Saturday, April 22, 2023

American Fascism

Fascism has come to the United States. It wears Donald Trump's face. Robert Kagan writes:

The entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as anyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

Some think that the Trump phenomenon is new. It isn't:

What he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.” Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

The last century has shown us what can happen under fascist strongmen:

“National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der F├╝hrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who single-handedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.

A mass political movement is thus a powerful and, to those who would oppose it, frightening weapon. When controlled and directed by a single leader, it can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. If someone criticizes or opposes the leader, it doesn’t matter how popular or admired that person has been. He might be a famous war hero, but if the leader derides and ridicules his heroism, the followers laugh and jeer. He might be the highest-ranking elected guardian of the party’s most cherished principles. But if he hesitates to support the leader, he faces political death.

We've seen this happen before. Those who refuse to see it for what it is are fools. And, these days, there are a lot of them around.

Image: La Voce Di New York

13 comments:

zoombats said...

I have always been reminded of the likeness between Il Duce and "the Don" both in physical appearance and ideology. I feel that the comparison of tough guy imagery though is a little out there because i am sure that if the Donald was ever threatened with anything physical he would fold like a cheap suit. One note of interest in the comparison of all fascists is their flair for uniforms brown shirts, black shirts or stars and stripes.

https://www.salon.com/2022/01/02/mussolini-seized-full-power-97-years-ago-does-donald-long-to-follow-suit/

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, zoombats. At his core, Trump is a coward. Hitler was, too. He didn't want to face the music.

Marie Snyder said...

I couldn't access the original article, but this excerpt feels like it gives Trump too much credit. I imagine Steve Bannon is still pulling the strings.

Owen Gray said...

Bannon is still working behind the scenes, Marie. And he still has not seen the inside of a jail.

Owen Gray said...

And Trump certainly fits the profile, Toby.

jrkrideau said...

Robert Kagan of the Project for the New American Century?

Yes, he might know.

Toby said...

Owen Gray said... "And Trump certainly fits the profile, Toby."

So do his fans. That was shown by much of Altemeyer's research. A dictator needs fawning supporters.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Hitler was not a coward. Unlike Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Pierre Trudeau or Donald Trump, he volunteered for military service. Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian Army in 1914. He was decorated for bravery twice, including receiving the Iron Cross First Class. America is a long way from sliding into authoritarianism (sorry, fascism) notwithstanding all the pearl clutching we get from the Party of Wall Street. The Democrats have never gotten over the humiliation of Hilary getting her clock cleaned by the likes of Trump. Rather than look in the mirror to see why it happened, instead they have doubled down on the "deplorables" explanation. What do you think is going to happen when you demonize half the country? Real believers in democracy would be trying to bring the country together. AN

Owen Gray said...

He's been a rightwing spokesman, jrk. I wonder how he feels about what he has helped to bring about.

Owen Gray said...

And Trump has lots of them, Toby.

jrkrideau said...

I wonder how he feels about what he has helped to bring about.

Probably feels that he had not intended to encourage the hoi polloi? A bit like the US Republican Party did not mean to empower "The Tea Party" which was supposed to remain an astro-turf.

And the German political class was sure it could control Hitler.

Owen Gray said...

Hubris is at the root of much evil, jrk.

Owen Gray said...

Even decorated war heroes can become cowards, AN. We are all capable of cowardice.