This is long. But sometimes, there are things which require details and stories to fill out a picture as fully as possible to make clear that you are not cherry-picking random examples, trying to force connections that aren’t there, but rather are describing the overall landscape as it exists, completed with touches of material that's been buried under the mountains of reality that have kept piling on top over the years, obscuring the view. This is one of those times. And even that that, it isn’t a grand mural, but just a small cameo engraving.
Back on April 9, 2018 – a little over a year in the Trump term in office -- I wrote an article here about how ever since he became such a divisive candidate I’d been hesitant to throw epithets his way, but that I’d seen enough to now say that I believed he was not only racist and white supremacist, but a fascist. And I explained in detail why that was the case.
Among other things, I noted the tale of how, during the 2016 presidential campaign, I was flipping channels and being surprised to see a Democrat who I liked as a guest on Tucker Carlson's TV show on "Fox News," so I stopped long enough to see the guest presciently describe Trump even back then as a fascist. Carlson's hair almost burst in flames. He was almost bouncing out of his seat, "How can you call him that?? How can you call him that?!!!" The guest -- I wish I could remember who he was -- was trying to answer, but the cries of Carlson and his other panelists of "How can you say that???!!" and "That's just shameful!" and angst, moans and cries of distress drowned out any effort, so the question never got answered. At the time, it was an early call of Trump's fascism, and although I wasn't personally convinced yet of it, I understood the position, and was hoping the guest would get a chance to explain. But when a TV host has imploded and having an emotional meltdown, some things get pushed to the background.
But that guest was far ahead of the game in his certainty, and remains so today. Trump is a fascist.
And subsequently, the Republican Party has followed him there.
Indeed, detailed as that original 2018 article was, it was still so early in the timeline of Trump World, and so much has been added to that evidence – and worse, that it’s not just Trump who pushed a fascist agenda, but now the elected Republican Party leadership, both on a national level and state/local – that I thought it all needed some updating.
What prompted me addressing this is that the other day I got an angry tweet from someone so upset that I had said the Republican Party is fascist and therefore those who support it are supporting fascism. (Honestly, if it was me, and if the party I was supporting was, in fact, fascist, I’d personally be far more upset that it was fascist, rather than the name someone gave it, and would quit the party. But hey, that’s just me...) The timing of his tweet, though, was particularly good since my article that very morning had been about how elected Republicans in 13 states were pushing bills that redefine protests as “riots” and therefore limit penalties when someone hits protestors with cars! Now, that is fascist, and even on two levels. (It will be clear later.) And the much larger point is that national and state Republican leadership is not only not outraged by redefining protests as “riots” and limiting penalties for hitting people with cars, it is Republican leadership in these 13 (so far) states who are pushing these bills.
What also struck me is that my angry correspondent had no idea what fascism actually was. But that didn’t surprise me since it was so on-brand for today’s GOP. After all, the Republican Party has been calling Democrats “socialists” and “commies” for at least 70 years, having next to no idea what socialism actually is. And to be clear, it is not about giving food stamps to the needy or providing unemployment insurance or helping build a safety net for old age, or allowing health care to be affordable for everyone. Those are social programs, they are not “socialism.” Socialism is when the government or a collective community controls both production and distribution of material, or owns the corporations itself. Socialism is not when government develops programs to help protect its citizens. That’s…well, that’s what government is supposed to do.
All of which got me to thinking I should update my 2018 article a bit, because Republican fascism has become far more pronounced and clear as a party agenda than merely pointing the finger at its Dear Leader Trump. None of this is meant to be definitive – there’s much, much too much to point to for that. It’s just the basics of Republican fascism today. And there’s plenty enough to point to on that level alone.
