'The dictionary definition of fascism': Conservative columnist condemns Donald Trump's MAGA 'cult'
MAGA Republicans have been attacking Robert Reich as a “coastal elitist” in response to an August 23 tweet in which the liberal economist, UC Berkeley professor and former secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration described far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a “fascist.” Reich’s MAGA critics have been arguing that his condemnation of DeSantis, former President Donald Trump and other MAGA Republicans is painfully out of touch with Main Street America — and that Reich and other liberals and progressives simply don’t understand conservative values.
But Reich’s MAGA critics are ignoring or overlooking the fact that anti-MAGA arguments are hardly confined to the left. A long list of right-wing Never Trump conservatives, from attorney George Conway to The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes to Washington Post columnist Max Boot to former Nancy Reagan speechwriter Mona Charen to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (a former GOP congressman), have been attacking MAGA as a movement that favors far-right authoritarianism rather than traditional Reagan/Goldwater/McCain conservatism. And William Saletan, a writer for the conservative website The Bulwark, defends President Joe Biden’s anti-MAGA use of the term “semi-fascism” in an article published on September 1.
“Republicans are furious over President Biden’s recent remarks linking Donald Trump and his supporters to ‘semi-fascism,’” Saletan writes. “For days, they’ve been all over TV and social media, denouncing Biden’s use of the F-word. But Biden was right. Many of the ideas and tactics deployed by Trump and his apologists, including those who decry Biden’s comparison, fit the dictionary definition of fascism.”
Saletan stresses that refusing to accept democratic election results, which is what Trump and his followers did after the 2020 election, is an “authoritarian” act.
“A stickler might say that an attempt to overturn an election isn’t really fascist unless it involves the use of state power or mob violence, but Trump and his allies tried to use both,” Saletan explains. “Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s right-hand man in several abuses of power, says it’s Biden, not Trump, who runs America like ‘a damned dictatorship.’ But in December 2020, after the Electoral College had certified Biden’s election, Giuliani — at Trump’s direction — phoned the acting deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security to ask whether DHS could seize voting machines from states. Then, at Trump’s January 6th rally on the Ellipse, Giuliani exhorted the crowd: ‘Let’s have trial by combat!’”
Saletan adds, “Giuliani didn’t just help to incite the attack on the Capitol. To this day, he continues to whitewash it and excuse the perpetrators.”
The Bulwark writer cites other examples of “authoritarian” behavior from MAGA Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wondering how long it would be before “we get to hang” former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and calling for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be executed for treason.
“The dictionary definition of fascism doesn’t just talk about autocracy,” Saletan notes. “It also includes ethnic nationalism. But by this standard, too, Trump and many of his propagandists are semi-fascist. Kayleigh McEnany, who served as Trump’s White House press secretary, calls Biden’s reference to fascism a baseless ‘message of hatred.’ But in the summer of 2016, Trump, the de facto Republican presidential nominee, declared a federal judge unfit to preside over a fraud case against Trump University because ‘he’s a Mexican.’ And McEnany defended this attack…. You could argue that an out-and-out fascist would use nationalist bigotry to persecute a whole minority group, not just a single judge. That’s what Trump did in 2015, when he called for a ‘complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’”
According to Saletan, “Trump’s cult” contains many “components” of fascism, including “paranoia, fantastic lies, anti-intellectualism, a mythologized national past, selective appeals to law and order, and propaganda about enemies of the state.” Another is “invocation of mob violence to protect the movement’s leader.”
“But the clearest illustration of the MAGA elite’s descent into fascism might be its embrace of a like-minded leader from another country: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán,” Saletan writes. “As Cathy Young, Charles Sykes, David Baer, and other writers have explained in The Bulwark, Orbán is an increasingly authoritarian ethnonationalist. In a speech on July 23, he warned, ‘There is a world in which European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe.’ Orbán called this a ‘mixed-race world’ and concluded, ‘We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race.’”
Saletan continues, “Orbán’s speech was so grotesque that one of his own advisers resigned, calling the speech ‘a purely Nazi diatribe worthy of Joseph Goebbels.’ But a week later, Orbán was welcomed as the keynote speaker at a Dallas meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, which reveres Trump and is one of his favorite venues. Two days after that, Trump spoke to the same gathering. The two aspiring autocrats were warmly applauded. This past Monday, CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp stoutly defended Orbán.”
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