Given how immigrant bashing is central to his appeal, it’s best to rebrand Mr. Drumpf (Trump) by his original family name. The man best known for hatred of immigrants has a grandfather, mother, wife, and ex-wife who are immigrants. Some accounts point to the grandfather changing his name during the height of anti-German hatred during World War I.
Numerous analysts, journalists, publications, and scholars judge Mr. Drumpf to be a fascist. These range from academics to Newsweek to Salon to the New Republic to even Forbes magazine and conservatives like Max Boot and Jeb Bush. He is authoritarian, appeals to irrationality, is highly nationalistic, extremely bigoted, and calls for the defense of capitalism at the expense of democracy. The only things missing from this textbook definition of fascism for Drumpf and his followers are the uniforms.
In spite of or more likely because of the threat Mr. Drumpf represents, he has little chance of winning. Most likely he will be defeated by 15 to 20 percentage points and over 150 electoral votes, the widest margins lost by any presidential candidate since 1984. Or perhaps a better parallel would be Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, where he lost the election but redefined the party and conservatism.
In my history classes I always teach using counterfactuals, alternate history questions asking college students “What If?” Even though Drumpf has little chance of winning (and I urge all those reading to make that margin of loss as great as possible) it is interesting to consider what form Drumpf Fascism would take. What if he had a chance of actually winning? What if America’s billionaires lined up behind him instead of against him as they are now doing? What if he actually had the cash to self-finance? Truthfully, he does not and never did, which is why he relies on provocative Twitter wars, media manipulation, and loans to himself he hopes will be paid back by donors or be tax write offs.
What if Drumpf Fascism became the law of the land? It likely would have these ten traits:
1. Drumpf Fascism would be brazenly racist, but claim not to be.
Drumpf’s racism is undeniable. White supremacists, white nationalists, and white separatists support him with good reason, seeing him as like them. That he will disappoint them on Israel and their belief in a worldwide Jewish or Zionist conspiracy does not deter them. He is still their best recruiter in several generations.
But Drumpf’s racism is far more haphazard and opportunistic, and far less coherent and encompassing than that practiced by the likes of the KKK, neo-Nazis, militias, and even white supremacists passing as conservatives such as Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. Drumpf likes to pose as “the least racist person” to spread confusion and because he grasps it would cost him support to openly admit to being racist. Drumpf wants the votes of those who are like himself, racists but not willing to admit to it, of which there are many.
Drumpf also wants the votes of self-hating minorities, those who wish they were white or who hate other minorities or some combination of the two. The best known public example of that is Ben Carson, and there are other examples who have made a career of being attack dogs on behalf of white racists, such as that most bizarre creature, Filipina and white supremacist Michelle Malkin.
That is why Drumpf likes pointing to minority tokens in his audience as when he singled out a black person in a crowd as “my African-American” – as if the individual were a piece of property. Or his incredibly clumsy attempt to prove he was unprejudiced by posting a tweet of him eating the nastiest of fake versions of Mexican food, a taco bowl. In these tokenism practices, Drumpf is only following a long precedent. Previous Republicans have been using minority tokens all the way back to Clarence Thomas.
Don’t misunderstand the distinction. Obviously a member of a minority can be a conservative or a Republican based on sincere and devout convictions. The most numerous examples are strongly anti-Communist Cuban-Americans. Token minorities by definition are willing to be used by the openly racist for the token’s own benefit, or do so from their own confusion, self-hatred, and hatred of other minorities. So a Drumpf fascist organization would gladly take minority members on the condition that they take part in disparagement of their own backgrounds. Such people make up from 5-15% of minority groups, and they will support Drumpf.
2. Drumpf Fascism would only be nominally Christian.
Much like Drumpf and his supporters, any Christian aspect of his fascism, whether belief or practice, would be in name alone. Drumpf was a serial adulterer divorced several times, indifferent to his children by previous marriages, and with little understanding of the faith he only recently publicly claimed to profess. As a child, Drumpf’s family sometimes attended services by Norman Vincent Peale, a salesman widely accused of heresy and cultism, who trivialized Christianity and was often considered a con artist. And that is the extent of Drumpf’s “faith,” period.