The starting point is to make clear that this is not hyperbole, but literally the book definition of fascism. One may hate or support fascism, but whichever it is one has to accept that there is an actual definition of it. And using my Word Web dictionary, this is what it shows --
Noun. Fascism (fa-shi-zum)
1. A political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)
2. Extreme right-wing, authoritarian, intolerant, racist or nationalistic views or behavior
There are three basic tenets that define fascism: one is a push to discredit or eliminate any opposition sources of authority and leadership. The second is an intense use of xenophobia and overt reliance on patriotism to demonize foreigners or those who are different. And finally, there is the authorized use of force and brutality.
It was difficult to not see those words painted over the fullness that is Trump all the way back in his primary campaign. Even acolytes most devoted to him, while crying at the label of “fascist” would be hard-pressed to deny the description, especially since so many not only actually revel in it, but it’s the very reason they support him. Demeaning other sources of authority, disdaining outsiders, and authorized violence. And now this base has moved beyond just Trump to support the Republican Party which has embraced this foundation in full. Indeed, if those are the very reasons one supports the Republican Party, then at least embrace the definition because it comes with wearing the badge. Don’t be a coward and support the actions of fascism and then say you hate fascism and “Oh, no, the Republican Party would never be fascist.” Embrace what you support, don’t hide and sneak around in shadows. After all, the GOP has long claimed to be “The Party of Personal Responsibility.”
So, let’s look at the list of what makes today’s Republican Party fascist.
In any democratic society, the most significant voices of authority outside of the ruling government are a free press, the legal system and law enforcement. And from the first, Trump tried to undermine the public's faith and trust in them all. Because if you can’t trust all the other sources of authority and power in a society, that leaves the strongman leader to say, “If you’re confused, if you don’t know who to trust, then follow me.” Trump’s near-daily calls of "fake news" had no purpose other than to make the public lose faith in independent, investigative news coverage. Even to the extent of wanting a change in libel laws. He went so far as to call the free press "the enemy of the people." We saw, too, Trump's attacks on the judiciary, questioning decisions because of a judge's heritage. There were his attacks to undercut judicial decisions for not being made by "elected officials" – along with continual tweet storms and speeches lashing out to challenge the legitimacy of court rulings and "so-called judges." All done to undermine trust in the judiciary. And from the first, back during the presidential campaign, were Trump's unrelenting denials in findings by the entire breadth of the intelligence community. His claims of fictitious "deep state" illegal conspiracies by the FBI were themselves solely intended to strip those law enforcement services of credibility. On stage with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, Trump actually said he chose to believe America’s enemy Putin over all U.S. intel services. Not to mention his firings of the FBI Director, as well as FBI and Justice Department officials for reasons of claimed bias -- all the more critical since they were the ones investigating him, most particularly his continual attacks on the Special Prosecutor in charge of that very investigation. All to subvert confidence in the legitimacy of any findings of that investigation. And yet, after doing all he could and then leaving office, having fired and stripped FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe of all privileges due him, McCabe sued – and won, with everything taken from him by Trump returned. And for all of these things, all of them, there was not a voice of outrage raised by a single voice among elected Republican officials in Congress. Total silence and support by the entire Republican Party.
Which doesn’t even include Trump and the Republican Party’s further attacks to discredit two other significant sources of authority in the country that challenged his “power” – science leadership and election sanctity. In the former, during a pandemic that has killed 750,000 Americans so far, Trump and Republicans regularly demeaned (and continue to) the advice of one of the world experts on disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, trying to demean his authority and instead make Trump – the man who suggested drinking bleach, injecting disinfectants and exposing oneself to deadly UV rays -- the leading voice on science. To this day, the Republican Party still pushes useless, dangerous faux-remedies like hydroxychloroquine and sheep drench, while supporting riots against masks, all to undermine science. And it is a pure fascist 101 tactic out of the Fascist Playbook to try to discredit elections, as Trump and Republicans officials throughout the country have done to create distrust in the results, election officials, certification of votes, recounts, fake-audits, and even court rulings in 60 lawsuits that Trump and Republicans filed and lost. To this day, a year after the election, Trump and many, if not most Republicans officials still refuse to accept the certified and recounted results of the election, relentlessly crying “fraud” without have a shred of evidence they could present in court, in order to sew fascist discord in the American public – standard GOP practice now, to the degree of claiming fake “voter fraud” even before elections take place. Distrust of election results is their point, though only if they lose, keep me in power. Keep us in power. And if that doesn’t work, let’s pass Republican laws to suppress voter participation, perhaps the most sacred of American rights. And put our partisans in charge of determining the results.
