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The Twilight of a Wannabe Fascist: A Timeline of Trump’s Last Year

2/6/2000: the Senate acquits Trump of the House impeachment charges; Trump at 42% approval; election prospects look good

3/3 (Super Tuesday):  Joe Biden sweeps Democratic primaries, reversing Bernie Sanders’ gains; Biden backed by Wall Street and the Democratic National Committee blocks Sanders; the electoral choice will be between center-right Democrat Biden and Clinton-Obama normalcy, or four more years of Trump

3/13: as COVID19 becomes an issue, and awareness of Trump’s criminal irresponsibility spreads, Trump belatedly announces a national health emergency and first measures against it

April: many states modify their absentee/mail-in voting procedures in response to the Coronovirus

5/25: police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis; revival of Black Lives Matter on unprecedented scale, more diverse than ever (even in virus conditions); mass media increasingly inclined to discuss “systemic racism” as a real thing and disparage the Trump forces for denying the obvious; renewed emphasis on Trump’s racism and “divisiveness” as an election issue

6/1: during BLM demonstrations in Washington D.C. Trump has troops clear Lafayette Square with tear gas so he and senior administration officials including Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, can walk across street from White House to St. John’s Church and he can wave a Bible

6/11: Milley apologizes about presence at 6/1 event with Trump: tells National Defense University in recorded commencement address: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics”

7/1: Trump denounces BLM as “a symbol of hate,” further mobilizing his electoral base around white supremacy; links anti-racism to Marxism, Antifa, socialism, communism, etc.

7/7: Trump withdraws U.S. from World Health Organization after it fails “to take requested and greatly needed reforms”

July: Trump begins to strongly criticize mail-in ballots (as allowing for fraud); mounting criticism of Trump’s incompetent handling of Covid crisis

8/17: Trump declares that the only way he’ll lose is if the election is “rigged” and predicts Democrats’ mail-in ballots will be used to rig it

8/24-27: Republican National Convention in Charlotte, NC: a display of fascistic idiocy, approving no new party platform but uniting in support for Trump

8/28: in response to serious concerns, Gen. Mark Milley, chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, assures Congress U.S. military will have no role in determining outcome of U.S. election

9/17: Trump signs executive order establishing 1776 Commission to “promote patriotic education” to correct the “radicalized view of American history” which has “vilified Founders and founding” with “critical race theory” (Commission results composed by non-historians, including top Trump advisor Steven Miller, a Zionist-fascist and white supremacist, published on MLK’s birthday, 1/18/2021)

9/29: in presidential debate with Biden, Trump states: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.”

10/15: Trump tells Newsmax he’s “not happy” with attorney general Bill Barr when he found no criminal wrongdoing by Obama administration in connection with 2016 election

10/26: Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court justice

11/3: election occurs as usual; Biden is apparent winner

11/4: Trump declares victory; Republicans overwhelmingly agree that he won

11/6: networks (except Fox News) call election for Biden, with 51% of the vote to Trump’s 47% and with seven million more votes

11/7: Fox News calls election for Biden; Trump enraged, denounces the loyal obsequious network and and urges followers to switch to Newsmax

11/3-11/27: Trump and allies challenge results in the courts; more than 30 law cases filed against election results fail; Trump further enraged

11/12: Trump attacks Fox News (after the network noted that Trump’s claims about the election were false) in a tweet: “They forgot the Golden Goose.” (An extraordinary admission of a purely transactional mentality.)

11/17: Reuters poll shows 52% Republicans think Trump won election

12/3: Trump tweets against Supreme Court: “The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one. It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!”

12/9: all states have certified Biden’s win, but Trump continues to charge “massive fraud”; 72% Republicans now think Trump won

12/12: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Texas attorney general Alan Wilson’s suit challenging election results with amicus briefs signed by 127 Republican lawmakers; Trump tweets in rage against the court he stacked: “within a flash, [the suit] is thrown out and gone, without even looking at the many reasons it was brought. A Rigged Election, fight on!”

