I’ve been calling out various Republican policies as fascist since well before the 2016 presidential race even began, but Donald Trump took it to the next level. They have now checked the boxes, at least ideologically, on every major feature characterizing the regimes that defined fascism. Let’s take a look at eleven issues, and the policies and statements that put Trump and his enablers firmly in the realm of the fascism they’ve long been drifting toward.
1: Fascism is perhaps most notorious for its extreme nationalism. Flags and other national symbols are everywhere, and their message is one of national (and often racial) superiority. They call for sovereignty, rejecting alliances with other nations that would put restrictions on their own country and often failing to respect the rights of foreigners. Perhaps the most intense focus of fascist nationalism is on restoration; they claim that their ideological enemies are destroying the country and promise to return it to some mythical golden era.
Trump’s words: “We must make America respected again. We must make America truly wealthy again and we must, we have to and we will make America great again.” — “America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.” — “They have–people don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world, in the entire world. And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then…what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: take the oil.”
2: Along with the nationalism, fascists identify groups of people as enemies that must be suppressed or eliminated. They use these enemies as scapegoats, blaming the nation’s problems on them, rallying the people around a common hatred. In Hitler’s Germany it was the Jews, socialists, communists, gays, and so on. In Trump’s America it’s Muslims, Democrats, liberals, immigrants, Mexicans, etc.
Trump’s words: “We have to go and we have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques. And we have to check other places. Because this is a problem that if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive, OK? It’s going to eat our country alive.” — “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” — “I would certainly implement [a national database of Muslims]. Absolutely. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems.” — “[Gonzalo Curiel is] a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings—rulings that people can’t even believe.” (Curiel is an American citizen who was born in Indiana.) — “We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies. A pause for reassessment will help us to prevent the next San Bernardino…” (That attack was performed by American citizens, as most are. Also, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.)
3: The next vital feature of a fascist regime is a strong military, and glorification of soldiers and military service. In many cases, it goes as far as the glorification of violence itself. This has been a problem with the right wing for a long time; they’ll be quick to attack if you so much as mention the huge number of foreign civilians America has killed, wounded, and made homeless.
Trump’s words: “I think we’ve become very weak and ineffective.” — “Our military is a disaster.” (We spend more on our military than the next six countries combined, and it’s already the biggest and most terrifying killing machine the world has ever seen.) — “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families.” (When asked what he’d do if the military refuses to commit such war crimes, he said: “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. If I say do it, they’re going to do it.”) — “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.” — “And you’ve got to give [Kim Jong Un] credit. How many young guys—he was like 26 or 25 when his father died—take over these tough generals…It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.” — “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” — “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people…maybe there is, I dunno…but I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
4: With the scapegoating and glorification of violence, naturally fascists have little regard for human rights. After all, if you’re convinced that a certain group of people is an immediate threat to the stability of your nation, you might be more inclined to approve of extreme methods of dealing with them.
Trump’s words: “Well it’s not the American way to have heads chopped off and have people drowning in steel cages. And so we can have our disagreements, but we’re going to have to get much tougher as a country. We’re going to have to be a lot sharper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost. Unthinkable, when you look at what’s happening to us, when you look at what’s going on in this country and throughout the world and we don’t want, you know they’re allowed to cut off heads and they’re allowed to chop off heads, and we can’t waterboard. So people can have disagreements, but I feel we have to get much, much, stronger, tougher and smarter.” — “Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—’Torture doesn’t work!’—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.” (Torture doesn’t work.) — On an incident where a black protester who yelled “Black lives matter!” was subsequently beaten by several people at a Trump rally: “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
5: Fascists are obsessed with security and punishing crime. Even as they promote violence against other people, they stir up fear by accusing those others of bringing violence into the nation. They exaggerate the threat to obscene levels in order to get the people afraid enough that they’ll give up freedom to gain security. The theme of Trump’s nomination acceptance speech was essentially “America is doomed because violence is so high, and only I can fix it by turning it into a police state.”
Trump’s words: “We have become a third world country, folks.” — “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” — “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon–and I mean very soon–come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.” — “When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me. Believe me. I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials to get the job properly done. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.” (Law and order is a dog whistle for racial profiling and harsh authoritarian policing.) — “We have gangs roaming the street. And in many cases, they’re illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very vigilant. Right now, our police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything. We have to protect our inner cities, because African-American communities are being decimated by crime.” (Illegal immigrants are not a major cause of crime. Also, violent crime rates have been on a steep downward trend for decades and recent upticks are relatively small and isolated to a few specific areas.) — “Our president…has made America a more dangerous environment than frankly I have ever seen, and anybody in this room, has ever watched or seen.” (I’m only 25 and I’ve seen an America that was twice as dangerous as it is now.)
6: Another common feature of fascist governments is that they are dominated by men and sexism is rampant. They push rigid traditional gender roles and “family values”, using the state to suppress abortion, LGBT rights, divorce, and basically anything that might threaten their patriarchal control of social order.
Trump’s words: To a lawyer who asked for a break so she could pump breast milk for her baby: “You’re disgusting!” — About Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” — “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” — “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” — “I just don’t feel good about [gay marriage]. I don’t feel right about it. I’m against it, and I take a lot of heat because I come from New York. You know, for New York it’s like, how can you be against gay marriage? But I’m opposed to gay marriage.”
