Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
In the spring of 2003, Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article for Free Inquiry Magazine titled "Fascism Anyone?" in which the author identified 14 traits of fascism based on the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Suharto, and Augusto Pinochet. At the time, the piece seemed odd, given the fact that the people studied were no longer in power and that all the combatants of World War II believed the true threat of fascism to have been eradicated once the war ended. In the year 2003, the major worldwide threat was the terrorist group Al Qaeda who was a rogue group working across borders rather than a nation-state with an autocratic dictator. Britt's article, although fascinating to read, seemed to have little to no practical implications at the time.
Flash forward thirteen years.
Britt's piece is now terrifying in its scope, given the rise of ultra-nationalist, far-right groups across the globe. Aided by the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the Great Recession of 2008, and terrorist organizations working across international borders, we now have seen a number of these groups slowly and gradually adopt fascist traits to take power under the guise of patriotism and nationalism. Initially, these groups were limited to overseas where the refugee crisis was most prevalent. However, as we saw with the initial rise of fascism, it is an ideology that can easily cross both borders and oceans. Now, in December of 2016, we have a clean and present danger of fascism right here in the United States of America.
Britt's article outlines 14 traits shared by all those fascist regimes mentioned. Below are brief synopses of those 14 traits as well as how those traits are being demonstrated by the incoming Trump Administration.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
"Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays."
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past eighteen months, you've heard and seen Donald Trump's effort to Make America Great Again. This motto, implying that our country is no longer great, deeply resonates with low-information voters in red states and counties. The implication behind this is that due to recent events, (read: Black man in the Oval Office) our country is no longer what it was once was and to restore our country to greatness we need to elect someone who is a man of the people and whose previous successes will allow him to take up this mantle. With Donald Trump's uber-patriotic rallies as well as his recent flag burning comments, it is clear how the concept of patriotism has become a hallmark of Donald Trump's ascendency to the presidency.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
"Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of 'need.' The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc."
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made no secret that he was in favor of torturing individuals, including being a strong advocate of waterboarding, and even going so far to say that he supported interrogation techniques that would be even stronger than waterboarding. As of mid-November, Mike Pence was still unable to rule out waterboarding in a Trump Administration. In addition, Trump has said not only will he not only not attempt to close Guantanamo Bay, but instead will increase enrollment by loading up the facility with "bad dudes."
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
"The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc."
Donald Trump's campaign was born by scapegoating Latinos and it continued to scapegoat multiple groups over the course of the next eighteen months. In addition to Latinos, Trump also scapegoated Muslims, going so far as to calling for a national registry of Muslim-American citizens and his appointment of General Michael Flynn, who has a history of anti-Islamic rhetoric, has only furthered the worry that Trump's views on Muslims may not soften over time. Trump has also scapegoated refugees, particularly from Syria, by lying about and demonizing them in an effort to influence American immigration policy. Trump and his family have even used social media to whip up anti-refugee sentiments. Trump's son, Donald, Jr. made headlines by comparing refugees to poisoned candy and Trump himself claimed that the Ohio State attacker, a Somali refugee, should have never been allowed to enter our country.
4. Supremacy of the Military
"Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized."
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump insisted that our military was "weak" and that we "didn't have victories anymore." He went on to criticize veterans with PTSD, he said veteran John McCain wasn't a hero because he was captured, and made national news when he attacked Khizr Khan, the father of slain American soldier Humayun Khan. All this despite the fact that our military has more than half of all aircraft carriers in the world as well as a military defense budget is more than the next eight countries combined. Regardless of the actual facts, Trump seems intent on both increasing the military budget as well as adding a strong military presence to his administration. Already, Trump has brought forth Generals Michael Flynn as national security adviser, John F. Kelly as secretary of homeland security, and James Mattis as defense secretary. At a time when the United States has withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential presence of three generals in a single administration does not bode well for those hoping to follow the Obama doctrine of prosperity through diplomacy.
5. Rampant Sexism
"The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy."