12/12: Attorney General Bill affirms that there was no widespread voter fraud; Trump tweets: “A big disappointment!” and “IF Biden gets in, nothing will happen to Hunter or Joe. Barr will do nothing, and the new group of partisan killers coming in will quickly kill it all.”

12/15:  Barr resigns

12/19: Trump tweets his base: “There will be a big protest in D.C. Jan. 9. Be there. It will be wild!”

1/2: Trump calls Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding 11,780 votes be changed; Raffensperger politely and firmly refuses and records the embarrassing conversation on tape for public exposure

1/3: Trump attempts to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with his flunky Jeffrey Clark, so that he can order a Georgia recount. Rosen alerts the whole Justice Department leadership about Trump’s plans and in the face of the threat of mass resignations, Trump is forced to relent—another infuriating failure

[speculative: Trump aware of some degree of coordination between forces that stormed the Capitol and certain sitting Republican lawmakers?]

1/4: Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio arrested in Washington D.C., charged with destruction of church property in an-anti BLM event in December

1/6: Vice President Mike Pence tells Trump in letter he does not have constitutional power to prevent certification of election results; earlier Trump had told him he could “be a patriot or a pussy”

1/6: Trump rallies thousands of his followers at the Ellipsis, denounces Pence for his weakness, directs crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Ave. (with him, he says, although he scurries away to the White House) and head to the Capitol to “fight like hell” to stop certification of the vote

1/6: At about 1:30 p.m. around 800 Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, QAnon, klansmen, nazis, QAnon devotees, Bible-toting Christian crazies, active duty military and cops, retired cops, veterans, grandmas grieving for the cannibalized children, anticommunists with old South Vietnamese flags, miscellaneous curious fools break through police lines, smash open windows and storm the Capitol building killing one cop and causing five other deaths (including that of a Ashli Babbitt, a 14 year Air Force veteran and QAnon idiot who thought the coronvirus was “commie bullshit” shot dead by a cop as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby through a smashed window)

1/6: Mike Pence as Trump’s most deferential of yes-men and as vice president of the United States is upset that Trump would sic a mob chanting “Hang Pence, hang Pence!” on the Capitol, and Sen. Mike McConnell is not amused by the sacking of the cathedral of bourgeois democracy; Trump invites unprecedented loathing among those who had hitherto merely feared him

1/6: within hours Trump is persuaded by White House lawyers to urge his followers to go home, puzzling some in his base; at 6:01 p.m. President Trump tweets: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

1/6 around 7:00 p.m.: Twitter and Facebook remove Trump posts, suspend accounts temporarily

1/6 around 8:00: Capitol police declare building secure; Congressional procedures resume, Biden victory recorded officially

1/6-7:   Canadian, British, Norwegian, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Icelandic, Greek prime ministers, the German president, the president of the EU, the NATO secretary-general all express concern at the shocking event Trump has provoked

1/7: Trump is forced to denounce Capitol raid as “heinous,” insist that violence has nothing to do with “our movement,” urging “healing” and “reconciliation” and confusing many followers who thought he’d praise the patriots;  he reportedly worried afterwards that he’d alienated supporters with the insincere statement

1/7: Trump deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger resigns

1/7: Facebook suspends Trump account through end of term

1/8: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confers with Nancy Pelosi about nuclear command authority

1/9: Twitter suspends Trump’s account; corporate America in general shuns Trump; at least 50 major companies, including Marriott, Dow Chemical, Verizon, Blue Cross, Hallmark, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Ford, etc. soon announce they will donate no money to the campaigns of the Republicans who voted against certifying the vote

1/9: Jake Angeli (Jacob Anthony Chansley), QAnon shaman, arrested in Arizona, appeals for pardon from Trump (but Trump does not grant)

1/12: Deutsche Bank cuts ties with Trump

1/13: 2nd impeachment of Trump, with 10 Republicans joining

1/13: it is announced there will be over 20,000 National Guardsmen deployed to defend the inauguration ceremony against domestic terrorists