Here’s how far Republicans will take trying to discredit any voice of authority that challenges their own position of power, reaching for the ludicrous. The fictional Muppet character Big Bird from Sesame Street sent out a tweet about being vaccinated – and Republican Senator Ted Cruz attacked the fictional and beloved Big Bird as “pure propaganda.” Then, an analyst for the GOP house organ, “Fox News,” Lisa Marie Boothe called Big Bird’s tweet “twisted” and “brainwashing children who are not at risk of COVID.” (Never mind that children can get COVID and pass it to adults who are very much at risk.) And continuing the attack, Steve Cortes, a host on the deeply far-right Newmax, called it “actually evil.” Actually. No, not theoretical, but actually evil. In the realm of demons, Lucifer and monsters. And again, remember: this is the eternally 6-year-old Big Bird!!! Twisted, propaganda, and actually evil. Which oddly enough sort of describes today’s GOP. And to put this pathetic and almost dangerous forced-outrage in larger perspective, it helps to know that the fictional character of Big Bird has been advocating vaccinating children against measles, mumps, and rubella since 1972! When Ted Cruz was two years old. And probably watched Big Bird. And got vaccinated.
As for the second tenet of fascism, xenophobia, the core of the Trump platform has been hatred of others. His earliest positions centered on building a wall specifically to keep Mexicans out. And worse, not just Mexicans because it was illegal, but because he claimed they were drug-dealers, rapists and criminals and a threat to America. And that was all fine with Republicans, who made it all their GOP party platform. But then, those who are “different” from white males has long been at the core of the Republican Party for the past 75 years or so, long since losing their Lincoln heritage, instead today fighting against civil rights for black people, distrust of Jews, laws to hold back women, whether blocking their vote, working against the Equal Rights Amendment, trying to overturn abortion laws and more – like wannabe president Josh Hawley, Republican senator from Missouri, who let his support to insurrectionists and now literally makes speeches on behalf of “masculinity.”
Trump’s hatred of foreigners and minorities merely built on this xenophobic road and ramped up on it. Consider: in a nation whose foundation stems from a First Amendment for the freedom of speech and religion, he made those who follow the Muslim faith to be the face of terrorism. And the GOP marched along with it. Trump went so far as to propose the surveillance of mosques, keeping databases of Muslims, and creating travel bans based purely on someone being a Muslim. If you are different, if you wear a burka, if your skin is dark, you are suspicious. Indeed, Trump's rise in the political world of the Republican Party was based on inflaming those fears of "others, claiming that the black president was supposedly not born in the United States and ineligible to be in office. And the very foundation of the Trump political universe is America First, embraced by the GOP – yet it is a slogan from the 1940s for the America First Party that was isolationist, racist and anti-Semitic. And his dream to “Make America Great Again” is founded on the clear implication that what has stripped America's greatness is the influx of Mexicans, Muslims, a black president, Jews and foreigners. Doing his best to obliterate the mix of cultures which is the very melting pot that has actually been what made America great, with the Statue of Liberty lifting its lamp to welcome those onto our shores. Instead, he openly courted white supremacist hate groups and neo-Nazis. And only a small handful of Republican officials complained about that, the rest were perfectly okay with it – because they were perfectly okay with it. It’s who today’s Republican Party is – racist, white supremacist, fascist.
