What is it, exactly, that Donald Trump is selling? In substantial part, it’s himself – as my co-editor Bob puts it, Trump is trying to “feed his bloated idiot-sized ego.” Trump loves to talk about how rich he is, how much he personally “cherishes women” and other groups, about how successful he’s been in business, etc. There’s no doubt that he’s peddling, in part, a cult of personality.
But there is more to it than that. The trademarked slogan of his campaign is “Make America Great Again.” He is, of course, the GOP’s biggest purveyor of nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric. He rails against leaders who have supposedly turned America into a “loser” (“we don’t have victories anymore,” he said recently). Also – and this is important – some of his economic proposals are intensely nationalistic and hated by big business. The NY Times reports that some conservatives are concerned about Trump’s proposals to raise taxes “on corporations that he believes do not act in the best interests of the United States” – for instance, “Mr. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on American companies that put their factories in other countries … [a]nd he has vowed to change laws that allow American companies to benefit from cheaper tax rates by using mergers to base their operations outside the United States.”
That is a marked difference from Republican orthodoxy, which generally puts the interests of big business first and foremost. The GOP is, essentially, pro-corporation, but Trump is nationalist first, corporate second.
“The one problem I have with the flat tax is that rich people are paying the same as people that are making very little money,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think there should be a graduation of some kind.”
Another part of Trump’s platform (if you can call it that), as I’ve said before, is his apparent belief that the “welfare state” is not always a bad thing. He supports Social Security and criticizes his opponents for wanting to dismantle it. He has said he opposes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He has said that “we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves,” which sounds a lot like some form of government-run health care.
Yet another departure from GOP orthodoxy is Trump’s stance on the current state of our political system. He has said repeatedly that the system is broken, and he uses his personal wealth to demonstrate that he is independent of it. This criticism applies to his own party as well as to the Democrats – he recently blasted both sides, saying “[a]ll of the money that’s going to Hillary, and Jeb, and Scott and Marco? They’re totally controlled. Totally.” Trump is saying, in effect, that the entire two-party system as we know it is corrupt, and it’s time for something else.
So. Let’s talk now about fascism – not in the pejorative sense, but in terms of what the fascist ideology actually is. There is some disagreement as to how “fascism” should be defined – the word, after all, comes from the Italian word for a bundle (fascio), which in the late 19th century came to refer to a wide variety of Italian political groups or “leagues” known as fasci. Only later, when Benito Mussolini consolidated some of these movements into the Partito Nazionale Fascista and took power in the 1920s, did fascism come to be synonymous with Mussolini’s particular ideology, and there have been other fascist movements that don’t line up exactly with Mussolini’s. But, to the extent that the Wikipedia article on fascism can be seen as authoritative, let’s see how it stacks up with Trumpism.