Apparently the meme -- or is it now a trope ?-- about The Donald is that he is as thorough-going a fascist as there has ever been in American politics. Well, in recent memory, anyway. They're calling him a fascist straight out, no filters, among the Republican chatterati, at least from what I've seen on the intertubes. This is said to be unprecedented, and I suppose it is. The media is always reluctant to call out any Republican candidate, and Republican politicians and commentators generally hold their fire in public, but The Donald has caused something of a dilemma for the Big Boys.
At first, they didn't know what to do when he went off on one of his rightist-populist jags. It couldn't be for real, right? But then it got more and more real, especially as polling showed Trump leading the Republican field, despite the fact that Carson was catching him here and there and now and then (that's interesting) and Rubio was clearly the choice of the cognoscenti. After all, a nice clean Hispanic character should be good for the demographics, right? Especially after That Negro in the White House (eeek!)
The problem being that pesky populist billionaire who keeps surging in the polls, keeps drawing large crowds of rabid fanatics, and keeps getting his ugly mug on the teevee because of something outrageous he's said or one of his goons or one of his fans has done.
A "populist billionaire?" Whut? That's a key to understanding what's going on here as I see it. Trump is a famous personality first and foremost. He's been a character on the teevee for years, and he was in the news constantly before he became a television celebrity. He's known for the character he plays on teevee, and it's a character he's honed and perfected on the stump as a self-funded presidential candidate. The character is obnoxious and outrageous, but it touches a certain segment of the population that feels left out of the economic and social changes that have been going on in the nation for many years now. These people identify with Trump and his own outrageousness and so he's doing very well as he stalks the country for votes.
His populism, however, is more likely a mask for his real intent -- to impose Billionaires' Rule directly by capturing the levers of government power. Well, now. It wouldn't be the first time that billionaires or their equivalent have had control of the government, but it might be the first time a genuine billionaire was put in office or rather bought the office of the Presidency, as if it were a hostile take over.
Other billionaires don't seem to be cottoning to Trump's rising, and that seems to be at the root of the current memes (or is it tropes?) about Trump's fascism...
Is he a fascist? Genuinely? I don't know. He uses a lot of fascist-style rhetoric to appeal to the public, and that has given rise to the charge that he is a fascist along the lines of a Mussolini or a Hitler, which means he's no "conservative" (not that anybody seeking high office ever is these days), but he's been tapping something soul-satisfying to his constituency while he tub-thumps away on his racist and exclusionary policy prescriptions.
His approach is so deep-seated American. What he rants about are the things that so many (largely white) Americans have long held dear and want to see preserved for their progeny. They see the racist, sexist and exclusionary pillars of Real Americanism under attack from within and without, and Trump's rhetoric is a means of fighting back, as is his -- apparent -- fascism. In their lights, no one else is showing the fortitude and balls to do it.
Trump is the one. Some have said he's a stalking horse or not a "serious candidate," and they could be right, but I go back to Reagan, both his two terms as governor of California (he first took office in 1967 -- generations ago). He was thought to be a joke or a stalking horse or not a serious candidate too, and he swept into office over and over again, not so much because anybody cared for his policies, but because he was a personality, famous, and he touched the souls and spirit of so many (largely white) Americans who felt left out of the social and political milieus of the times. Reagan brought back their sense of importance, and he gave them much raw meat to chew on as his policies -- which favored the rich and ruined the lives of millions, throwing many into the streets and nearly destroying public education and tattering the social fabric -- were implemented.
Those policies were recognized as socially destructive and economically unsound from the outset, but there was no political will to oppose them sufficiently to prevent their implementation. What Reagan wanted was what the public wanted, so it was thought, therefore strenuous or active opposition was not considered viable.
And so it didn't happen. Democrats went along with Reagan, even praising him from time to time, because they didn't feel institutionally opposed. Or something.
There was much about his policies that were fascistic or precursors. Certainly authoritarian. His determination to use police power to crush the rising of students and blacks and other minorities was well-known and well-documented. To a surprising degree it was successful, too. His determination to dismantle the Progressive social and political system that had become nearly universal was not as well known, but he proceeded with little opposition, and again he was largely successful.
Trump is tapping into all of that and more, and if he were to be elected, I think it would be seen as the Will of the People and strenuous political opposition would evaporate.
So if he's a fascist, what does that make the System itself? What is the fundamental belief that underlies the American Way? Is it by nature fascist as well?
Has this nation's government and social arrangement always been a fascist construct? It's always been authoritarian and imperial. It becomes more so, not less so, as time goes by. If Trump succeeds, will he actually be doing something not in the nation's character, or will he simply be using the racist and exclusionary underpinnings of the national character to advance his personal and class interests at the expense of everyone else?
And if he is so popular, what is to be done about it?
One thing to recall about the interwar years in Europe and the political/economic situation just prior to the outbreak of WWII is that almost all of Europe had gone fascist or fascist-lite; German war-making and domination didn't necessarily interfere with the deep-rooted fascism of much of Europe at the time. The German goal was to unite Europe under its suzerainty to oppose, fight and ultimately conquer ('godless, communist') Russia. Many powerful Americans believe that the US and its allies were on the wrong side in WWII, and it's taken all this time to start correcting the errors made generations ago by well-meaning (some of them) but misguided (all of them) politicians who threw their lot with the commies and the socialists when they should have been supporting the Nazis and fascists...
So here we are.
The Trumpen proletariat are those who fear they don't have a future in the America that's becoming. They can only secure a future for themselves and their progeny through force of will and will to power. Trump appeals to their deepest fears. But then, despite the torrent of insults that have been flying, so do all the rest of the Republican field, and so... when you examine closely... do the Democratic candidates. Sanders is appealing to the fears of a different constituency, to be sure, but it's the same strategy.
Not to go all doom and gloom, but I don't see any easy way out of this mess. We've been down this path before; there seems to be little or no way to change direction...