How Trumpism has become outright ‘fascism’

How Trumpism has become outright ‘fascism’

Although conservative journalist David Frum has been a blistering critic of Donald Trump, he has been reluctant to use the word "fascist" to describe the former president. The words "fascist" and 'fascism," Frum has stressed in the past, should never be used casually simply to attack policies one does not like. But in an article published by The Atlantic on July 13, the Never Trump conservative lays out some disturbing reasons why Trumpism does, in fact, fit the definition of fascism.

"Through the Trump years, it seemed sensible to eschew comparisons to the worst passages of history," Frum explains. "I repeated over and over again a warning against too-easy use of the F-word, fascism: 'There are a lot of stops on the train line to bad before you get to Hitler Station.'"

Frum continues, "Two traits have historically marked off European-style fascism from more homegrown American traditions of illiberalism: contempt for legality and the cult of violence. Presidential-era Trumpism operated through at least the forms of law. Presidential-era Trumpism glorified military power, not mob attacks on government institutions. Post-presidentially, those past inhibitions are fast dissolving."

Trump and others on the far right have been exalting Ashli Babbitt, a Capitol rioter shot by police during the January 6 insurrection, as a martyr. The mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol Building that day was quite willing to resort to violence in the hope of overturning the 2020 election results, and Frum finds it incredibly disturbing that Trumpistas are putting Babbitt up on a pedestal.

"Through 2020," Frum observes, "Trump had endorsed deadly force against lawbreakers. 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts,' he tweeted on May 29, 2020. Babbitt broke the law too, but not to steal a TV. She was killed as she tried to disrupt the constitutional order, to prevent the formalization of the results of a democratic election."

Frum adds, "If a big-enough movement agrees with Trump that Babbitt was 'wonderful' — if they repeat that the crowd of would-be Nancy Pelosi kidnappers and Mike Pence lynchers was 'great' — then we are leaving behind the American system of democratic political competition for a new landscape in which power is determined by the gun."

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, another anti-Trump conservative, has been praising Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and others on the right who resisted the Big Lie and stood up to Trump's efforts to undermine U.S. democracy — and Scarborough has slammed Trump as a "fascist" while saying that the United States' system of checks and balances has withstood his efforts to undermine it. Frum, in his Atlantic article, warns that while the U.S. still has checks and balances, it's crucial to realize that they are under attack from Trumpistas.

"In the United States, the forces of legality still mobilize more strength than their Trumpist adversaries," Frum writes. "But those who uphold the American constitutional order need to understand what they are facing. Trump incited his followers to try to thwart an election result, and to kill or threaten Trump's own vice president if he would not or could not deliver on Trump's crazy scheme to keep power."

Frum wraps up his article by quoting Adolf Hitler when he was on trial for the Munich putsch of 1923, when Germany was still under the Weimar Republic. Hitler, in his defense, said, "I do not consider myself guilty. I admit all the factual aspects of the charge. But I cannot plead that I am guilty of high treason; for there can be no high treason against that treason committed in 1918."

That quote, Frum argues, sounds a lot like Trumpistas condoning or even celebrating the January 6 insurrection.

"Trump's no Hitler, obviously," Frum writes. "But they share some ways of thinking. The past never repeats itself. But it offers warnings. It's time to start using the F-word again, not to defame — but to diagnose."

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