by Martin Longman on
If you go to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, you can see a sign hanging there that tells you what to look for if you’re worried that your country may be slipping into fascism. Let’s take a look at their twelve early warning signs of fascism.
1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
2. Disdain for human rights
3. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
4. Rampant sexism
5. Controlled mass media
6. Obsession with national security
7. Religion and government intertwined
8. Corporate power protected
9. Labor power suppressed
10. Disdain for intellectual and the arts
11. Obsession with crime and punishment
12. Rampant cronyism and corruption
You can follow the links above, but it shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve been paying any attention. Trump’s message is based on putting America “first,” making America “great again,” and is clearly a powerful form of nationalism that we’re also seeing arise in other countries in Europe and Asia.
Trump’s disdain for human rights is legend, but examples include his desire to kill the relatives of terrorists (something he accomplished this week), his insistence that he’ll do “worse than waterboarding” and his statement in the White House that “torture absolutely works.”
Trump has used Mexican “rapists” and Islamic terrorists as unifying enemies. This tactic is actually perhaps the core of his political strategy.
Trump’s sexism is one of the most transparent and well-established things we know about him.
Just this week, Trump advocated that someone friendly to him buy the New York Times. His chief adviser Steve Bannon comes from the Breitbart media dynamo and has told the media to shut their mouth. So far, Trumpists do not own much of the media, so they seek to marginalize and intimidate them. In any case, Fox News does a pretty good job on their own, and the right owns talk radio.
As for entwining religion and government, that can be seen in Mike Pence’s entire political career, but it’s also evident in the way that Trump has nakedly tried to make his immigration ban apply more fully to Muslims than to Christians. The Republican Party has had fascist tendencies in this regard that long predate Trump, but Trump has really run with (white) Christian nationalism as a fundamental part of his appeal. He cast himself as the defender of this group.
Trump has appointed the richest cabinet in history and proposes corporate friendly policies to match.
His nominee for Labor Secretary is a strong opponent of organized labor and Trump has had a poor relationship with labor in his business career. Most recently, this has been in the news in relation to the labor force at his Las Vegas hotel. Overall, Trump will go after unions across the board, especially public service unions and government employees.
On humanities and arts, The Hill reports that under the current budget blueprint, “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.” Of course, the Trumpistas’ disdain for “bicoastal elites” is almost unlimited, and their contempt for intellectuals and academics is total.
Trump’s obsession with crime and punishment is clear from his revival of Richard Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric and his constant comparisons of black communities to violent hellholes.
Finally, it’s a little too early to talk about rampant corruption and cronyism, but it’s not too early to point out that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause to the Constitution by using his position as president to attract foreign patronage to his hotels. His refusal to disclose his taxes or to truly distance himself from his corporations will assure both the perception and the reality of corruption and cronyism. In any case, one of the best established things about Trump is that he is a crooked man who doesn’t honor contracts, engages in fraudulent enterprises, and likes to use his financial clout to bully people in the legal system. This will continue now that he’s president.
So, there you have it. Twelve early signs of fascism, and Trump and his movement have already checked 11 of the boxes and are assured of checking the twelfth.
Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.