David Neiwert, perhaps our nation’s most respected writer on white supremacy and right-wing extremism, says Donald Trump is probably not actually a fascist because he lacks the white supremacist bona fides and because he is a lazy narcissist rather than a coherent thinker. But he’s certainly moving us along the fascist road. It’s both scary and sad. If you haven’t read the whole thing yet (it came out a few days ago), it is well worth your time. You may however want to wait until later this evening when you can more easily justify the drinking it will force onto you.
All of which underscores the central fact: Donald Trump may not be a fascist, but his vicious brand of right-wing populism is not just empowering the latent fascist elements in America, he is leading a whole nation of followers merrily down a path that leads directly to fascism.
Consider, if you will, what did occur in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s remarks about “roughing up” Black Lives Matter protesters: Two nights later, a trio of white supremacists in Minneapolis invaded a Black Lives Matter protest there and shot five people, in an act that had been carefully planned and networked through the Internet.
What this powerfully implies is that Trump has achieved that kind of twilight-zone level of influence where he can simply demonize a target with rhetoric suggestive of violent retribution and his admirers will act out that very suggestion. It’s only a step removed from the fascist leader who calls out his paramilitary thugs to engage in violence.
America, thanks to Trump, has now reached that fork in the road where it must choose down which path its future lies – with democracy and its often fumbling ministrations, or with the appealing rule of plutocratic authoritarianism, ushered in on a tide of fascistic populism. For myself, I remain confident that Americans will choose the former and demolish the latter – that Trump’s candidacy will founder, and the tide of right-wing populism will reach its high-water mark under him and then recede with him.
What is most troubling, though, is the momentum that Trump’s candidacy has given that tide. He may not himself lack any real ideological footing, but he has laid the groundwork for a fascist groundswell that could someday be ridden to power by a similarly charismatic successor who is himself more in the mold of an ideological fascist. And it doesn’t take a very long look down the roll of 2016 Republican candidates to find a couple of candidates who might fit that mold.
Trump may not be fascist, but he is empowering their existing elements in American society; even more dangerously, his Tea Party brand of right-wing populism is helping them grow their ranks, along with their potential to recruit, by leaps and bounds. Not only that, he is making all this thuggery and ugliness seem normal. And that IS a serious problem.
For some time, my internal response to the rise of the Tea Party, the incredible spike in mass shootings, the love of so many in this nation for killing brown people, and the rise in obvious racism, has been that I just hope we as a nation can hold on until the older generation of whites passes on from the political scene and a more diverse nation with a younger generation of more tolerant whites can hopefully turn some of this back. But at the same time, I also know how naive that view is, in no small part because it really takes so little and so few people to seriously derail a democratic state through the use of violence and because I know that there is always another cohort of white people holding onto whiteness as a zero sum game. When you add long-term unemployment and underemployment into that mix, the potential for violence just grows, which is something that the defenders of the globalized economy outsourcing most industrial jobs simply do not consider in their analysis. Am I unduly disturbed right now? Perhaps. But this is indeed a scary time.