Simple deductive reasoning begins with a starting premise, followed by a secondary premise, ending in a conclusion.
Fascism is anti-American, fundamentally. Trump is peculiarly fascistic, but a fascist nevertheless and thereby (along with his supporters), anti-American, however much this crude exhibitionist wraps himself in the American flag.
Fascism is anti-American because, centrally, it is virulently anti-democratic and antagonistic to this country’s cornerstone principle that all are created equal. Fascism is a militaristic, ethnocentric, nationalistic ideology — in opposition to foundational elements of modernity, including feminism, intellectualism, reason, and international cooperation. It is fueled by hatred, idealizing inequality, subordinating the individual to the state and relying on police-state violent repression, with denial of basic rights.
Trump’s fascism is peculiar: nascent because it is immaturely non-ideological at its origin. Also, it is not based on some perverse notion of what is in our country’s best interest, but rather what is profitable to him, exclusively.
The evidence is overwhelming. Start with his undeniable racism and his hate-fueled rallies. The characterization of immigrants as rapists; praising neo-fascists at Charlottesville; thuggish incitements to roughing up protestors, members of the press, and individuals in police custody; lustful reactions evoked referencing a wall on our Mexican border; caging children; Muslim bans; LGBT restrictions; chants to jail Clinton; defense of military bases named after Confederate generals and preserving statues of these traitors (honoring the most consequential features of “Southern Heritage”: slavery and segregation). Only as markers of hatred can the generated enthusiasm among his supporters be accounted for. Noam Chomsky observed that the dynamics of Trump’s rallies evoked memories of the mood aroused at the Nuremberg rallies.
It’s more than stylistic. Trump’s admiration for right-wing tyrants is unprecedented, as are the roiled relationships with the leaders of western democracies. His notorious associations include celebratory racists like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, and the law-and-order Sebastian Gorka; and his fans include the dull-eyed Senator Tom Cotton, misogynists aides, and rough-em-up policemen.
How does a defender of democracy “fall in love” with the North Korean psychopath, Kim Jong-un? While Trump continues to dabble in complaints of domestically-rigged elections, he covers up Russian interference in the 2016 election and invites future foreign interference, while his party endeavors to suppress the vote. At Helsinki, in a stunning betrayal, Trump took Putin’s denial of election-meddling over the consensus assessment of our intelligence agencies.
Trump’s sustained support, which he forecast when he bragged that he could murder (“shoot”) someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote, is now strained by the rampaging pandemic and economic turmoil. Nevertheless, sizable retained support seems likely.
It is commonly asked incredulously, “What accounts for the continued support?” Hate, largely. Other considerations are overwhelmed: patriotic preference for democratic governance, McCain’s heroism, religion, basic virtues, and prudent infection-avoidance behavior. And there’s no con, a common excuse. Trump perpetrated cons on contributors to his charities, the students enrolled in his university, bank loan departments, contractors, and laborers. The 2016 electorate was not conned; the attraction was overt, undisguised.
In his book Today’s ISMS (1965), William Ebenstein warned, “The danger of not recognizing this pre-fascist attitude is that, should it become full-fledged … (as it well might in some disaster that shakes men’s faith in democracy), recognition … may come too late for those whose earlier judgment was too lenient.”
Gregg Mumm is a resident of Oak Park.