As an unapologetic sexist and misogynist, Donald Trump seems to have this trait mastered. Whether it was his grotesque Access Hollywood comments, his disgusting Megyn Kelly remark, his ongoing war with Rosie O'Donnell, or his asinine Howard Stern interview, there can be no doubt that Trump views women as objects rather than people. But women aren't the only ones viewed as second class citizens in the Trump Administration. Mike Pence signed some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT legislation. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson believes homosexuality is a choice. And Steve Bannon in an unabashed White nationalist whose website has denigrated and degraded women, African-Americans, LGBT members, and the Jewish community. With a cabinet dominated by White males, it is apparent that this incoming administration will be as exclusive as possible.
6. Controlled Mass Media
"Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common."
As President Obama recently remarked, the American media was a willing patsy in giving rise to Donald Trump. In addition to getting $2.8 billion of free air time, Trump was also the beneficiary of a media hell bent on creating a horse race and thus creating a false equivalence throughout the general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Whereas the media spent three times as much time on Clinton's emails rather than her policies, they also spent thirteen times as much time on her foundation (no scandal) versus Donald Trump's foundation (an actual scandal). In addition to a compliant media, Trump has also targeted media outlets that have been critical of him and his administration. He has used Twitter to go after The New York Times, CNN, and even Vanity Fair. Because of the anti-media message that have been a hallmark of his campaign, Trump's supporters have also targeted individuals in the media that have been critical of Trump and his administration. Most recently, Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek had to briefly withdraw from social media after a Trump supporter caused him to have a seizure online.
7. Obsession with National Security
"Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses."
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump proclaimed himself to be the "law and order candidate." In addition to his vitriol against Latinos, refugees, and Muslims, Trump also weighed in on domestic areas of unrest. He announced his support for the unconstitutional "stop-and-frisk" policy that was prevalent throughout New York City. Trump also implied that the Black Lives Matter movement had helped instigate police killings and that the group was a "threat" to our nation's police force. In addition, Trump came out strong in favor of the second amendment during the final debate, making the issue one of the prerequisites for any potential Supreme Court nominee. In fact, Trump felt so strongly about his supporters' dedication to his candidacy that he declared that he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any votes."
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
"Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions."
As much as Republicans like to fear monger about Sharia law, the truth is that a much more pressing concern today is the role of Christian Dominionism in our government. We've already seen Christian conservative Mike Pence get a free pass on the national stage even though he has used his religious views at the state level to discriminate against the LGBT community. White nationalist Steve Bannon has a history of anti-semitism including having published an article at Breitbart claiming fellow Republican Bill Kristol was a "renegade Jew." Donald Trump, although not a particularly devout man based on his knowledge of Corinthians, has made no qualms about adopting mainstream Republican religious views. He flip-flopped repeatedly on abortion on the campaign trail going so far as to advocating the imprisonment of women who sought the legal medical procedure. Lastly, as we've pointed out, Trump and his administration have made no secret about their disdain for the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide including the 3 million law-abiding Muslim-American citizens in our country.
9. Corporate Power is Protected
"The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite."
Donald Trump has prided himself on making great deals so it should come as no surprise that he is already using the presidency to enrich himself and those like him. First off, he is appointing members of the elite business world to government positions. In fact, he currently has a cabinet with a net worth of $14 billion with still a handful of positions left to fill. Trump's Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts is a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and his family has a net worth of $5.3 billion, his nominee for Education Secretary, Besty DeVos, has a net worth of $5.1 billion and his nominee for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is worth $2.9 billion. Lastly, Trump has recently added Rex Tillerson as his nominee for Secretary of State, whose relationship with Russia as part of his work as CEO of Exxon-Mobil has raised multiple concerns from Republicans and Democrats alike. Tillerson has a net worth of $150 million but even more concerning is his close, personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
"Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed."