7: Fascist regimes are often put in place by businessmen and corporations. The resulting tight relationship between corporate interests and government function results in an economic system that is engineered for the mutual benefit of the elite and the state. Corruption is rampant, as leaders surround themselves with business partners and friends who help them maintain control. The interests of the working class are neglected, and the only value they have to those in control is their labor.
Trump’s words: “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do. As a businessman, I need that.” — “When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” — “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.” — “Taxes too high, wages too high. We’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and they have to get into that upper stratum.” — On dealing with national debt: “I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts…I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.” (Which would cause a major economic catastrophe.)
8: Anti-intellectualism is another feature of fascism. In this area the Republicans had a lot of help from the religious voting base they captured via their southern strategy and fabricated pro-life movement. Conservative Christianity has a long history of opposing scientific data and other aspects of reality, which became especially strong when evolution eliminated the “where did humans come from” gap that their god used to occupy. Their fierce rejection of almost all modern academic authority has led them down a dark path where they can’t tell the difference between truth and the lies of a con man, or even the ignorant babbling of an arrogant buffoon.
Trump’s words: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Meanwhile, the Chinese are putting a lot of money and work into fighting pollution and climate change.) — On who he would consult about foreign policy: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.” — “You know, I’ve always wanted to say this—I’ve never said this before with all the talking we all do—all of these experts, ‘Oh we need an expert—’ The experts are terrible. Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” — “Autism rates through the roof—why doesn’t the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try.” — “Fracking poses ZERO health risks.” — “In the old days, you put the hairspray on, it was good. Today, you put the hairspray on, it’s good for 12 minutes, right? I said, ‘Wait a minute — so if I take hairspray and if I spray it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you’re telling me that affects the ozone layer?’ ‘Yes.’ I say, no way, folks. No way!” — “Remember, new ‘environment friendly’ lightbulbs can cause cancer. Be careful–the idiots who came up with this stuff don’t care.”
9: Speaking of religion, fascism typically uses the most popular religion in the nation as another tool for control. It helps them keep the loyalty of their religious citizens, as well as giving them the opportunity to use the powerful rhetoric of religion in their propaganda. It doesn’t matter if the tenets of the religion are opposed to fascist ideology because as America has proven, religious people can be easily led to support anyone who promises them power and privilege.
Trump’s words: On the Johnson Amendment: “It’s taken a lot of power away from Christianity and other religions. I’ve seen it…There are petrified ministers and churches. They speak before 25,000 people, the most incredible speakers you could ever see, better than any politician by far. And yet when it comes to talking about it openly or who they support or why they support somebody because he’s a person—a man or a woman—who is into their values, they’re petrified to do it. And I couldn’t get the answer. And then one day, at one of our meetings, somebody said, ‘They’re petrified of losing their tax-exempt status’…And we are going to get rid of that, because you should have the right to speak.” (In other words, religious leaders could be useful for spreading political propaganda if they weren’t so scared of having to pay taxes.) — To a group of evangelical leaders: “We should have the power. We should have the power.” — “You used to go to church, and you know, when I’d go there…It’s much different today. I know, as an example, the young people aren’t going as much. But we have to bring that back. We have to bring those values back. We have to bring that spirit back. And in a way, it’s been taken away from you by the federal government and by these horrendous things that have been allowed in the past.” (By “horrendous things”, he is referring to limits on the influence of religion in government.)
10: Fraudulent elections are common under fascist regimes. Sometimes it’s a complete sham, and sometimes outcomes are manipulated in less obvious ways. The Republican party has a long history of using various administrative tricks and restrictive laws to discourage poor people and minorities from voting. But Trump gets a bit more explicit in his attempt to undermine the election, firing up his supporters with false claims of “rigging” that could have very bad consequences if he loses. I’ve already seen multiple Trump supporters on Facebook calling for a “second American Revolution”, and threatening anyone who opposes him with their guns. Sounds more like a second Civil War to me.
Trump’s words: “[Democrats] even want to try to rig the election at the polling place. So many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is very, very common.” (31 out of more than a billion is “very common”?) — “So important that you get out and vote. So important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” (The other communities he’s referring to are a few almost exclusively black neighborhoods in Philadelphia where Obama won 100% of the vote in 2012.) — “We’re gonna watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times…The only way we can lose, in my opinion–and I really mean this, Pennsylvania–is if cheating goes on. I really believe it.” (Trump has never been ahead in Pennsylvania. His statements will almost certainly incite harassment and violence against minorities on election day, and may be intended to suppress those voters through intimidation.)
11: Finally, fascists try to control media, either by turning the people against it, creating restrictions on what media can legally say, putting it under direct government control, or some combination of those.
Trump’s words: “One of the things I’m gonna do, and this is only gonna make it tougher for me, and I’ve never said this before, but one of the things I’m gonna do if I win…is I’m gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money…With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people…We’re gonna open up those libel laws, folks, and we’re gonna have people sue you like you never get sued before.” — “I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met. They’re terrible. If I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.” — “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” (That has got to be one of the most ironic things he’s said.) — On a lawsuit Trump brought against a reporter for estimating his net worth, which he knew he couldn’t win: “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”
These quotes are only a small handful of examples. Trump says so many disturbing things that quoting them all could easily take up at least ten articles of this length. And there are hundreds of other politicians and high-profile Republicans with their own terrible authoritarian ideas. Quite simply, Donald Trump is acting like he wants to be a fascist dictator, the Republican party and their voting base are enabling this potentially destructive behavior, and I cannot respect anyone who votes for him after all of this.