And when the pandemic came, Trump and Republican officials made sure to place blame on “them,” making sure to call it the “Chinese virus,” which put all Asian people at risk as attacks against them rose. And this fascist tactic was, as always, fine with the party officials who kept enabling it all. Because it’s who they are. And then there was the demonization of Mexicans and South Americans who had their children literally taken from them and locked in cages at the border. Trump policy, fully approved and enabled by Republicans in Congress.
And then the third tenet of fascism, violence, the authorized use of force and bullying. It began even before Trump was in office, setting the foundation for what was to come. At Trump rallies during the presidential campaign, his ranting against the media grew so strong that press members covering the events had to be roped off and have security to protect them from threats. (Meanwhile reinforcing that they were different and had to be separated.) When supporters at a February, 2016 Trump rally were taken into custody for punching dissenters in the arena, Trump supported them by saying “Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court. Don't worry about it." And earlier that month at a Las Vegas rally, he said about a protestor being lead out, "I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you." His own campaign manager was charged by a journalist of battery.
So, it only followed that once in office, when a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Trump's response was to defend neo-Nazis as having some "very fine people." And while a handful of people in his administration quit – life went on as usual in the GOP. As in important postscript to this, when it came to the court trial of that violence, which began in Charlottesville in October, 2021, evidence was introduced into the proceedings that many of Trump’s “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis were there excited about killing Jewish people.
And Trump regularly and repeatedly praised dictators. From Russia's Vladimir Putin to Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan to the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte (going so far as not just praising the autocrat’s policy of killing drug dealers without due process, but adopting aspects of it) and up to China's Xi Jinping, with whom he shared “a big beautiful piece of chocolate cake” and the brutal killer Kim Jong Un, sending self-professed love letters to the man who killed family members to solidify his power.
The result of all this is that the Trump base sees the actions and hears the words of its hero and thinks that that gives them cover to attack minorities on street, Muslims especially, or anyone who they think maybe even looks "Muslim," ranting at them to go back where they came from -- which is reprehensible and so profoundly against American ideals under any condition, but all the more so when most of those attacked are actually American and home where they are from -- and we've seen such brutal attacks, physical and verbal, regularly on the rise. This same kind of violence was exacerbated when Trump and Republicans in Congress repeatedly referred to the pandemic as the aforementioned “Chinese virus” (a double fascism overlapping with xenophobia), which prompted an ongoing rash of violence against anyone American or foreign who looked to be of Asian ancestry.
And of course famously during his debate when running for re-election, Trump was challenged by Joe Biden to denounce the hate and violence of white supremacist groups. And his response of “Stand down and stand by” was cheered by those very groups as a call to violence, just put on temporary hold. Something we saw the result of on the January 6 insurrection.
By the way, lest anyone think Trump’s plans for a violent coup only came late after he lost the November, 2020 election, his goals were set up earlier. When China's Xi Jinping had that country's laws changed to reinforce his rule, Trump “quipped” on March 3, 2018 (three years before the insurrection), "He's now president for life. President for life. And he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll give that a shot some day." Yes, the Trump spokesman tried to dismiss it at the time as a joke. It wasn’t funny then and reads oh-so grisly after January 6, 2021.
And Republican support of authorized violence proliferated. There was Trump sending the U.S. military (which is not to be employed within the United States) to the border in San Diego to supposedly stop a caravan of poor immigrants headed for America. And Trump ordering armed helicopters and tear gas to attack peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. And Trump saying his one regret as president was not sending in the army against Black Lives Matters protestors in Portland.
To be clear, this is not about the violence Trump promoted. He just gave permission to other officials in his party to follow his fascist lead and be as brutal.
That’s where the 13 states noted earlier come in, where Republican officials have introduced “hit and kill” bills in their legislatures – the laws that define some peaceful protests (protected specifically by the U.S. Constitution) as being riots and therefore lessen the penalties if a person hits a protestor with their car. Again, ghastly as this is, that’s why it’s a “double fascism,” as the laws allow brutality to try to discredit protected protests against authority.
