How Fascist is President Trump? There’s Still a Formula for ThatRoundup
tags: fascism, Donald Trump
John McNeill is a professor of history at Georgetown University.
In October 2016, I asked how fascist Donald Trump was as a presidential candidate, comparing his campaign with the movements in Italy and Germany using a four-point scale. I awarded Trump "Benitos" for how closely his campaign resembled those movements. A few weeks before his election, Trump earned 59 percent of possible Benitos, which made him "the most dangerous threat to pluralist democracy in this country in more than a century" — but not a genuine fascist. As a candidate, Trump was an amateurish imitation of the real thing.
Four years later, we can assess how fascist Trump has been in power. I have expanded the scale to include new criteria that were not relevant before he took office: governance, consolidation of power and various policy arenas. Instead of a possible 44 Benitos, as in 2016, the maximum is now 76. Does Trump earn more than 59 percent on his record in the White House?
In 2020, as in 2016, many observers declare Trump fascist, especially after his call for "total domination" of American cities, his glee over federal police actions against Black Lives Matter protesters and his efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the upcoming election should he lose.
But are we there yet? No. In a federal, decentralized state with constitutional checks and balances, it's harder to govern as a fascist than to run as one. Trump's political outlook and behavior bear many similarities to those of fascist leaders, but he has not ruled like an authentic fascist. We can thank "the swamp": The courts, the military, the media, voters and his own appointed officials (now mostly fired) have kept him in check.
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