Now that the cottage industry that has developed around calling Trump a Fascist and a ‘threat’ to American life has embraced just about the entire liberal academic, editorial, and news-media community, I would like to offer a corrective. Trump may have talked like a Fascist, he may have sauntered around like a Fascist, and he may have even harbored some fantasies that he was a Fascist.
But wanting to be a Fascist isn’t the same thing as actually trying to be a Fascist. You don’t become a Fascist threat to anyone just by shooting your mouth off. You become a threat by making some kind of plan which puts together the various groups and forces that you need to mobilize into an organized force that will follow your lead.
You also need to make sure that the Democratic institutions that you want to overthrow and replace with one-man rule cannot withstand any real degree of pressure applied by the groups and forces that are beholden to you.
Now let’s pause for a minute and examine the actual events which spawned Fascist regimes in three European countries between World War I and World War II. The classic case, of course, was Italy, which became a Fascist dictatorship in 1922. Germany then became a Fascist regime in 1933, followed by Spain in 1939.
Together, these three countries had been functioning political democracies for a little more than 50 total years. In other words, the democratic institutions that were abolished by Mussolini, Hitler and Franco weren’t even in their second generation of existence. In Spain, democracy had been in existence for less than ten years. In Germany for fifteen years.
Know how long the United States has been a functioning democracy? Try two-hundred and thirty-three years, one month and 23 days. And virtually every federal agency is run by full-time employees enrolled in the civil service system, most of the senior managers also being attorneys, by the way. And attorneys have a funny way of not wanting to break the law. When they do, the usually get disbarred — read: Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen — both of whom worked for Donald Trump.
The United States is a country of laws and the laws have been around for a long time. Now you can get up in front of a crowd of nitwits on January 6th and tell them to march down to the Capitol to “take the country back,” but notice that none of those jerk-offs were carrying guns.
And that’s the other thing that a wannabe Fascist has to do in order to achieve his political ends. He needs to have access to, and to use brute force. No Fascist dictator ever came into power by sending a dope like Sidney Powell into a Federal court to argue that the Communists rigged Dominion voting machines. Hitler had his brown-shirted SA thugs who beat up people in the streets, Mussolini had his black-shirted Fascist squadra who attacked and destroyed the office of political opponents in every Italian city and large town, Franco brought almost 20,000 heavily-armed troops with him from Morocco when he announced his rebellion against the government in 1936.
What military or armed force did Trump have to overthrow the state? He had nobody at all. In fact, he even went so far as to blame the Capitol riot on Antifa, instead of doing what a real Fascist would have done, namely exhorting those idiot Proud Boys to fight hard and fight on.
Trump wasn’t a Fascist. He was a demagogue. Want the Merriam-Webster definition of a demagogue? Here it is: “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.”
But notice that the dictionary stops short of defining how a demagogue gains political power. Know why? Because the whole point of demagoguery is the way you communicate in the public arena and what you say.
What made Trump so new and different as a politician, a type of behavior that he continued after the election o 2016, was not the fact that he was a demagogue. It was that he used social media as a platform for his demagoguery in a new and innovative way.
Where was Trump’s demagogic behavior most often seen? On Twitter. Obama didn’t use Twitter in either of his campaigns. He did use Facebook in 2008, but he certainly never indulged in any degree of demagogic rhetoric which Trump broadcast out every day.
Obama also made very few campaign appearances that were anything like the more than 200 mass rallies organized by Trump between 2015 and 2021. And at every one of these rallies, Trump’s demagogic skills — insults, lies, false promises, profanity — were on full display.
The real question is this: When will some liberal Presidential candidate copyright a cute slogan, sell it on t-shirts, hats, and flags, and get someone like Bruce Springsteen to headline a weekly mass rally in some pro-Democratic neighborhood every week?