And it’s no big leap to go from this to the trial for Kyle Rittenhouse roaming the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, with a rifle, shooting two protestors dead.
And that stands next to the white supremacists in Michigan who had a plan to kidnap and kill the Democratic governor there. Prompted by Trump’s unrelenting hate-filled condemnations of “that woman in Michigan.” Which the fascist Republicans in Congress never repudiated.
But if anyone still has the remotest doubt about how Republican Party elected officials have become fascist and built on Trump’s lead, notably in authorized violence, the specter of the January 6 insurrection haunts the country. An insurrection to overthrow the government which a Republican U.S. senator, Ron Johnson, actually dismissed as just a peaceful gathering of visitors on vacation.
But above all, one only has to listen to the defense of authorized violence given by so many of the insurrectionists who have been arrested and in open court insist -- Trump told us to come.
Trump told us to come. And the elected officials of the Republican Party enabled him. And continue on, pushing those fascist policies in Congress and in states across the country.
And how pervasive is this acceptance of fascist authorized violence by today’s GOP officials? Only days ago, there was a Republican Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) sending out a tweet with his fantasy video of him killing Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with knives – and then attacking President Joe Biden with those same knives! Yet…that’s not even the fascist point. The point is that there was zero outrage from Republican officials in Congress, elected representatives who have sworn an oath to protect and defend the United States of America. And it’s not even that none of these elected Republicans rose to censure him…but that there wasn’t even any criticism of this. Silence. As far as I could find, there was only one Republican in the entire Congress who spoke, out upset by it. And he’s retiring from Congress. Because in today’s fascist Republican Party, violent death fantasies to kill your Democratic Party opponents is apparently on brand.
And all of this here is about Trump and the elected officials of the Republican Party and what they’ve done to promote a fascist agenda. I’ve only brushed past the actions of members of the party – the brutality against those who appear Asian, Muslim or maybe just immigrants; the threats against election officials; the brutal fury at city council officials and school board members; the shootings at churches and synagogues, calls for book bannings (and even burnings); making a hero of an underaged boy who brough an AR-15 across state lines and killed two unarmed people protesting, wounding a third; and so much more – which would be another far-longer treatise of fascism by party members on its own -- all because they seem to feel they’ve been given their party’s authorization and direction for it all.
Because so they have. Pretty much literally. After all, it was Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) who wrote in October, 2020, that “We are not a democracy.” Really. Honest. And he wasn’t saying this as a condemnation of Republican policies, but explaining them. I’m not kidding. If you don’t believe me --
There. Lest you have any doubt. And no, Republicans in Congress didn’t pile on him in horror. They were fine with it. Because…they’re fine with it.
So, the Tucker Carlsons of the world can have their hair set on fire when they hear Trump and the Republican Party described as fascist. But if they want to weep out, "How can you call him that???!!!" -- well, those are just a very few of the overwhelming many reasons why.
By the way, as sort of a side note, momentary detour, what’s fascinating is that for almost 75 years, Republicans have been happy to call Democrats “socialists.” Never mind that their reasoning has absolutely nothing to do with socialism – which, as noted before, is about the government controlling the means of production and distribution. It’s not about giving food stamps to the needy. And never mind that after 75 years of calling Democrats socialists, America has not become a socialist country, and it remains, of course, a democracy – despite Mike Lee’s insistence and the larger reality that Democrats have for much of that time controlled the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Yet point out that the elected officials of the Republican Party have become, by every actual book definition of the term, fascist, and Republicans and the Tucker Carlson’s of the world begin weeping in “how dare you” shirt-rending outrage.
The thing is, I don't think most of even Trump's most devout supporters will disagree with my description of him or of Republican party officials here. They may detest my interpretation of it all (no doubt claiming I’m just a “libtard”) and think that what the party has been doing is right and proper and even necessary, needing to be done in order to "Make America Great Again." But I think they'd agree that I have the facts straight. And like it or not, cry and scream and moan, those facts and that description is the book definition of fascism.