We've already seen how Donald Trump views organized labor. Recently, he spoke out against Chuck Jones, labor leader for the Carrier plant in Indianapolis. Trump also actively fought against the unionization of his hotel workers in Las Vegas and employed undocumented immigrants to build Trump Tower in New York City. Trump also has nominated Carl's Jr. CEO Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor. Puzder is a critic of increasing the minimum wage and has talked in favor of automating his fast food restaurants. Puzder has also gone on record against the Labor Department's regulation of overtime pay as well as the Affordable Care Act. At a time when labor union membership is at historic lows, Trump and Puzder seem intent on minimizing the power of labor over the next four years.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
"Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts."
We've already seen how Donald Trump views higher education through his $25 million settlement of his fraudulent university. However, what is even more troubling is his recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. DeVos comes from a family of wealthy Republican donors which put her immediately on Trump's radar. However, DeVos' own background is one where she attended private schools and never served a day in her life as a teacher or school administrator. In Michigan, DeVos became a proponent of the school-choice movement, mainly through charter schools. However, the results of this movement show the state of Michigan to have fallen behind other states in terms of their academic performance. In addition, DeVos is in favor of the school voucher system which give families taxpayer dollars for private and religious schools. Her nomination has already become a cause of concern among the National Education Association, which released a statement expressing extreme reservations about her potential appointment.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
"Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations."
As we've seen, Trump campaigned on the promise of being "the law and order candidate." The question now becomes to what extent he will go as president to keep the people safe. To head the Justice Department, Trump has nominated Alabama senator Jeff Sessions a man who has received criticism for having supported Trump's Muslim travel ban as well as having been dogged by allegations of racism. Trump himself has won the endorsement of the National Fraternal Order of Police and many police organizations believe that Trump will help turn the tide on what they believe is a growing anti-police sentiment in this country. Combined together, this combination of Trump, Sessions, and a slighted police force could lead to unprecedented levels of funding and resources all in the name of protecting our communities.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
"Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders."
Donald Trump's administration represents this trait to a T as Trump has already set up a government based on the same "pay for play" idea that he himself accused Hillary Clinton of having done. First and foremost, Trump has already allowed his children into his inner circle. His daughter Ivanka has already sat in with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ivanka and both of Trump's sons recently sat in on a tech meeting at Trump Tower. Trump put in Betsy DeVos as his nominee for Education Secretary after her family had been one of the most prominent Republican donors. Trump even went so far as to give Linda McMahon, wife of WWE owner Vince McMahon, a position to head the Small Business Administration. Like DeVos, McMahon was a hearty contributor to Donald Trump as she personally gave $6 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. Lastly, Trump himself is already benefitting from the presidency. His Washington, DC hotel is offering a $500,000 weekend package for inauguration and despite bipartisan calls for Trump to divest his holdings, he seems to feel no rush or urgency to do so.
14. Fraudulent Elections
"Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections."
The final and most pertinent point. As we've now seen, Trump has been a willing patsy of Vladimir Putin to undermine American sovereignty. With a coordinated effort with Russian hackers and Wikileaks, the Trump Administration benefitted greatly from these attacks that deliberately engaged in the character assassination of Hillary Clinton. Not only has Donald Trump denied the hacking made an impact on his victory, but he also went so far as to say that he denied the conclusions of 17 intelligence agencies who identified Russian involvement in hacking both the DNC and John Podesta. This combined with the unprecedented action of a sitting FBI director to insert himself into a national election as well as an antiquated electoral process, and we wound up with a president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes.
For those keeping score at home, Trump and his incoming administration are batting a perfect 1.000 in terms of wanting to establish a fascist regime. In fact, in many ways they already have. These actions are nothing new yet these fascist tendencies have largely ignored by our mainstream media. People today read history books and wonder how people like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco can come to power. The answer is simple: these citizens had never seen fascism in action and had no idea what is was and how it would play out. Here in the United States, we've had 80 years to study fascism and the impact it would have on not only entire nations but also the world. Even with that knowledge, we've still allowed a fascist regime, aided by a foreign nation, to take power in our country.
And we did nothing to stop it.