Trumpism isn’t full-blown fascism — but the 'raw materials' are there: historian

Trumpism isn’t full-blown fascism — but the 'raw materials' are there: historian

President Donald Trump has been on the warpath against Democrats of color in recent weeks, telling four congresswomen (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts)to leave the United States and using racially incendiary language to insult Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and the residents of Baltimore (a predominantly black East Coast city). History/international studies professor Andrew Gawthorpe, who teaches at Leiden University in the Netherlands, asserts this week in The Guardian that Trumpism, for all its racism, isn’t a full-blown fascist movement — although he warns that the possibility for one certainly exists in the United States. And he describes in his Guardian piece what an American fascism would look like.

“Even the Trumpified Republican Party is not a fascist movement, and Trump is certainly no Hitler,” Gawthorpe asserts. “Full-blown fascism usually emerges under the pressure of economic collapse or existential war, but it is constructed from pre-existing social and political raw materials.”

Gawthorpe adds, however, that “while the Trump era hasn’t seen the rise of a true fascism in the United States, it has given us sharp and painful insights into the raw materials out of which a future American fascism might be constructed.”

Two of the most potentially dangerous “overlapping groups” that Trump panders to, Gawthorpe observes, are “white evangelicals” and “white voters motivated primarily by opposition to racial and cultural change.” These groups, according to Gawthorpe, “each have their own reasons to embrace illiberalism and endorse the power of an illiberal state being used against their enemies.”

“What these groups share is a belief that their very existence is threatened,” Gawthorpe observes. “Evangelical Christian support for Trump is often motivated by the fear that secular liberals are seeking to crush Christianity and banish it from the land. Such a fear lends itself to support for an authoritarian who will crush the opposition before it gets a chance to strike first.”

“White nationalism,” Gawthorpe warns, would be a primary ingredient of fascism in the United States.

Fascism’s “beating heart” in the U.S. would be, according to the professor, “a white nationalism motivated by a belief that the ‘true’ — read: white — America is under siege from a combination of racial minorities and liberal elites,” Gawthorpe stresses. “This conspiratorial world view likewise lends itself to a support for using state power against these enemies of the people. For the future, the fact that Trump has generally been rather incompetent and unfocused at dismantling liberal democratic norms and institutions is less important than the fact that so many of his rank-and-file supporters clearly relish the idea that he might.”

AOC, Tlaib, Pressley and Omar, Gawthorpe writes, are “the perfect foil” for racists who view them as “both communists and America-hating brown people.”

Gawthorpe wraps up his piece on a somewhat optimistic note, asserting that a “future American fascism” is “not only uncertain, but positively unlikely, especially in the absence of economic disaster, major war or a devastating terrorist attack.” Nonetheless, the professor quickly adds that a fascist America “is no longer unimaginable, and it will become even less so if White Christian America continues to react to its loss of power in the same way. For this reason, the word fascist deserves its place in the political vocabulary of our time — not as a description of the present, but as a foreboding of one possible dark future.”


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