Note: If you don't like being called a fascist, then don't act like one. And don't support one. It's really that simple.
And if you do think the fascist principles are proper…then, yes, that actually does make you a fascist. No matter how you think it’s good for the country. That’s the point. Indeed, as I read the other day, someone noted that what helps lead to fascism is that ?there’s always someone out there willing to make GOP fascism seem reasonable. “Seem” being the operative word. Because it’s still fascism. And fascism only seems reasonable if you’re a fascist.
Lest anyone think I’m saying that all those who support Trump or the Republican Party today are fascists. I’m not saying that. Some are. Some may be too naive to see what they're supporting. Others may see a few of their political positions getting traction and find it politically expedient to ignore the rest, the bad stuff. Some may continue to support Trump and the GOP just because they don't like Democrats and liberals. But at best, they are enabling fascism. Because Trump and the elected officials of today’s Republican Party are fascist.
Not to worry, Trump is more than only being a fascist. He is still also a misogynist, racist, psychopath, white supremacist, congenital liar con man.
But make no mistake -- Trump and the elected officials of the Republican Party are fascist. By every actual, literal book definition of the word.
And it’s not just that this isn’t merely about Trump today – or today’s elected Republicans who enabled him and supported his fascism, and have carried it on since he left office. No, this is just part of Republican history. After all, fascism doesn’t just pop up overnight.
To be clear, as we near the end here, I’m not suggesting that the Republican Party has been fascist for decades. It hasn’t been. The GOP’s founder Abraham Lincoln was nobly moderate and even often liberal. Theodore Roosevelt was profoundly liberal. Indeed, there have been moderate and even liberal Republicans in the somewhat-recent past. But there has been an undercurrent of fascist tendencies that has been running through the party since at least the 1950s. From things like McCarthyism, or trying to discredit intellectuals (like deriding Adlai Stephenson as an “egghead” or undercut JFK as having a “Harvard Mafia”) or Nixon’s Enemies List and the killing of protesting students at Kent State or Reagan trying to demean all of liberalism as an entity just for merely being liberal by dismissing it as the dirty “L word.” And much more. And over time, the moderate and liberal foundation of Lincoln has been stripped away, most significantly so with the “Southern Strategy” to get Richard Nixon elected in 1968 by making a direct appear to the racist aspects of the then-Democratic South. And it’s been downhill fast towards fascism since then, to hold on to the base, expand to other pre-disposed groups, and brings the party’s lightly-buried fascist inclinations to the surface.
So, the Republican lazy dirt road to fascism was always there, winding its way through the outskirts of the party, which as a result was ready to accept a fascist Trump not only as its leader, but almost an infallible god when he showed up. And so, the door was left open for him. He only had to walk through – and the rest of the elected party members marched lock-step in near unanimity behind. And have kept it up since. Only last week, Republican leadership in the House began seriously considering whether to seriously take away committee assignments from the 13 Republicans who dared stray from the party line and vote for the Infrastructure Bill that would significantly help towns and people in their districts and across the country with such wonderful upgrades to improve a democratic nation, like road repair, bridge repair, expanded Internet access and more. But Big Bird is “actually evil.”
Saying that the elected officials of today’s Republican are fascist is not hyperbole. They are the book definition of fascist. Trying to discredit all other sources of power. Xenophobia. And authorized violence. And proud of it. All the boxes are checked. They love the policies. They just don’t like the name.
They’re fine pointing fingers for 75 years at supposed socialism, which isn’t actually socialism, but oh, my, just call them “fascist,” – and explain in specific, lengthy detail why they are precisely that – and dear heavens, the tears weep.
Personally, I can understand weeping at being called a fascist. What I can’t understand is being a fascist in America and thinking you’re supposedly a patriot.
So, any Republican who hates that their party is called fascist, this is only a small part of the many reasons why. By every definition of the word.
Which is the reason that the Republican Party today is fascist.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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