1/17: widely predicted pro-Trump uprisings do not occur in state capitals

1/19: Business Insider reports Trump administration staffers are getting snubbed while hunting for new jobs

1/19: Oath Keeper leader Thomas Edward Caldwell arrested in Virginia, charged with conspiracy, illegal entry into Capitol

1/20: Trump leaves White House peacefully, leaving note for Biden; there is no disorder in the capital during the inauguration

1/20: day passes without the predicted martial law and mass arrests predicted by QAnon; disillusions some adherents;America First leader Nicholas Fuentes,writes in his Telegram channel that Trump’s response to the Capitol rampage was “very weak and flaccid” and that he is “Not the same guy that ran in 2015.”

1/20: Proud Boys post on Telegram: “Trump will go down as a total failure”

1/20: Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs is arrested in Florida, charged with disorderly conduct at the Capitol

1/20: Morgan Lewis law firm cuts ties to Trump

1/26: all but five Republicans in Senate vote to oppose impeachment hearing, indicating Trump’s continued grip over party

**********

So what happened? A wannabe fascist finished up his term, successfully maintaining his substantial base but convincingly losing the election. His crude bullying efforts to force the courts, state officials, federal officials, top law officers, the Vice President to validate his lie that the election had been stolen were repulsed at every turn. He learned he could not manipulate the Joint Chiefs of Staff at will or force Fox News to declare the election stolen.

He retained his control over most of the Republicans in Congress who voted to oppose certification of the election results. That was his crowning achievement: to integrate the party into his final failed bid to cling to power, or failing that, leaving doubts about his successor’s legitimacy. But this of course has been Trump’s MO since he challenged Obama’s legitimacy, even before 2015.

But Trump never pulled off the fascist coup feared and predicted by some.

Trump never established or presided over a fascist party or even network. His phone call to the Georgia secretary of state was an open appeal for assistance in a coup; “Give me a break!” he pleaded. But Raffensperger refused to join the plot. And Trump’s proposal that Rosen, Barr’s successor, step down in favor of Clark backfired badly when the Justice Department leaders threatened to resign en masse. His savage betrayal of his most loyal lackey at the end only spurred Pence to not only declare Biden the victor but to attend his inauguration and congratulate Kamala Harris. Trump’s moves were anything but shrewdly calculating, activating a collective plan. They were irrational acts venting personal rage, futile attempts to bludgeon frightened subordinates to do his bidding. It urns out there are limits to a wannabe fascist’s ability to intimidate in the absence of a matrix of brownshirts.

In the end Trump quietly left the White House, a defeated, frightened, financially hemorrhaging, legally challenged, internationally discredited and ridiculed, isolated and shunned figure. So much for Trump’s fascist threat. In the end there was no rational connection between his will to control and his power to command events.

If the endorphin rush of the crowds, the fawning of his advisors and the pandering of Fox News truly persuaded him that the masses loved him, and the polls were all wrong, he learned in his last weeks that he could not order state and federal officials to fake election results for him. They, at least, did not love him enough. He hit up against empirical reality, challenged it, thought that by vague exhortations to “fight” he could either (1) intimidate the Senate from ratifying the election or (2) at least demonstrate his capacity to wreak havoc. If he believed he could obtain the first goal—a coup, executed by a mix of of white nationalists dressed up as soldiers with only the barest of game plans—he was indeed delusional.  If he believed he could go out with a bang, impressing his fandom with his bold willingness to shatter glass (to take our country back from the radical socialists), he probably succeeded—although disillusionment with him is already setting in.

“Remember this day forever!” he tweeted around 6:00 p.m. on the day of the storming. The day the people enraged by the “steal” stormed the heavens striving to find justice, failing but honorably, patriotically registering their dissent. That’s the face of Trumpian fascism as its most virulent: confused conspiracy nuts rifling through Ted Cruz’s papers on the Senate floor; a goon in full body armor roaming the Senate chamber, plastic handcuts in hand; a horned shaman bellowing a Tarzan yell from the balcony while others complain he’s making a fool of himself; a mob of hundreds chanting “Hang Pence, hang Pence;” cop-lovers ramming cops with Blue Lives Matter flag poles and crushing one officer’s head with a fire extinguisher.

