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Trumpite Fascism: A view from 2016

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President . . . is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

Theodore Roosevelt, Editorial in The Kansas City Star May 7, 1918



This column is based in part on a column of mine published on The Greanville Post in 2016: "THE DUOPOLY WATCH: Commentary No. 45: 'Donald Trump: Turning the Corner Towards Fascism,' June 21, 2016." . Among other things it dealt with definitions of fascism, of others' as well as mine. Four of the central elements of the fascist state are: (a) there is no separation of the powers of the three principal divisions of any state apparatus: the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial; (b) there is no Constitution, that is a set of laws not easy to change, that defines the powers of each branch of government; c) all power is concentrated in the Executive branch, most often in the hands of a single individual (fascist Japan being an exception to this rule); and d) there is no rule of law, whether capitalist or socialist law, which stands above and guides the actions of the Executive branch. (And yes, I am dealing with Trumpite facsim with increasing regularity in this space, because the real threat of its imposition if Trump wins in November is becoming ever more real.)

Trump Threat.  Yes, this is fascism, folks.
Trump Threat. Yes, this is fascism, folks.
(Image by Marvin Moose)
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Just as was predicted in a variety of quarters, after Trump waltzed through the Senate on the back of the Mitch McConnell Impeachment White-Wash/Cover-up non-trial, Trump has been off to the races in a head-long dash towards establishing frank 21st century in the United States, even in advance of the 2020 election. In fact, the more that he makes his moves, the more likely it is that he will be able to steal that election (if the Democrat's don't give it to him in advance by choosing a candidate around which the Party cannot unite and thus makes sure that it doesn't).

So just what has Trump done that can be considered fascist by this definition (see also below), fascist that is in the context of a capitalist Constitutional Democracy, but a constitutional democracy generally adhering to the rule of law for a majority, if not all, of its citizens? Well let's see. A central element of the rule of law is that supposedly everyone is subject to it (and let me be clear that I know very well that in this racist country [see above] not every citizen benefits from it on even a nearly equal basis). Just the most recent example of ignoring the rule of law in the U.S. is his pardons and threatened pardons of friends, campaign contributor-relatives, and convicted criminals who committed crimes similar to those with which he has been charged over time, all without going through the "normative" proposed-pardon-review process of the Department of Justice.

Again in constitutional democracies, even capitalist ones, the rule of law is proclaimed and maintained by a combination of a Constitution (written in the case of the U.S., unwritten in the case of the U.K.), legislated laws, and "norms," that is accepted rules that by custom and tradition are expected to complied with. (The British Constitution is in fact consists only of norms and traditions.) But Trump is now saying openly that he does not accept either the rule of law or the norms that supposedly go along with it. He proclaims himself "the chief law-enforcement officer." In this case, technically under Article II of the Constitution (see my column of last week), this is true.

But previous Presidents (except for Richard "when the President does it, it is not illegal" Nixon) have for the most part been governed by the norms as well as the Constitution. Trump is throwing both aside. An increasingly large number of "establishment" folk, such as a former Deputy Attorney General under G.H.W. Bush, Donald Ayer, are getting very concerned about this pattern of behavior exhibited by Trump and his "Roy Cohn," Bill Barr. To say nothing of the 1100+ former Justice Department lawyers who have called for Barr's resignation for going along with Trumpite "justice."

Characteristics of Fascism under Trump

Now going back to 2016, as I wrote back then various observers, analysts and political figures have been labelling Donald Trump as a "fascist" for quite some time. In a column published in October, 2015 I considered some of the aspects of that appellation, where Trump qualified and where he did not. Right-wingers have called him fascist, in this case one Dan Hodges from Great Britain (which may be Little England by the time you read this): "Donald Trump is an outright fascist who should be banned from Britain today." In The New Republic one Ryu Spaeth referred to him as a "scary fascist." (By-the-by, unless one is a fascist oneself, is there any other kind?) noted that Trump was being compared to Hitler . At that time he was also being referred to as a "proto-fascist, " whatever that is.

Political observers/analysts as different from each other as Madeline Albright, Paul Krugman, and Joe Scarborough have used the word 'fascist' to describe Trump. But as I often noted in this space most observers/analysts didn't stop to define the term (and still don't. I looked very carefully through Secretary Albright's book and couldn't find one [and neither could the reviewer to be found through the link just above). I have made this point and supplied a definition on a number of occasions in this space. Going back to my 1996 book, in 2013 re-issued and re-titled "The 15 % Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S. 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel," I devoted a ten-page appendix to its definition. But if the term is to have meaning historic/political meaning if and when it is applied to Trump, it is in my view vital that that is done. Given the events of the past month or so, I think that it is doubly important for that meaning to be made clear.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
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