Is there any more overused term in modern political discourse than “fascist?” Googling the term produces 41,700,000 results. Adding “Trump” gets over 8 million hits, the first three of which are “Madeline Albright Warns of a New Fascism—and Trump” (“The New Yorker”); “Yes, Trump is a Fascist” (“The New Republic”); “Donald Trump’s Fascist Week” (“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”). To be fair, it’s not just the Left throwing the term around; “Obama fascist” brings up over 2 million hits, and not a few right-wingers apply the term to Leftists, as well.
But “fascist” is deployed far more by the Left—in fact, it’s become an axiom there. Besides the aforementioned empirical data, many of us could adduce abundant anecdotal examples. This past year, in my college world history class, I had several students who wanted to write papers arguing that “Trump is Hitler.” I am not sure any of those students could have found Germany on a map prior to my lecturing on it; but they were certain Trump would soon be growing a small mustache and putting black Americans in camps. (Needless to say, I denied the paper requests. But I did allow students to write about Trump as Julius Caesar, and Hillary as Cleopatra—just not together, in any sense. ) At the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, which my wife and I attend often, some of the thespians include “I punch Nazis” in their stage bios. And just last week I got into a Twitter feud with Josh Gates, host of the show “Expedition Unknown” which my sons and I watch religiously. Concluding the episode on “Nazis in Argentina,” Mr. Gates said: “sadly, the specter of fascism seems to be rising again around the world.” I tweeted to him that I found that ridiculous, and that he should stick to adventuring. I must have struck a nerve because, much to my surprise, Mr. Gates sarcastically responded several times before the exchange petered out.
At least he was polite and non-specific in his allegations; many celebrities on Twitter and other social media are downright nasty about their conviction the world is in the throes of Trump-led fascism. (For examples, see multiple tweets by, say, actor Ron Perlman or “journalist” Soledad O’Brien.) Even folks who should know better—like former CIA director, retired General Michael Hayden—played the Nazi card to criticize US immigration policy.
Donald Duck is force-fed fascism in a 1943 Disney send-up of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Full video is on youtube here.
But is a Euro-American Fourth Reich really rising? Although I am a historian, I’ve learned from my political scientist colleagues that any honest and rational discussion requires defining terms first. A concise and accurate list of “the 14 characteristics of fascism” by Dr. Lawrence Britt is a good paradigm to use. Let’s examine each of these, honestly, and see whether they apply to Trump and conservatives or to Obama, Hillary and “progressives.”
- Nationalism: Trump and conservatives clearly tout this more, over against globalism and open borders. Right 1, Left 0.
- Disdain for human rights: the Left likes to claim human rights as their exclusive domain, but the Trump administration has not abandoned these—it’s simply shifted the focus onto, for example, persecuted Middle East Christians from predominantly-Muslim refugees. Scoreless tie.
- Finding and scapegoating enemies: Trump and conservatives do the former, and arguably the latter, to Muslim jihadists and militant-nihilist Leftists; but “progressives,” led by Obama and Hillary, have not just identified and scapegoated anyone with a Bible and a gun but vilified half the population as “deplorable.” 1-1.
- Favoring and “glamorizing” the military, especially via “disproportionate” funding: not to wax (Bill) Clintonian, but this “depends on what your definition of ‘disproportionate’ spending is.” Under both Obama and Trump defense spending takes up about 16% of the US budget. And the alleged “glamorization” of the military is entirely subjective. Another scoreless tie.
- Sexism, opposition to abortion and homosexuality : it’s true that Trump and his supporters (including 41% of women) passed on the first female POTUS; but UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, DHS director Kirstjen Nielsen and CIA chief Gina Haspel would not agree that this administration scorns women. Also, one might ask why it’s “fascist” to see a fetus as a human being, considering the majority of the world’s 2.3 billion Christians do so. And despite charges of Trump being “anti-homosexual,” there’s precious little empirical evidence of such. A draw.
