Politics / November 14, 2023
The former president’s rhetoric in a recent speech and on social media resulted in openly eliminatory threats.
Donald Trump speaks at the Florida Freedom Summit at Gaylord Palms Resort on November 4, 2023 in Kissimmee, Florida.
(Paul Hennessy/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Since Donald Trump’s surprise election as president in 2016, political commentators have engaged in a meandering, recursive “fascism debate.” The primary motivation was taxonomic: had the Trump movement ventured further into the realm of anti-democratic and authoritarian politics than its various predecessor uprisings? Was the American political system, which had so long prided itself on its exceptionalist immunity from caustic blood-and-soil mobilizations of mass ethnic cleansing modeled on failed European democracies in Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal, now just another breeding ground? for a dictatorship?
Like most unconventional forensic investigations into established historical descriptive categories, the fascism debate has become an annoying and self-serving intellectual sideshow. At the same time, the real conditions of political engagement on the right have clearly morphed into a strong reaction everywhere you turn—from threats to bomb Mexico over the fentanyl crisis to the multifront assault on ballot access to the Crusades to ban and burn books that have ideological content and commit thought crimes. The situation has deteriorated to the point where the movement’s supreme leader no longer bothers to hide or downplay his determination to suppress the last vestiges of formal democratic behavior in American public life. After serial reports about how Trump intends to reshape the federal workforce in his strongman image, use the federal judicial system to exact “revenge” on political enemies and invoke the Insurrection Act to criminalize dissent, new and far more draconian ones are emerging To introduce versions of his first law. While he imposed the immigration bans for the duration of the immigration bans, Trump provided a pretty crucial final word in the fascism debate with his Truth Social post commemorating Veterans Day. The post, which captured the core message of a two-hour rally speech he gave in Concord, NH, read as follows:
In honor of our great veterans, we promise you on Veterans Day that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and radical left-wing thugs who live like vermin within our country’s borders, lying, stealing, and cheating in elections. and will do anything possible, legal or illegal, to destroy America and the American dream. The threat from external forces is far less scary, dangerous and serious than the threat from within. Despite the hatred and anger of the radical left-wing lunatics who want to destroy our country, we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
All the staples of fascist rhetoric are lavishly displayed here, from the “stab in the back” narrative about domestic political supporters of subversion to the dehumanizing characterization of political enemies as “vermin” who are worthy targets of utter annihilation – all wrapped up in one celebration of military honor. When you compare this outbreak to such recent setbacks to textbook authoritarian leadership as Trump’s vow to suspend the Constitution and his continued promotion of the eliminationist and conspiratorial QAnon wing of the MAGA movement, it is only surprising that the “Fascist debate” remained unresolved for a long time as long as it was like that.
Of course, the immediate consequences of Trump’s fascist broadside have shown why this has been the case for eight long years. Coverage of the New Hampshire speech, The New York Times First, he emblazoned it with this online headline: “Trump Takes Veterans Day Speech in Completely Different Direction,” an exercise in counter-empirical euphemism akin to “Hindenburg Sets Abrupt Course to Earth.” The headline was later changed to “In his Veterans Day speech, Trump vows to eradicate the left,” which was an incremental improvement (as would have been the case with, say, “Political Story Number Seven”) but still not newsworthy thing that actually happened. Instead, it encouraged readers to view Trump’s statement as an unseemly personal oversight, as opposed to the centerpiece of a sweeping government plan that was widely reported throughout the political press, including the Just‘ Own pages. The essential job of informing Americans about what the Republican Party leader plans to do for anyone who doesn’t get a MAGA chest tattoo fell to other news outlets. “Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin’, reminiscent of the dictators Hitler and Mussolini,” it said The Washington Post‘s display text. Even ForbesThe investment class’s bible of consensus, which has long promoted itself as a “capitalist tool,” has managed to get up to speed with “Trump Compares Political Foes to ‘Vermin’ on Veterans Day – Rechoing Nazi Propaganda.”
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that even in these more sober assessments, the use of the term “reverberation” is intended to achieve the same distancing effect that is also advocated by the “no” camp in the fascism debate. When something is repeated, it is either safely embalmed in the past or placed at an appropriate geographical distance. The ugly fact is that Trump’s rhetoric and program of government are thoroughly fascist, and there is nothing audibly distorted or visibly acid washed about the MAGAverse’s capture of European rule by dictatorship.
This chronic need to distance and whitewash what is happening in our battered field of vision has allowed the MAGA movement to continue to adopt clearly fascist rhetoric and positions, to the point that it no longer bothers to express its anti-democratic intentions hide. In fact, even when Trump flacks claim to deny fascist goals, they cannot resist spouting fascist speech. Here’s how Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung responded to critics and historians, pointing out the obvious truth that Trump’s “vermin” rhetoric was clearly fascist: “Those who are trying to make this ridiculous claim are clearly snowflakes grasping at anything because they are suffering under Trump.” Desangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be destroyed if President Trump returns to the White House.” Strangely, the t-shirt reads “We are not fascists, and we will squeeze you to death if.” “You say that” raises far more questions than it resolves.
The mainstream media’s steadfast resistance to the F-word has its roots in the elite’s reluctance to “take sides” in political disputes. The Trump movement’s unmistakable fascist bent was already evident when Trump issued his first Muslim ban and used his executive power to create a federal agency to combat the nonexistent scourge of violent immigrant crime, but the press could never get over it self-inflicted measures go beyond a state of non-aligned hypnosis to call these ethno-nationalist initiatives what they were. When Trump commented on the violent alt-right and Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, declaring that there were “very good people” on both sides of the argument, the media largely viewed the remarks as another undifferentiated source of controversy and argument not a clear endorsement of deadly white nationalist street violence. The pattern has continued, from Trump’s similarly open sanctioning of the Proud Boys in a presidential debate to the attempted coup on January 6 and beyond.
With an emboldened MAGA movement now poised to nominate Trump for the presidency for a third consecutive term, mainstream reporters can no longer rely on the specious fiction that denouncing fascist rhetoric and policies is unseemly, inappropriate or vulgarly partisan. As PoliticoAccording to Jack Shafer, members of the political press must continually press Trump and his main competitors on Trump’s plan to turn the country into a martial law dictatorship: “If he has totalitarian plans for mass political trials in store and plans to release them in 2025, the press should and his political opponents, including Joe Biden, immediately escalate their criticism of him in order to make him the most important political issue.” The same should, of course, also apply to leading Republican donors and party officials like Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel, who are on ignored all direct press inquiries about Trump’s comments during her tour of the Sunday newscasts. Having so blatantly perpetuated the lie that Trump was ever a legitimate actor in petty-bourgeois democratic politics, the national political press now faces a dangerous task of catching up and cleaning up.
Chris Lehmann is the DC bureau chief for The nation and co-editor at The Baffler. Previously he was editor of The More amazed And The New Republicand is most recently the author of The Cult of Money: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Destruction of the American Dream (Melville House, 2016).
Source : www.thenation.com