trump bringing fascism to the United States? That is a very legitimate question. However, there is another legitimate question. Is Trump merely taking the facade off, and making more overt, a system that was already fundamentally fascistic and deeply racist?
Let's go back to FDR's quote, "...the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power...".
The U.S. has been ruled for many decades by a system of control by gigantic multinational corporations. I call it Corporate Capitalist Fascism. You may prefer to call it something else, like Corporatism, or Corporate Democracy. What you call it is much less important than recognizing its characteristics. Here is an outline of those characteristics.
* A system in which corporations, particularly multinational corporations, and their super rich benefactors (the 1 percent), dominate all aspects of life.
This is very different from the 20th Century iterations of fascism in Europe. Rather than the state controlling everything, or seeking to control everything, there is corporate control of everything, including the state.
* The candidates backed by corporations in both major parties win just about every election of consequence. The higher the office, the more this is true. Money dominates elections. Where does this money come from? Corporations and the shareholders and private owners who reap the profits from them.
Corporate lobbyist set the political agenda. The state is used to lavish welfare onto corporations and to pursue policies, foreign and domestic, in the interests of corporations. This system operates on a global scale, mainly riding on the back of U.S. economic and cultural imperialism, and the U.S. military.
* Corporations control the mass media. A mass media that is at least a hundred fold more powerful than what existed during 20th Century iterations of fascism. This is, I believe, a key feature. This enables them to control how most people think. When the ruling classes control how people think, there is less need for heavy handed repression. Individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom to organize are tolerated as long as they don't really threaten corporate dominance of the mass media. Noam Chomsky's writings have done much of the heavy lifting regarding the manufacturing of consent. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent
* Racism, sexism, and every divisive "ism" there is are systematically used to keep the people divided and distracted. Above all else, the masses must be preventing from seeing that their common struggle should be against their corporate masters.
* Despite all the manufacturing of consent, there is still extensive physical repression as evidenced by the huge population in prison and on parole. The welfare of much of the population is completely ignored, or ignored as much as possible. Thus they must be controlled by police repression and incarceration, including brutality and murder. The prison system is dominated, ever increasing so, by a prison industrial complex, for the benefit of for profit corporations.
* Increasing militarism is another feature. This is driven both by the international interests of multinational corporations, but also by a for profit military industrial complex run by and for corporations. It's no coincidence that the most profitable corporations are in the armaments industry.