There’s a lot of fascism there, to be sure. But there was no coordinated fascist movement, no real plan for power seizure; no joint manifestos, no mass arrests. If Trump had insufficient political capital to suborn McConnell and Pence, Raffensperger and Rosen, he surely lacked the clout to pull off an armed coup. Instead he embarrassed and incriminated himself.

Trump’s historical contribution was to draw global attention to the extent of the toxic fascistic presence in our midst. We’d always known it was there, but we didn’t realize its magnitude. About one-third of the people are so ignorant, confused, frightened, resentful, and racist; so unaware of history, or wedded to understandings of history based on biblical myth, that they cannot think critically, digesting information. They seize on emotionally appealing delusions, insisting on their “right” to believe whatever they want. They are incapable of understanding that there is only one reality. They are eminently exploitable by QAnon-type snake-oil salesmen. They are raw material for a new fascist movement but they are more couch potatoes indulging in social media fantasies than militiamen and women honing coup skills.

Some are now actually positing that with the departure of Trump power has passed from the fascists into the hands of (small-d) democrats. That is to say: we had a fascist period. But now, thank God, it’s over!

An alternative explanation would be that a (merely) WANNABE fascist held presidential power for four years (all the while impressing top aides as an “idiot” and “moron”).  While clinging to a substantial power base he never won over the majority to his more fascistic views and policies;  indeed he was voted out of power in part due to concern about what the corporate media i(n its understated way) called his “authoritarian tendencies.” While averring love for the military, virtually as a matter of principle (and just like Biden), he generated little love among the brass repulsed by his condescension and manifest ignorance of military matters. He did please the police unions (whose traditional allies include, as you know, Joe Biden). Law, order and the containment of threatening Blacks and Mexicans (inherently rapacious, and drawn to radical Marxism) were his issues. He (jokingly) proposed in pep talks before cops that cops treat the people more brutally. That he was, as a human being, a vicious Mafiosa-type thug was never in question.

But so dysfunctional! So incompetent! So absolutely unable to pull it off! So lacking in reliable troops! Deserted by his lieutenants at the end! Left with the vile Stephen Miller submitting his 1776 text correcting U.S. history on Martin Luther King Day, 2021, meeting with ridicule. The wannabe fascist shrivels up inside the wannabe business tycoon, wannabe deal-maker, wannabe best-selling author, wannabe popular culture icon.

Trump was a wannabe threat who sought to frighten and intimidate. He lost when he overreached. He had apparently never really studied the way the U.S. polity works. The extent of his basic ignorance (and readiness to openly express it, in his disarmingly stupid style) shocked aides.  He really seemed to have no idea about the constitutional division of powers, etc.—the basic stuff. His demands for personal loyalty clashed so overtly with the law that multiple subordinates were obliged to resist. Bourgeois democracy easily withstood the lame assault. Trump’s stunningly stupid egoism suddenly appeared in sharp relief as 25,000 national Guardsmen deployed in D.C. to prevent his crazies from staging a second riot, while the vanquished wannabe retreated to his golf course resort in Florida following a subdued farewell ceremony at Andrews.

What’s left now are fascist features in the liberal bourgeois state, most predating Trump; re-energized neofascist factions who have profited by the new atmosphere under Trump (but who are divided on such matters as Trump’s total support for Israel); unprecedentedly fascist rhetoric and trends within the Republican Party (likely producing a split); and the emergence of “fascism” as a category in mainstream political commentary. People in this country are coming to see that beyond the tolerated tribes of Republicans and Democrats there is a spectrum of ideologies that extend from fascism to communism—“isms” the masses only vaguely understand, in which the ruling class (committed to bipartisan moderation) is hardly inclined to educate them.

