The emergence of Fascism in Europe, namely the ascendancy of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s respectively, can be associated with three distinct political components; authoritarianism as a signal of dominance, racial/ultranationalist sentiments that seek to bridge reality to an ideal social vision and, lastly, the promotion of political violence to ensure a populist national reawakening.
The ultimate result of Fascism and its even more radical cousin, Nazism, was the complete destruction of Europe, the deaths of over 60 million people and the entrenchment and escalation of a post-Imperial ideological struggle between East and West.
Since the darkened years of the Second World War, there have been small but quite negligible attempts to revive state governance under fascist rule. However, the advent of Donald Trump as frontrunner in the GOP Race for the White House, may turn neo-fascist fringes from a negligible state to a substantive revivalist movement.
Trump’s 45 minute announcement that he would seek the Republican nomination for President in June 2015 provided an insight into the manifesto that he would pledge to stand on. The first of his vitriolic attacks targeted illegal immigrants of Mexican descent. Trump’s proclaimed that “They’re [illegal immigrants] bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”. The reaction was telling of the gravitas of these remarks. Despite disgust expressed by the Huffington Post and Washington Post as well as leading Democrat candidates, some fellow GOP candidates and news outlets legitimised the issue of illegal immigration in light of Trump’s remarks without any substantive condemnation of the terms used.
Politico went as far as to comment that Trump’s announcement speech was “most entertaining”. Trump’s agenda began by employing a divisiveness that comforted in subtle acceptance, not of the issue of illegal immigration, but of the perceptions associated with Mexican immigrants. Such perceptions holding that immigrants of Mexican extraction are exclusively responsible for the ‘importation’ of rape in America. One can only be drawn to such appalling perceptions that Hitler’s Mein Kampf made of Jewish youth as “satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people”.
Though it was not until Trump took aim at another minority that his Fascistic ideals revealed themselves. In light of the Paris Terror Attacks in November 2015, Trump pledged to support the creation of a database of Muslims residing and working in the United States akin to the red ‘J’ stamps in German passports of Jewish Citizens. A month later, Trump called for “a complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States” which prompted unprecedented steps of the Pentagon and Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to issue strongly worded condemnations.
Despite this, analysis of actual voter polling in the recent South Carolina Primary, found that 71% of GOP voters supported Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. This follows a trend in national polling from NBC that found two thirds of all GOP voters support the ban. Trump has since attracted large swathes of those who align to these sentiments to vote for him with furtherance of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the pledge to re-introduce internment camps and torture as well as narrations of mythical accounts of General Pershing’s execution of 99 Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. He currently leads the Republican race with the three States of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada already won with little indication of any GOP alternative emerging to halt his rise. Worrying is the tangibility of his support. As Trump stated himself, his support wouldn’t dwindle even if he were to shoot someone in broad daylight.
It is most concerning however that Trump has begun a movement not seen in its degree of Fascistic populist demagoguery since the ascendancies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. However unlike the rise of Hitler and Mussolini America isn’t suffering from an entire institutional collapse of the political process or a rampant economic downfall. Trump has made, what would be considered as extreme political positions, mainstream.
He championed accusations that Barack Obama was ineligible to hold the US Presidency as he was, incorrectly, not born in the United States. A recent Public Policy Poll found that 16% of Trump supporters readily identify themselves as White Supremacists. A YouGov poll found 20% of Trump Supporters disagreed with the freeing of slaves from Southern States.
Furthermore, it is intriguing to listen to the nature of the overriding rhetoric employed by Trump’s campaign. His motto of “Make America Great Again” envisions an idealism that only his core support understand. That is, America is overwhelmingly White and any group of people in contrast to that illustration is a threat, not one of them and distinctly un-American. To Trump and his followers other nations and individuals must lose for Americans and themselves to win; Trump jested that he “likes war but only if we win”. Imposing tariffs on nations that outcompete the United States in trade is reminiscent of 19th Century Mercantilism. At its core, ‘Trumpism’ holds a specific social order and political violence including genocide is justified to those not fitting as indicated by Trump’s remarks of torture and fabled stories of the executions of Muslims. It advocates for an authoritarian approach to Government emphasising the singling out of minorities as causal to deprived social and economic choices.
Trump’s disapproval will unlikely make him successful in a General Election against any Democrat. However, the most worrying element of his candidacy is that it has given a revival to an ideological movement that remains. He’s become the billionaire orange face of a normalised fascist political opinion that will only secure itself in the populist narrative that Trumpism brings. He’s singlehandedly revived fascism in the 21st Century.
by Alireza Versi