Political Scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article entitled “Fascism Anybody?” that was published in the Free Inquiry in the spring of 2003. In this article he did an in-depth analysis of fascist regimes. He studied Hitler with Germany, Mussolini with Italy, Franco with Spain, Suharto with Indonesia and numerous Latin American regimes. In his study he found that each of these fascist states had the same 14 characteristics. Much has been spoken about these 14 characteristics and their relationship to what is happening in the United States today under Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Keep in mind that this article was written with another Republican, George W. Bush in mind. Of course after Barack Obama was elected, those on the right attempted to say he was installing a fascist regime himself.
That being said, what follows are each of the 14 characteristics and what exists today in this country. Consider with each of these characteristics what can be laid at the feet of the Republicans and what if any could be laid at the feet of President Obama and the Democrats.
1) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public display.
It doesn’t take much to view social media to see how most of the right-wing accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. often have flags, eagles, guns on their banners. Some on the left do too, but not as much as the right. Many of these people describe themselves as Patriotic Conservatives, Molon Labe, America First, etc. Donald Trump loves to embrace the flag, be seen with the flag. He speaks of how broken our country is, that only he can “Make America Great Again” in order to stir nationalist favor to him and his cause. In fact, White Nationalists, otherwise known as Neo-Nazis support Donald Trump completely saying he will make our nation powerful. President Obama was patriotic too, he was seen with flags, wore his tie pin and spoke of how we still are a great nation. However, he acknowledged a need to work with other nations to maintain peace and cooperation in the world. Although he used military might against terrorists, he endeavored to work with other nations for assistance and help. He built a coalition. Trump and the Republicans want to go it alone. America before all else and we won’t concede an inch to anyone, not even our allies. So for #1 this clearly goes to the Right.
2) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of the “need”. The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
During his campaign Donald Trump made it clear that he wants to bring torture back. One of his first executive orders says as much. He also wants to deny sanctuary to Syrian immigrants fleeing war for fear of our security. He wants to build the famous wall to keep the Mexican “rapists, drug dealers and murderers out.” He claims to be a “Law and Order” advocate wanting to lock people up for as long as possible regardless of their crimes. He turns the other way regarding reports of Blacks, Muslims, Jews, etc. being harassed and harmed by White Supremacists. He supports legislation that strips away protection from Hate Crimes, he and Mike Pence support legislation legalizing discrimination of others based on “deep held religious views” unless those views of Muslim I suppose. President Obama recognized human suffering and throughout his eight years by executive order worked to alleviate the human rights violation against Muslims, LGBTQ, Women, POC etc. So #2 is clearly again goes to the Right.
3) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
You don’t need to think too hard about this one. Muslims and “Mexicans” are the greatest threat to our nation according to the right. Trump wants the wall, wants to ban all Muslims from coming to this country and even create a Muslim Registry for those already here. Of course those on the right always condemn the “libtards” out there as those on the left condemn the RWNJs. However, recently Newt Gingrich came out saying that any Federal employee who voted Democratic this year should be fired by Trump. So under the Trump regime, Muslims, Latinos and Democrats are the common enemy of the State. #3 is solidly with the Right.
4) Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers a military service are glamorized.
Both side do glamorize and respect our military. With the exception of the Sequester, our military spending did increase under President Obama. Currently the US spends $596 billion, 3.3% of our GDP on our military. We spend more than any other country. China comes second with $215 billion, 1.9% of her GDP. Russia is fourth with $66 billion 5.4% of her GDP. In fact, we spend more on our military than the next 14 nations combined and most of them are our allies. Trump and the Republicans want to increase our military spending more to the realm of a trillion dollars while at the same time want to cut domestic spending towards Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance, education, etc. Now Trump says he wants to rebuild our infrastructure which both sides agree too, but if we’re starving, impoverished sick and dying, what good does that for the nation? What is our military defending us from? Looks like the real threat is our own indifference to our own people. #4 goes to the Right.
5) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
I don’t believe the Right has any further issues with divorce considering their president and their pundits like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich although they all went after Bill Clinton for having affairs, they blame Hillary for not divorcing him. Trump and the Republicans want to roll back LGBTQ rights earned over the past eight years. One of Trumps first executive order to ban funding of abortions outside the country was witnessed by all White Males. Most of the Trump administration is male whereas Obama had the most diverse administration with men women and minorities in our history. Trump throughout his life has objectified women as property or show things. The Republican Party is very dismissive of Women’s rights and balked at the Women’s March, which was worldwide, on January 21st. #5 also goes firmly to the Right.
6) Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
To date I don’t see the Trump administration or Republican Party taking direct control of the media themselves. However, due to the corporate nature of the media and goal to earn more viewership and thus more profit, they do tend to curb their political coverage more right than left. Trump received nearly $3 billion in free coverage in his run for the presidency. Far more Republican politicians and pundits are on the “liberal” media than Democrats. Now Trump has gone out of his way to condemn the media as “Dishonest” for reporting the truth about him. There are indications of backlash from the Trump Administration against the media for doing their job. President Obama had his issues with the media too, but he worked his way through it and actually thanked them for holding his feet to the fire in his final days in office. So #6 isn’t quite there yet for the Right, but it’s not for lack of trying.
7) Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
Obama was known as the “Deporter in Chief” for all the deportations of undocumented immigrants carried out during his presidency. Trump says “you don’t have a country without borders” and “Mexico isn’t sending us their best people… They’re sending us their rapists, drug dealers, murders.” Now of course this isn’t true. In reality first generation immigrants are far more law abiding than native born Americans. However Trump and the Republicans spend much of their time convincing Americans that our borders aren’t secured (they are) and we are in constant danger from Mexicans and Muslims (we’re not). In reality White Supremacists are responsible for exponentially more damage, assaults and murders since 9-11 than any other group in the country. If we have anything to fear, it’s our own people. #7 goes to the Right.