In fact, Drumpf publicly declared he has never asked God for forgiveness because he never did anything wrong. He refers to the Eucharist as a “cracker” and could not name any Bible passages, mistakes no actual Christian would make and many non-Christians wouldn’t either. Drumpf’s followers largely do not attend church. Most of the devout among Republicans voted for Ted Cruz or Ben Carson in the primaries. Drumpf and his followers regard Jesus, as Michael Horton said in Christianity Today, as a mascot rather than a savior. Horton argues Drumpf’s success among some self-professed but only nominal Christians proves the secularization of Christianity rather than the strength of their faith. Call them CINOs, or Christians In Name Only.
Perhaps the only part religion plays in Drumpf fascism is virulent hostility to Muslims. Christian churches and believers would likely face persecution if they opposed Drumpf, as many currently do.
3. Drumpf Fascism would use violence and threats of violence.
That Drumpf has nothing but contempt for the rule of law and democracy is self-evident. Protesters at his rallies have been beaten, with Trump urging on the violence and promising to protect the attackers by paying their legal fees. Salon magazine has a running tally of the violence at Drumpf events. So far the count is nine unprovoked attacks by his followers upon critics, compared to three incidents of violence on both sides.
Drumpf also called for violence, “riots,” if he was not nominated at the convention. He openly longs nostalgically for the “good old days” when protesters were carried out on stretchers. A Drumpf police state would see both state sanctioned police and military violence against protesters, and also by Drumpf supporters formed into militias against critics. Drumpf supporters have already called for their own militia named the Lion’s Guard which imitates the British Union of Fascists’ imagery. Journalist Bob Dreyfus imagined a scenario where Drumpf called for armed rallies to form a Second Amendment Society, seizing power by force without needing to win any elections. It is easy to imagine Drumpf using threats of violence from his followers to intimidate Congress and the courts, effectively becoming a dictator. Such violence would be a more extreme form of that from Tea Party protests in 2009, which saw heavily armed racist militia demonstrations, death threats, attacks on Black congressmen, and vandalized offices.
4. Drumpf Fascism would be completely intolerant of dissent.
That Drumpf is notoriously thin skinned, bristling at the slightest criticism, has not been news for years. Keep in mind this is a man obsessed for decades with insults over the size of his hands. This is a man who filed a lawsuit against an artist for painting him nude in an unflattering way. This is a man currently engaged in race baiting a federal judge, possibly poisoning the jury pool as well as energizing racists.
Drumpf has also publicly vowed to “open up libel laws” to use against reporters for “negative” and “horrible” stories against him. He bars reporters from his press conferences based on their being Latinos, or simply for asking questions in the normal course of their work. He even complains that Fox News has been “unfair” to him, even though the network has featured many largely puff-piece segments passing for news. Crowds of his followers at primary debates shouted down even mildly critical questions. Recently he called for people to be imprisoned for not informing on their neighbors. The next step for Drumpf and his regime would be imprisoning reporters and dissidents.
5. Their fascist uniform would likely be red shirts, plus those baseball caps.
Where Hitler had brownshirts and Mussolini had blackshirts for their storm troopers, and American fascists in the 1930s were the Silver Shirts, Drumpf’s favored color is red. Not only are his caps already red, GOP-voting states are commonly referred to as red states. Choosing red would also be a way to appropriate its association with the working class and labor. Red shirts plus baseball caps also would give a militia deniability of being an actual militia, since they slightly resemble baseball fans or blue collar workers.
6. Drumpf Fascism would always be in conflict with the military.
Many on both the political left and right have false ideas about who makes up the military and their political points of view. There is the same diversity of opinions among soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as among the rest of America. Keep in mind the US military has produced leftists like Smedley Butler, humanitarians like George Marshall, lunatics like Curtis Lemay, and bigots like Bo Gritz.
The military is made up of nearly one-third minorities, which is actually down from its previous high of one-half minorities. One-sixth of the military is female. Gays now serve openly, and join in proportionately higher numbers than the general population. Immigrants are 5 percent of the military. All these groups oppose Drumpf in high numbers. One Military Times poll claimed to show high support for him, but even the paper itself cautioned its results were unscientific. A more accurate measure is campaign contributions. The amount of military and Department of Defense workers’ contributions to Drumpf is dwarfed by the number who have given to Hillary Clinton (17 times as many) and Bernie Sanders (an amazing 25 times as many).
