Is Trump a New Kind of Fascist?

By Dr. Alon Ben-Meir


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 18, 2016

                  



Donald Trump (Republican Party's Presumptive Presidential Nominee)

Donald Trump's obscene demagoguery; his contemptuous regard for the first amendment, his desire to expand the authorities of the presidency (the awesome power of which has never been equal to what it is now), his belligerent and threatening attitude towards the judiciary, his shameless blurring of private and public agendas, his cynical exploitation of the fears of millions of Americans concerning Muslims in the wake of the nation's deadliest mass shooting in Orlando, his nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist politics, and finally, his endorsement of violent outbursts against dissenters, have all served to raise the specter of a new fascism on the political landscape.

But to what extent is fascism an appropriate name for what Trump represents? By fascism, I simply mean a militaristic regime that is characteristically authoritarian, anti-immigrant, and extremely nationalistic. We must use the term carefully, as it is all too often a sign of intellectual laziness and a lack of conceptual clarity. To complicate matters, we are witnessing Trump's political rise while at the same time extreme right-wing parties are making startling gains in many countries, including Austria, which had not seen such a development since the end of World War II. This is important because it indicates that Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. He should be thought of primarily as a symptom - a symptom of the decay of the democratic form of global capitalism.

Trump and his European counterparts are symptomatic of the fact that capitalism's need for democratic institutions and processes has been steadily diminishing. The most efficient administrators of capitalism are arguably turning out to be non-democratic, authoritarian regimes, including nominally communist regimes such as China and Vietnam. When Trump says there is no democracy, that the whole system is rigged, what is most frightening is not that it may be true or that so many believe it to be true – in fact, his very ascendance demonstrates that there is still an irreducible element of contingency in politics.

We are witnessing all over the world the dissolution of the marriage between democracy and capitalism. It can be seen in the corrupt pseudo-communism of China, or the authoritarianism of Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey, and it may take the form that we are seeing here: where the rule of law, integrity of our governing bodies, and voices of dissent are treated with contempt and mockery by the leader of a major political party.

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Trump’s fascism is especially on display in his endless assurances that he intends for Mexico to finance a massive wall along the US-Mexican border. This promise – a fixture of each Trump rally – should not be answered by giving reasons as to why it is a bad idea, impractical, etc. Once you begin to provide arguments, you’ve already lost – this is because the proposal is not meant to be rational at all, but instead it is precisely meant to mock the use of reason in politics. Trump is treating his followers not as rational agents; rather, they are bundles of repressed, violent energy which Trump has expertly manipulated to his advantage.

Countless Americans are now more or less ready to deny the basic rights of millions of immigrants under the threat of forcible deportation, and to refuse hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking shelter and asylum. The way to address this xenophobic hysteria is certainly not through the liberal discourse of tolerance and respect for the other. On the contrary, the language of tolerance is totally misplaced here and counterproductive. More appropriate, rather, is a fidelity to human rights and an emphatic refusal to allow any group of people to be denied the fundamental conditions in which to live and thrive. Refugees don't need sympathy and tolerance from us, and they don’t need us to open our hearts: they need us to open our borders and provide food, shelter, and work.

What Trump has effectively demonstrated is that political correctness, and the liberal insistence on rules of correctness, has served only to regulate hatred and racism while reproducing the subjective conditions that can give rise to violent racial outbursts. The miserable failure of political correctness lies in its attempt to impose what should be spontaneous; in mocking its inherent fakeness, Trump has managed to create the perception that he is somehow honest and authentic. The problem is that in place of political correctness, he's given us a more or less open mixture of racism, misogyny, and nationalism.

Trump’s campaign has been a sustained attempt to obliterate the distinction between politics and mass entertainment; to stupefy the masses of uneducated lower-income whites who are transfixed by his apparent wealth and celebrity, his unabashed greed and contempt for anything that cannot be marketed and sold. So should we regard Trump as a kind of new fascist, using a mixture of kitsch, obscenity, and bombast to keep his followers rapt? Liberating the repressed, unconscious wishes of his supporters who are implicitly encouraged to enact symbolic and even physical violence against the perceived other?

The new fascism we are witnessing today should not be confused with the fascism of yesteryear. But perhaps it is no less dangerous in the long run, and conventional political wisdom is no more able to halt its progress. The antidote to the rise of populist politics based on distrust is in how we describe the disease itself. To view Trump simply as an aberration, a metaphysical monstrosity – which undoubtedly he is in some sense – is profoundly inadequate. We must see him as the symptom of a general disease; a disease which is global in nature, and which bears witness to the contradictions and antagonisms of the democratic capitalistic order.

