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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/20/20

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." http://www.greanvillepost.com/2016/06/21/donald-trump-turning-the-corner-towards-fascism-but-first-lets-define-it/ . 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?) Mediaite.com 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.

Let us consider a 2016 paper by a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Drake University, that presents a very important consideration of just what fascism is, and how it is distinguished from mere authoritarianism/totalitarianism. The paper is very significantly entitled: "Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism." Prof. Hossein-zadeh begins his paper thusly:

"The facile and indiscriminate use of the term fascism has led to a widespread misunderstanding and misuse of its meaning. Asked to define fascism, most people would respond in terms such as dictatorship, anti-Semitism, mass hysteria, efficient propaganda machine, mesmerizing oratory of a psychopathic leader, and the like. " Such a pervasive misconception of the meaning of the term fascism is not altogether fortuitous. It is largely because of a longstanding utilitarian misrepresentation of the term. Fascism is deliberately obfuscated in order to sanitize capitalism. Ideologues, theorists and opinion-makers of capitalism have systematically shifted the systemic sins of fascism from market/capitalist failures to individual or personal failures."

The fascist regimes that dominated major parts of the globe from 1919 to 1945, for example in Hungary (from 1919), in Italy from 1922 (and of course it was Mussolini who gave the name to the governmental form), Japan from 1935, and of course Nazi Germany from 1933, all arose to defend capitalism against one form of socialism or another (or even liberal democracy, if the capitalist ruling class viewed it as a threat to their economic dominance).

Hungarian Admiral Miklos Horthy was history's first fascist dictator (that is an absolute ruler who was not a monarch). Adolf Hitler was only the third (after Mussolini, 1922).
Hungarian Admiral Miklos Horthy was history's first fascist dictator (that is an absolute ruler who was not a monarch). Adolf Hitler was only the third (after Mussolini, 1922).
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Ladislav Luppa, Author: Ladislav Luppa)
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As Prof. Hossein-zadeh points out, it is of critical importance to understand that this is the central defining characteristic of this special form of authoritarianism, if it is to be effectively combatted. Indeed one of the primary interests, if not THE primary interest of the Republican Party (which as regular readers of my columns know I have re-named the Trumpublican © Party) destroying bourgeois democracy in the sense of depriving as many non-white persons of the vote as they possibly can, given the coming demographic revolution in the U.S. which would likely make the Republicans a permanent minority party.

Building upon what I offered at the beginning of this column, my own short definition follows:

"A politico-economic system in which there is no separation of the powers of government: that is the Executive branch controls its own functions as well as the Legislative functions; there is no independent Judiciary; there is no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no independent media; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big and Little Lie techniques, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; all designed to support a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class' domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

Trump is now trampling (or perhaps we should say "Trumpling") over an increasing number of the central elements of capitalist democracy. And indeed, since the impeachment white-wash, as Susan Collins said, he has learned a lesson. It's just not the lesson she was using as a cover for her shameless behavior in the matter. Just think. If Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander had joined Mitt Romney and the Democrats to demand witnesses and documents for a real Senate impeachment trial of Trump, it is highly like that we would not be facing the situation we now are. But they didn't. And we do. Trump now believes that he can get away with just about anything that he wants to do, and there is no one there to stop him.

All through the impeachment process in the House and then the impeachment farce in the Senate the Trumpublicans © were saying that the decision should be left to the voters in November. Even though they will be doing their damnedest to prevent as many anti-Trump voters from voting as they possibly can, and even though the Legacy of Slavery Electoral College gives the Trumpublicans © a distinct advantage. We can only hope that the Democrats can win. Otherwise, as I have outlined in my previous column and others before that, very dark days are ahead.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)

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