- Media control: neither side “controls” the media, but the fawning sycophancy that passed for journalism during the Obama years, to include the Hillary campaign, coupled with the incessant hatred and negative coverage of Trump, clearly demonstrates that Obama and the Left come far closer to this than the other side. Obama 1, Trump less than 0.
- National security “obsession:” Trump’s side gets the nod here, despite Obama’s global drone-fest of terrorists, as well as he and Hillary’s mania about fictional Russian “collusion” with Trump. Remember, however: the Preamble to the US Constitution lists providing for the common defense as one of the six reasons for its existence, so in this regard one person’s “obsession” is another’s duty. Trump 1, Obama 0 (barely).
- Mixing religion and government: despite charges of theocracy, Trump’s administration, while talking more positively about Christianity, has not forced female Cabinet officials to don The Handmaid’s Tale-style garb; and indeed, Obama’s and Hillary’s favoring of Islam, in policy and in rhetoric, makes this one a toss-up. Statistical tie.
- Pro corporations: manufacturing loves Trump; Silicon Valley loved, and still loves, Obama. A draw.
- Suppressing unions: they’re still here, even under a real-estate mogul POTUS. Unions are just continuing to go the way of the dinosaurs—except for government ones, which cling to life even more tenaciously than the Jurassic Park kind. Dead heat.
- Scorning intellectuals, arts: the only censoring of academics in America comes from the Left, since they can’t seem to abide even the miniscule number of conservative professors that exist. And while President Trump has proposed “slashing” funding for NPR and its ilk, Congress keeps restoring it. 0-0.
- Preoccupation with crime and punishment via police with “limitless power:” contra Black Lives Matter cop hatred and, now, the larger Left’s vilification of ICE (Immigation and Customs Enforcement), police do not have “almost limitless power” in the US. (And indeed, the bulk of BLM’s complaints about police were during Obama’s second term.) Fantasy is not reality. No winner.
- Rampant corruption and cronyism: Obama, Hillary and the Left win this one in a landslide via the IRS targeting conservatives, Brennan and the CIA spying on Congress, half a BILLION dollars going to shore up a handful of “moderate” Syrian rebels—and, of course, the politicization of the entire leadership of the FBI and that agency’s collusion with the Hillary campaign in the 2016 election. Obama and the Dems shut out Trump and the GOP here.
- Fraudulent elections with “smear campaigns” against opposition candidates and “judiciaries [that] manipulate or control elections:” the Obama administration wins this one hands-down, too. This is without even delving into the DNC’s rigging its own primaries to favor Hillary and disenfranchise Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Yes, Trump ultimately won—but that was in spite of the Obama administration’s attempts to put Hillary into the Oval Office. Obama 1, Trump 0.
So Trump and the Right manifest nationalism (#1), blaming enemies (#3) and being overly concerned with national security (#7); but Obama, Hillary and the Left also impugn opponents (#3), as well as manipulate the media (#6), use government institutions against enemies and to protect supporters (#13) and try to rig elections (#14). That’s a 4-3 advantage for the Democrats in the “fascism” department.
Of course, in reality—where words mean things—neither Obama nor Trump is “fascist;” that would require manifesting many more characteristics of the ideology. So the Left’s incessant attempts to portray conservatives as such simply highlights that side’s paucity of ideas and rank emotionalism.
What about the European leaders usually adduced as “fascist:” Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz? As with President Trump, none of them qualifies as such; and in fact they and their political parties are all in the post-war European mainstream of center-right Christian Democrats—before the Western European elites moved far Left. Duda, Orbán and Kurz are all united, mainly, in their distaste for massive Middle Eastern migration and the problems such present for their countries; none of them wishes to employ blitzkrieg to impose Polish, Hungarian or Austrian practices on the rest of Europe.
Enough with the talismanic slandering of political opponents as “fascist” and “Nazi.” People’s desires to live in peace and preserve their own nation-state and culture is neither; it’s natural and logical. Our President and these central European leaders understand this and are turning the globalist, “progressive” tide, which is why the Left has doubled down on its führer furor. Trump them with the truth.