8) Religion and Government are intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
Our nation was found under a wall of separation between Church and State, but for generations now the right has been pushing the false narrative that we were founded as a Christian Nation. In recent years to meld with the blame the Muslims rhetoric from the right, they claim Muslims are working to, against the Constitution mind you, to implement Shari ’a law in our nation. Now that is pure crap not supported by any facts anywhere. However, in response the right demands we implement certain laws against Homosexuality and abortion and require adherence to Biblical tenets that they themselves don’t ascribe to in their private lives. In short, they want to institute Christian Shari ’a law in the land. What they say they’re wanting codify in law isn’t even truly reflected in Bible teachings. So #8 is squarely assigned to the Right.
9) Corporate Power is protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
So, Donald Trump is a billionaire businessman, Rex Tillerson is a billionaire Oilman, Andrew Puzder is a billionaire fast food entrepreneur, Betsy Devos is a billionaire Amway entrepreneur, and the list goes on. Our current government is Corporate Power. Trump and the Republican Party work to cut corporate taxes and regulations to protect workers and the environment in order to raise their profit margins. Worker rights are constantly being thwarted by the Right. #9 is made for the Right.
10) Labor is Suppressed: Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor union are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
As noted above the Republican Party hasn’t been a friend to labor. Andrew Puzder who’s been nominated for labor secretary hates labor. He wants to do away with unions, minimum wages, sick time, vacation time, even break time. Obama worked to increase the minimum wage nationwide. Red state after Red state impose “Right to Work” legislation which is a euphemism for Right to Work for Less. Unions have little to no authority to negotiate for employees with the government in Right to Work States. The corporations have total control over labor. #10 is assigned to the Right.
11) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
Trump and the Republicans have already announced zeroing out funding for the arts in the budget. They aren’t too keen about paying for education either. Obama worked to make higher education affordable, he believed in climate change and worked with scientists for solutions. The Right dismiss climate change, they dismiss evolution, and another executive order was signed by Trump forbidding anyone from the EPA from releasing scientific data without government review. As Trump said himself “I love the poorly educated.” 11 goes to the Right.
12) Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
President Obama through his Justice Department understood that there are some bad cops out there who are oppressing the citizens they’re support to protect. He couldn’t ignore the continual reports of unarmed suspects being shot and killed. He had his DOJ investigate these departments. This is not to say that Obama was anti-cop. Quite the contrary, however he knew there’s a problem recognized by much of the nation and tried to alleviate it. Trump on the other hand is an absolutist. If it involves a cop, doesn’t matter what the facts of the circumstances are, the cop is a saint and can do no wrong. He claims to be a law and order president (not counting White Collar crime I suppose) and wants to increase criminal sanctions on all criminal offenders and give cops license to do what they want without consequence.
13) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
When President Obama took office, like a famous previous president Abraham Lincoln, he appointed a cabinet made up of some of his rivals for the presidency. He even appointed some from the previous Bush administration. Now although Trump accused Hillary Clinton of having a pay to play cronyism inkling, he himself has appointed his bankruptcy attorney, his friends and some of his biggest donors to his cabinet. Worse yet and unprecedented in our history, he’s kept his businesses and stands to make executive actions like KeystoneXL and DAPL to further his own bottom line. #13 is all Right.
14) Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district’s boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
In 2000 and conservative right wing Supreme Court gave Republican George Bush the presidency. In 2010 having won the midterms and many state legislatures due to low voter turnout, republicans around the nation in Red states used the census numbers to gerrymander voting districts to their favor almost guaranteeing winning control in State Houses and the House of Representatives for ten years even if they didn’t get the majority of votes (which they haven’t since 2010). A republican FBI director broke FBI and Justice Department rules days before the November election to say the Hillary Clinton was again under criminal investigation for issues involving her emails. In fact, there was nothing new and a follow letter was submitted just before the election that she lost in the Electoral College despite winning the general. Analysts agree that this letter swung the vote in four key states to Trump giving him the Electoral College win. Republicans have been suppressing the vote in red states. Operation Cross Check from a Republican operative in Kansas has resulted in people needlessly being dropped from voting rolls without notice. Now Trump claims 4 to 5 million “illegals” voted for Clinton despite no evidence to support that. However he plans on using this for more Republican legislation to suppress the vote. #14 is now clearly in the Right’s pocket.
Of the 14 characteristics Donald Trump and the Republican Party score significantly on all of them. Only #6 is in question in my opinion, but they’re edging closer to fulfilling it completely. So based on Dr. Britt’s analysis, the United States in just the first week of the Trump administration (though they had a 30 year head start with the help of Newt Gingrich) is now a fascist state. The question is, will it remain so. In 1932 Germany became a fascist state but in the early months, much like today here, there were massive protests against Hitler and the Nazis. They did horrendous things early on, but they did it in such a way that the people got used to it and the protests died off. Then as they consolidated and increased their power legislatively like with the Enabling Act after the Reichstag Fire, took full control and began the roundup of political opponents, euthanasia of the mentally ill, sick and elderly, round-up of the gypsies, homosexuals and Jews who were placed in concentration camps. Then of course in 1939 they went to war.
We have history to reflect on. If we are to remain a fascist state all we need do is nothing. If we want to revert back to a democratic Republic, we need to get out daily. We need to bombard our representatives daily to let them know this will not stand. We need to educate the Republican base, yes the Republican base about what they stand to lose if the current power regime continues. Healthcare, Social Security, Cost of Living, Jobs, are on the line for all of us Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Independent, if the current Republican leadership in Washington DC and many of our states remain in control. It’s not too late, but it’s getting there.
Join the Resistance while we still can resist.