Drumpf’s own checkered history does not help. He avoided the draft in Vietnam using suspicious medical claims. Drumpf held an event for veterans in January 2016 and had to be shamed by the media into finally actually donating the money four months later. He still has yet to donate other money promised on several previous occasions. Drumpf insulted prisoners of wars as losers and his companies fire reservists. He argued for torturing prisoners and targeting the families of the enemy. Such a claim brought a public rebuke from retired officers that soldiers would be duty bound by law to refuse such obviously illegal orders.
7. The economy would crash immediately, and worsen the longer Drumpf ruled.
Drumpf’s promised trade wars with China would lead to tariffs raised and US business losses. His scapegoating Mexico and Mexicans, when most Mexicans in the US are not immigrants and most immigrants are not Mexicans, would be even more disastrous. Building a certainly ineffective wall and deporting all immigrants without papers would cost tens of billions and cripple numerous US industries. Not just agriculture but construction, retail, and many other service industries need immigrants. Prices for those goods would easily triple. Historically, immigrants create jobs, lower taxes for US citizens, and commit far fewer crimes than the US born.
Drumpf also has a horrible failure rate as a businessman. He has a minimum of thirteen failed businesses, eleven bankruptcies, and earned far less money than if he had put his inheritance in an index fund and left it alone. He has a long record of cheating customers, investors, business partners, and clients, refusing to pay bills using shady practices. His claimed self-worth is largely a fantasy; it’s probably dropped far lower due to the election campaign. His actual self-worth is at most a third of what he claims, perhaps as low as one-twentieth by one estimate. A loser at business like Drumpf would be even worse at government. Historically businessmen are very poor at being politicians.
8. Under Drumpf, relations with the rest of the world would dramatically worsen, likely including the most poorly planned wars in US history.
In a short time campaigning Drumpf has managed to worry and alienate most US allies and praised some of the worst US enemies. Erecting trade barriers is just the start. Drumpf called for Japan to have nuclear weapons, encouraging its hard right and even crypto fascist fringe. His call to ban all Muslims alienates every US ally in the Mideast except Israel’s hawks, and he is the best recruiting tool ISIS and Al Qaeda could have.
His incompetence at war planning could not be worse. “Bomb the shit out of them!” As if no one ever thought of that, had not tried and failed at it before in not just Syria but Iraq, Libya, and all the way back to Vietnam. Even World War II massed bombing just made the enemy more resolute. Even a first year military cadet knows that civilians constantly overestimate air power and imagine it to work like a videogame. But of course Drumpf imagines that dress uniforms at an elite prep school somehow made him “part of the military.”
9. Drumpf Fascism would be overthrown by the military, and democracy restored.
The most likely scenario for a breaking point with the military would be one too many illegal orders, Drumpf demanding torture or the targeting of civilians, or high troop losses where Drumpf’s fits substituted for military strategy. Hitler faced repeated assassination attempts by the German military, and Mussolini’s troops deserted in record numbers when they suffered heavy losses. In Mussolini’s case, as it likely would be in Drumpf’s, even his high level supporters turned against him.
The good news is that America’s military is unlike so many Latin American militaries. Officers resolutely avoid political entanglements while still in the service. Those who do face disciplining for it. There would be no attempt to hold onto power, only an immediate handover to civilians. American democracy would recover from fascism much like Spain did, except that US fascism’s fall would take three or four years rather than 40.
10. There will be a permanent US fascist movement, whether it calls itself that or not.
Drumpf Fascism may become the permanent face of the Republican Party. The party’s own leaders such as Lindsay Graham publicly worry so. So do stalwart conservative publications like the National Review. Even Glen Beck worries Drumpf is too crazy. The Republican Party could well become America’s own version of the National Front. Or it may be like the Peronists of Argentina, with nostalgic views of dictatorship and occasionally winning elections. Other Republicans likely will leave the party. Libertarians may hope to become the alternative for rational conservatism, but most business elites like government aid.
In a previous article published on the Daily Kos website I discussed how Drumpf’s health or mental problems may fell him at some point. Who would take his place? Perhaps his own sons, who are equally sheltered and clueless sons of privilege. Or whoever is foolish enough to run as his Vice President and tie their fall to his.