1. An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
1.1 (in general use) extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices.
Source Oxford Living Dictionaries
Bill Maher is a comedian but he also has a serious side. On his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher he made the case Donald Trump is an authoritarian. He checked off the items on the authoritarian checklist:
- Family members in positions of authority
- Rallies and military parades
- State media propaganda (Fox News often referred to as “Trump TV”)
- Using office for financial gain
- Aligned with other authoritarians/dictators
- Blames minorities for nation’s troubles
- Serial lying to the point the big lie supersedes the truth
- Wears a military uniform
Sure, we can argue the degree to which Trump is an authoritarian. Sure, we can quibble with items on the list like Maher’s tongue in cheek reference to Fox News as state TV. However, it’s hard to avoid Trump’s authoritarian tendencies.
Looking back to the dictionary definition of “fascism” the other element is nationalism. It’s even more obvious in the case of Trump. “Make America great again” (MAGA) definitely is an appeal to nationalism. Trump’s slogan “America first” – clearly an appeal to nationalism – being a cornerstone of MAGA. Given all of Trump’s anti-immigration demagoguery, Trump is specifically advocating racial nationalism.
There are other ways to determine whether or not Trump is a fascist and the degree to which he is a fascist. John McNeill at the Washington Post wrote an article How fascist is Donald Trump? There’s actually a formula for that detailing an interesting and more sophisticated approach. Unlike Maher, there’s not a bit of humor in his analysis. He’s completely serious.
Hitler being the most famous fascist in history – and the scariest – a lot of Trump defenders will try to ward off all this talk of fascism by claiming his accusers are comparing him to Hitler or calling Trump a Nazi. And we all know when you start calling someone a Nazi you’ve lost an argument. But there’s degrees of fascism and nobody is accusing Trump of sending anyone off to death camps or wanting to conquer Europe. Trump is hardly violent by nature. Even the few people who scream “Nazi” at Trump really, in my humble opinion, are just pointing out his fascist tendencies. Not that he’s among the worst fascists in history. Though it doesn’t help when Trump implies illegal immigrants are vermin which brings back memories of how the Nazis characterized Jews.
However, just the mere fact we’re having this conversation is disturbing. No? Let a thought sink in: What does it say about America that we elected even a fascist-lite president? But that’s a whole different can of worms that deserves its own blog post.
I haven’t written a blog post in a long while so why now and why this hot button topic? Am I just pushing out some click bait? While I may never convince Trump’s supporters otherwise, the reality is his disturbing nativist immigration policies pushed me over the edge. Trump’s decision to separate children from their parents as a way to pressure Congress into caving and paying for his border wall and his litany of draconian immigration policies were just too much for me to take. I have to speak out against this clearest example of Trump’s fascist tendencies.
Safety is fundamental to happiness in our society. So when Trump says at rallies and pressers and during his rants on Fox News and in his nasty tweets on Twitter illegal immigrants are violent criminals it certainly puckers ones butt cheeks. But like so many things coming from The Donald’s mouth it’s mostly a lie.
He loves to fear-monger about MS-13 crossing our borders. And certainly it has. But what Trump doesn’t say is the majority of the movement has been from the United States to Central America. The sad fact is MS-13 started in Los Angeles. American law enforcement cracking down on the gang deported them back to their homeland where they’ve flourished to the point of greatly undermining security in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Most of the victims of MS-13 violence aren’t Americans but Central Americans who, ironically given Trump’s fascist demagoguery, are fleeing it to seek asylum in the United States.
To make his point Trump recently held a press conference showcasing families whose loved ones were killed by illegal aliens. What I heard from the portion live broadcast on cable news was one case of a drunk driver and one case of a violent criminal. Nothing regarding MS-13 though I’m sure there must be examples to be had since the gang is still active, if diminished, in America. But the reality is a case can be made illegal immigrants commit crime – particularly violent crime – at a lower rate than our citizenry. Trump’s own statistic he used at the presser that 63,000 Americans have been killed since 9/11, unsurprisingly, is lie that’s easily debunked.
The libertarian think tank The Cato Institute often associated with conservatism – rightly or wrongly – conducted a study of immigration and crime in Texas which mostly proved illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lesser rate than American citizens. The report concludes:
The homicide conviction rate for illegal immigrants was 25 percent below that of native-born Americans in Texas in 2015. The conviction rates for illegal immigrants were 11.5 percent and 79 percent below that of native-born Americans for the crimes of sexual assault and larceny, respectively. Illegal immigrants were more likely to be convicted of gambling, kidnapping, smuggling, and vagrancy than natives, but those crimes constituted only 0.18 percent of all convictions that year in Texas. For all criminal convictions in Texas in 2015, illegal immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 56 percent below that of native-born Americans. Legal immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 85 percent below that of native-born Americans.
Trump is also known to spew statistics touting huge numbers of illegal immigrant crimes. But a large percentage of these crimes is the ‘crime’ of illegally entering the United States in the first place despite the first offense merely being a misdemeanor. Which I think is rather bogus since many people like myself see the need for a liberal immigration policy to fill jobs Americans won’t do but are nonetheless vital to our economy. Yet until Congress can get its act together one can argue a crime is a crime even though Trump sycophants must admit the act itself is victimless. Oh, and don’t conflate me calling illegal immigration being victimless with the separate issue of a small minority of illegal immigrants at some point during their stay here committing a crime. That’s a separate issue I dealt with earlier.
If conservative nationalists like Trump are going to wet their pants as long as there is a single crime committed by illegal immigrants in the United States – other than the ‘crime’ of sneaking into America illegally – then we have an impossible goal. There are an estimated 12.5 million illegal immigrants in America. Certainly in a population that large some criminals will be found. However, I’d argue the benefits of illegal immigrants far outweigh their costs as they’re vital to our economy. Is 12.5 million too many? How many more do we let in? What does legal status mean (e.g. is there a path for citizenship or are they perpetual guest workers)? Those questions are open for honest debate. But Trump’s zero tolerance policy and other various intimidation policies hoping to not let any more in and send those already here back home isn’t a solution, it’s a problem. And it’s clearly ugly fascism at work which history will judge us harshly for. Guaranteed.