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Inappropriate term for Trump

Reader comment on item: There's a Name for Trump's Brand of Politics: Neo-fascism

Submitted by Historian (United States), Apr 18, 2016 at 01:27

This is the most disappointing entry I've ever read on your blog, and I hope you will reconsider your rash use of the word "neo-fascist" in connection to Trump. As an historian, I cannot accept that the term is at all apt. Fascism was a historically contingent movement, and a few similarities between fascists and some of the ideas of an individual from a very different time and place like Trump do not a "neo-fascist" make.

Several years ago you rejected the term "Islamo-fascism" for Islamism/political Islam because despite some similarities between fascists and Islamists--like authoritarianism and a glorification of martial violence--there were also salient differences. You wrote "few historic or philosophic connections exist between fascism and radical Islam. Fascism glorifies the state, emphasizes racial "purity," promotes social Darwinism, denigrates reason, exalts the will, and rejects organized religion – all outlooks anathema to Islamists." (I disagree on your point about reason; religious ideologies like Islamism do not primarily appeal to reason but more to tradition or, less commonly, faith; moreover, fascists and Nazis did make claims to rationality; their rhetoric was commonly about being "modern," " scientific," and promoting "Progress" with a capital P).

Anyone who thought about it more carefully could come up with ways that Trump is not much like fascists; I hope that you will consider doing so as well. One important example would be economic. Trump is a big, largely successful businessman who has no philosophical objection to capitalism whatsoever. However, he understands from growing up and working in NYC that workers need to benefit enough from capitalism that they will support it too: hence his fairly cordial relations with unions. The fascist leaders were not big businessmen and had little private sector experience; they billed fascism as a "third way," neither capitalist nor communist, because the capitalist label had been tarnished by the harrowing economic problems of the 1920s-30s; they explicitly promoted an ideal of autarky, even though of course they continued to trade in practice. Trump's and others' objections to deals like TPP does not even begin to approach autarky in practice or theory: there are serious objections to be made to various provisions of TPP, and the fast-track method to ram trade such trade deals through Congress makes it impossible to modify those provisions, arguably undermining US law, sovereignity and the Constitution. Then there is the military issue: Trump criticizes military overreach whereas Mussolini and of course Hitler were recklessly expansionist. On a more minor point, there is the personality/lifestyle issue. Walter Laqueur argued that is inconceivable that fascism would ever reemerge in the West because it was predicated on ideals of self-sacrifice and self-discipline that since the expansion of consumerism, the sexual revolution and more, are not at all appealing to contemporary Western people. Trump's persona and lifestyle is anything but self-self-sacrificing; in this he is very much a creature of contemporary American popular culture and alien to older Western ideals that were still alive during the rise of fascism.

Trump is a narcissist, but so is anyone who seeks the most powerful political office in the world. He has a populist message, and this we have not seen in a viable presidential candidate since Ross Perot, so pundits do not know how to categorize him. Studies have shown that our current political and economic leaders are more economically elitist and socially liberal than Americans as a whole--who want jobs that permit one cover basic expenses without needing income supports (i.e. "welfare"), and a very basic safety net, but, contra the DNC, they also favor less immigration than the elites have permitted in the last 15 years by refusing to enforce our laws in a meaningful way. Both the DNC and GOP have been beating the drum for essentially open borders since George W. Bush--against the interest of most US residents. It is shame that such a flawed individual as Trump ended up being the first to successfully push back on this dangerous drumbeat, but is it any wonder given the fact that when polite Mr Romney proposed the rational, measured solution of actually enforcing our laws i.e. don't hire the "unauthorized" and many will self-deport--as opposed to Trump's more extreme rhetoric--he was absolutely excoriated by the MSM as supposedly "anti-immigrant"?

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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