Whereas “socialism”—famously ruled out by the DNC in destroying Sander’s campaign in March to rig the nomination for Biden—beckons our youth, fascism repels them. They might not be sure about what it is, exactly, but they know it’s racist, anti-democratic, xenophobic and evil. That Trump was repudiated by many as a fascist is surely a good thing. But did he ever constitute a real fascist threat to the bourgeois-democratic state? In retrospect the evidence is not strong.

Trump succeeded in retaining a solid support base of about 40% of the population, and a somewhat larger percentage of voters, while spewing racist, anti-immigrant, fascistic rhetoric. He was able to rally the great majority of Republicans in Congress to support his agenda and even, at the end, abet his efforts to overturn the result of the election. He rallies them now to reject his impeachment of the grounds of incitement to riot. He has reshaped the party to serve as the vile vehicle of his own advancement and defense. But it still harbors its high-profile dissidents (like Romney, Cheney, Toomey, Sasse, Kinzinger, Murkowsky), some of whom have supported impeachment.

Some sitting Republican lawmakers may have abetted the Capitol break-in. Two new House members, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, are QAnon believers. There are members who probably meet the definition of “fascist.” The threat is real. But there is no disciplined national party with a fascist agenda, nor a state apparatus so riddled by fascist infiltration that a few calls from the White House to Deep State partisans (plus a state of emergency and  martial law) could finagle a second term.

The column of Oath Keeper cosplayers who spearhead the Capitol break-in seem to have had a primitive plan, thwarted when they stumbled into an evacuated Senate floor. But there was no clear political statement or result of the short-lived occupation by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, other than establishing a heroic precedent for future fascists. And disgusting the majority that continues to respect bourgeois democracy.

Trump showed the world the dimensions of U.S. fascism. His election prompted the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, in which maybe 250 neonazis marched, chanting “Jews will not replace us.” (Trump famously opined that there were “fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, even though you might suppose that with an Orthodox Jewish son-in-law and Jewish convert daughter he’d be upset with the manifest antisemitism.) Trump inspired the worst filth to raise their heads publicly. But he did not, probably could not, effectively place himself at their head.

So he retreats into his wonted solipsism, licking his wounds. The world has been so unfair!

All he wanted to do was to foist himself on the planet, make Europe pay, take the oil to pay us back for war expenses, undo everything Obama did, make Iran kiss his ass, give Israel everything it ever wanted, restore America’s right to release unlimited carbon emissions, keep out Mexicans and Muslims, exclude transgendered people from the military, defend religious bigotry, and encourage fear and hatred! All he did was exercise his right of free speech to inspire the people!

And so the Democrats—the radical-liberal communist Democrats whose minds are filled with anti-white hatred—rigged the election to topple him. And his own people, bade to invade the Senate floor, were unable to undo the Democrats’ shameful work. A coup plotter with no serious troops on the ground, Trump watched the unfolding of the Jan. 6 drama passively, delighted but paralyzed, refusing urgent calls.

These were not the actions of a calculating fascist. We must return to the issue of malignant narcissism, emphasizing both the malign (his snarling resentment and general misanthropy) and narcissistic (his obsession with himself, lack of empathy, inability to acknowledge fault). Trump’s personality was able to encourage U.S. fascist trends but not channel them effectively as a political movement. The movement such as it was peaked on Jan. 6 with the bumbling attack on the Congress in session. The Storming of the Capitol will be the stuff of fascist ballads. But quite likely, Trump’s role in it will be recalled as a Judas-like betrayal.

Trump the man will be weakened by cascading revelations about his illegal business dealings, misuse of campaign funds, sexual misdeeds, and generally loathsome character. The most brain-dead will linger in his toxic cult, capable of smashing windows and crushing cops’ heads with fire extinguishers. But they were never poised to really seize power, which remains firmly in the hands of bourgeois (small-d) democrats.

The current primary challenge to the latter is less to repulse “fascism” than to retain the support of progressives (whose agenda they in fact deplore) to return to a Cold War normalcy the world has passed by.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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