This is a guest article by Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, professor of philosophy at Eastern International College. His current research focuses on environmental and business ethics.


About the Author: Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
alon@alonben-meir.com                             Web: www.alonben-meir.com

sylvester moses
Your analysis suggests that Fascism and Nazism were possible respectively in Mussolini's Italy, and Hitlers's Germany because these countries already had authoritarian, nationalistic, anti - immigrants, militaristic monarchical governemnts. Which leaves no doubt that Mr. Donald Trump is not a fascist, just the man who would've been one was he not stopped by a "massive wall": the American constitution, and its accompanying democratic structures/ culture. And fortunately for many immigrants, they were etched in stone 170 years before he was "birthed".

But though Trump is not an "aberration", we aren't going to elevate him to the mainstream of any novel global political phenomena. For unlike Jean - Marie Le Pen, and his daughter of France's National Front, or Enoch Powell's imitators in Tyndale's far right British National Party, the billionaire has no specific political ideology except (like Hitler) to make his country "great again". Many even doubt whether he is truly anti - immigration, because reportedly some of his businesses employ undocumented aliens. Simply put, the GOP presumptive nominee happens to be literally a whealer dealer. He echoes publicly the xenophobic beyond - closed - doors rants of his class, which appeal to the fears of the various demographies of race superiority, consciousness, and entitlement.

Moreover, we shouldn't forget that before Trump's racist bombasts, Senator Barry Goldwater, and later Senator Joseph McCarthy held sway on the consciousnes of large swathes for the same reasons. The shine is coming off, political allies don't find the birther issue funny anymore, and some are giving The Donald a wide berth as panic sets in for the prospects of the party. The question is: what gave political heft to a controversial narcissistic business man? Many point to a Legislature perceived as unresposive to the concerns of the 95 percent, and a Supreme Court which opened the floodgate of money into politics. In other words, if elected officials have to kowtow to billionares, why not elect one - no, dont!

sylvester moses at 03:11AM, 2016/06/18.
sylvester moses
Previously, we tried to show that Mr. Trump is the man who would be fascist, but for his nationality in the bowel of democracy. Effort was also made to delink him from the European nationalism evident especially on immigration matters in England and France of the past half century. And by putting Senators Barry Goldwater and Joe McCarthy in his company, we were positing that his rise isn't
a coincidence, rather a culmination of the propensity of American politicians, mostly Republicans, to exploit wedge issues with all the accompanying polarizing ramifications. .

Some of the "great" Americans, for example, who achieved important
political goals through such divisive tactics tellingly included GOP luminaries such as South Carolina and North Carolina's Senators James Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, and, of course, former President Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 11. And, by the way, the US Congress is currently trying to deal with one of the craziest and costliest consequences of wedge politics: lengthy mass incarcerations of non - violent drug offenders. Ironically, it was Democratic candidate Bill Clinton, who overpromised on 'law and order' to avoid Michael Dukakis' 1988 Willie Horton pitfall, and hence ended up approving strict sentencing laws US legislators are presently trying to undo.


Finally, let's hope that that short - sighted indulgence isn't repeated in a probable Trump presidency. He hasn't said anything new on domestic policy, but latched on, and racheted up right - wing wedge politics; promised to bomb the hell out of terrorists in the Middle East, and insists on ignoring the nutbag nuclear Kims of this world. Those sound bites are getting traction from the growing usual suspects. The question is: would such rhetoric for votes, like that of President Clinton's, become reality? This is troubling. Because the electability factor in this 2016 race with Hilary is reportedly a dead heat, and until scrutiny of Trump's past reveal a skeleton which would be the game changer in her resurgence, the Donald could very well become the next president, and, perhaps, the nexus of a major international incident.

sylvester moses at 11:51AM, 2016/06/21.
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Yes, Trump is a fascist and actually a racist; but what about American democracy which is owned by the Clinton/Bush matches and return matches? Isn't this the dictatorship of a chronically selfish clique? Hilary Clinton calls her candadacy "historic". What sort if history - from Bush to Clinton , and back to Bush, and them back to Clinton? Had the Fascist and racist nor show up, Jeb Bush was set to go for a Clinton-Bush return March! If Trump did nor shoot himself in the leg by been anti-immigrant, he would have beaten this Clinton/Bush dictatorship to shreds! Another selfishness about Washington is asking Britain to accept policies or laws the US would never legislate - their neighbors having automatic entry into their country.
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 12:39PM, 2016/06/25.
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