By Claire Buran
October 5, 2020
Author Laurence W. Britt wrote the political novel Fascism Anyone? which describes 14 common signs of a developing fascist government. According to his piece, President Donald Trump falls under a majority of such signs. While this doesn’t mean that Trump is a fascist or we are in a fascist country, it is still very concerning. A review of the elements listed by Mr.Britt uncovers a striking fit between Trump’s views and actions to these fascist categories.
The first sign of fascism seen in Trump’s campaign is “Powerful and continuing Nationalism”, Trump’s entire message is about putting America first and “Making America Great Again”. Most recently, he has announced the “patriotic education” commission which criticizes history teachers for teaching children to hate America by focusing on negatives from our history about times when America was wrong, especially slavery. Under Trump’s view, a patriotic education should only teach about America’s aspirations and the promises in our founding documents. While using propaganda that we are the greatest country in the history of the world ignoring the true strength and resilience of our unique national ability to face the truth and adapt from our mistakes.
A “Disdain for Human Rights” is the next sign, demonstrated in many of Trump’s policies. His policies about religious liberties, reproductive rights, and issues affecting people of color, immigrants, and ingenious people have affected many people’s human rights all around the country. For example, his promotion of the “global gag rule”, which is a policy that blocks federal funding for organizations around the world that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services. Even though abortions have been legalized and protected by the Supreme Court and affirmed as a fundamental human right by U.N. bodies and 50 countries around the world
Trump also uses the “identification of enemies as a unifying cause”. In Trump’s world and life view, you either agree 100% with him or you are labeled “stupid, slow, unpatriotic, or a loser”. He does this by telling people that they need to eliminate an identified enemy. Everyone who is not a cis, white, straight, Christian conservative has at some point been identified as an “enemy” or at the very least the cause of many problems. Trump has uniquely pitted Americans against each other to satisfy his need for an enemy to direct his anger and fuel his campaign of perpetual grievance.
Trump continues to exhibit “rampant sexism”. There have been countless sexual assault and allegations against him. He has said creepy and predatorial things about his daughter and other women around him. This element seems obvious but is inexcusable.
“Controlling mass media” is another area of concern. While Trump doesn’t have full authority over the mass media, he has convinced all of his cult following that anything other than Fox News is “fake news”. This leads them to believe everything Fox News says and reports is factual and any other news source is lying. He has also called the free press an “enemy of the people”. Sowing distrust in the media is a major red flag in any democracy as authoritarian leaders seek to position themselves as the only “true source of information”.
Following that is an “obsession with national security”. Trump’s entire campaign in 2016 was initiated with building the wall. A wall separating Mexico from the US, to stop illegal immigration. And in his own words, Mexican immigrants are “drug-dealing rapists”. The wall becomes a symbol, both physically and metaphorically that we need to protect ourselves and rally around the flag.
Moving onto “Religion and Government Intertwined”, the Republican Party has integrated religion in their views for a long time before Trump. Yet Trump has captured the (white) Christian patriotism as a basic aspect of his allure. He casts himself as the protector of this group of people. He portrays himself as a man of God, a good Christian man with Christian values, yet he doesn’t even follow these values. Trump tamps into Christian fears that their moral views and families are being stolen or lost by a mob of foreigners and godless liberals.
Next is the “corporate power protected”, in which Trump has appointed the most wealthy cabinet in our history. Along with constant corporate-friendly policies, such as enacting tax cuts that overwhelmingly and disproportionately favor the wealthy over the average worker. At the end of the day, Trump is a billionaire helping himself and his other billionaire friends to keep their money, while falsely marketing and branding himself as a defender of the working class.
The ninth sign is a “labor power suppressed”. There are multiple examples of actions that Trump has taken that have consequently hurt workers. One could point to how he rolled back regulations that protected worker’s pay and safety. He was also trying to take away affordable healthcare from millions of working people with relentless attacks on the Affordable Care Act signed into law during the Obama administration.
Another sign Trump has shown is his “disdain for intellectuals and the arts”. In a section of Trump’s 2021 budget proposal titled “stopping wasteful and unnecessary spending”, the activities financed by the National Endowment for the Art and the National Endowment for Humanities have been cut because they are not viewed as core Federal obligations. The NEA is an independent federal agency whose funding and support allow Americans to participate in the arts.
Trump has also shown signs of an “obsession with crime and punishment”. This is another obvious one with his renewal of Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric despite crime rates being at 50-year lows in the country. He has also made many comparisons to Black communities being violent hellholes.
Lastly “rampant cronyism and corruption”, such as the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications. Trump’s swamp of cabinet members, advisors, campaign managers, and attorneys that have been convicted of felony crimes and currently reside in prison is unrivaled in our modern political history. Nepotism has run amok as he has put many of his family members in positions of power despite having no qualifications.
Trump may not have succeeded in amassing the full powers of a true fascist but it is extremely concerning that he shows so many of its early warning signs. Shame on us, the citizens of this democracy, if we fail to take seriously the words and claims made openly by Donald Trump. We are numb from the cumulative shock and disgust from the things he says and does but we become numb at great peril to our democratic experiment. Donald Trump is exactly who he says he is, and we need to believe him, take him seriously, and vote him out of power this coming election.