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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/13/18

Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and the path to neoliberal fascism

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Henry Giroux
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Reprinted from www.salon.com

Even in the darkest of times we have the right to some illumination. -- Hannah Arendt

The threads of a general political and ideological crisis run deep in American history, and with each tweet and policy decision Donald Trump pushes the United States closer to a full-fledged fascist state. His words sting, but his policies can kill people. Trump's endless racist taunts, dehumanizing expressions of misogyny, relentless attacks on all provisions of the social state and ongoing contempt for the rule of law serve to normalize a creeping fascist politics. Moreover, his criminogenic disdain for any viable sense of civic and moral responsibility gives new meaning to an ethos of selfishness and a culture of cruelty, if not terror, that has run amok. Yet it is becoming more difficult for the mainstream media and pundits to talk about fascism as a looming threat in the United States in spite of the fact that, as Michelle Goldberg observes, for some groups, such as "undocumented immigrants, it's already here."

The smell of death is everywhere under this administration. The erosion of public values and the rule of law is now accompanied by a developing state of emergency with regards to a looming global environmental catastrophe. An ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change has accelerated under the Trump administration and appears imminent. Trump's ongoing attempt to pollute the planet through his rollback of environmental protections will result in the deaths of thousands of children who suffer from asthma and other lung problems. Moreover, his privatized and punitive approach to health care will shorten the lives of millions of poor people, uninsured youth, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed and the elderly. His get-tough "law and order" policies will result in more police violence against blacks while his support for the arms industry, military budget and gun laws will accelerate the death of the marginalized both at home and abroad. Under the Trump regime all bets are off regarding the sustainability of democracy.

The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, a right-wing ideologue, to the U.S. Supreme Court, in spite of allegations of sexually assaulting at least two women, further reveals both the dangerous politicization of the judicial nomination process and the authoritarian politics that now dominate American society. The control of the court by ideological fundamentalists has been a long-sought goal of Republican Party extremists. And now the American people, especially women, the poor and people of color, will pay a terrible price for Kavanaugh's appointment. The Kavanaugh affair is a symptom of the deeper roots of a fascist politics at work in American society. Kavanaugh is not only a blatant symbol of a toxic masculinity, he is also emblematic of a boisterous and unchecked expression of ruling-class white privilege. This is especially true given the racist double standard that characterizes America's justice system. As Amanda Klonsky put it in the Chicago Sun Times:

Why does Judge Brett Kavanaugh, accused of sexual assault, feel entitled to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, while my formerly incarcerated students -- often jailed for crimes like battery from fistfights -- are left unemployed, sometimes for life, banned from even the most entry-level work? That Kavanaugh is under consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court at all throws the racist double standard in our justice system into sharp relief. There is one standard of behavior for African-American and Latinx young people, who are harshly punished for crimes in adolescence, and quite another for wealthy white boys, who can be accused of sexual assault and still go on to be nominated to serve on the most important court in the world.

Kavanaugh perfectly aligns with Trump's racism and his decisions on matters of civil rights and racial justice will more than likely further reproduce a long legacy of white racism and state violence in the United States. This is especially tragic and ominous given that Trump's contempt for people of color appears boundless and legitimates the notion of whiteness as a site of terror. He slanders and humiliates black athletes, black women and any other person of color who calls him on his racism and white supremacist views. Moreover, his thuggery in support of police brutality and mass incarceration further accelerates the growth of a racialized carceral state.

Most recently, in a brutish and deeply troubling display of misogyny, Trump viciously mocked the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault. Drawing laughter and shouts from a crowd in Southaven, Mississippi, Trump went further, following up his vile remarks by stating that men were the real victims of the #MeToo movement because they were being unfairly accused of sexual harassment, and that many males would lose their jobs. It is hard to miss the irony of this statement coming from a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 22 women and has been caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the crotch. What is worth noting here is not only his indifference to the shocking levels violence waged against women but also the degree to which misogyny has always been endemic to fascist politics.

While it is easy for the mainstream press to go after those politicians who remain silent in the face of Trump's sexism and racism, there is little interest in situating his misogyny and white supremacy within a neoliberal fascist politics that is aligned with neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other militant groups who argue for racial cleansing and increasingly commit violent acts against people of color who oppose their views. Trump's politics are endlessly whitewashed in the mainstream media, which too often views his policy decisions more as the infantilized outbursts of an impetuous tweeting teenage bully rather than as a shock and threat to the laws and values that constitute a democracy currently in peril. The mainstream press argues that Trump's rhetoric is divisive, humiliating and hateful, but rarely is it associated with the rhetoric of fascist politics or for that matter with the power of moneyed interests of the financial elite.

This evasion is all the more frightening since Trump, not to mention most of his critics, seem unaware of the accumulated terror unleashed by past fascists. Trump appears reckless when implementing policies that echo faintly the genocidal practices used by Nazis in their concentration camps, such as separating children from their undocumented parents and putting both in caged prisons. While Trump has not gassed tens of thousands of children as Hitler did, putting children in cages suggests crossing a moral and political line that opens the door to even more extreme forms of barbarism. -At the same time, his anti-democratic proclivities are on display almost every day. For instance, Trump's open infatuation with demagogues such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un is matched only by his consistent vilification of America's democratic allies. One clear cut example is his ludicrous claim that trade wars with Canada are justified because Canada represents a threat to America's national security. The latter is uttered at the same time that Trump calls Kim Jong-un terrific.

Trump has not only normalized racism in the United States and given new legitimacy to the hate filled rants and ideologies of neo-Nazis and white nationalists, he has deepened the crisis of democracy by elevating emotion over reason and turning civic illiteracy into a virtue. Ignorance turns deadly when embraced by the powerful and removed from any notion of the material consequences it has for those who have to suffer from a practices of abandonment, terminal exclusion, and state violence.

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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and dis the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America's Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016), and America at War with Itself (City Lights, 2017). He is also a contributing editor to a number of journals, includingTikkun, (more...)

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