Beyond the Stench: Reflections on Violence, Fascism, and Revolution

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

In case you haven’t heard, the bio-terrorist Donald Trump tried to kill Joe Biden late in the 2020 presidential campaign. Three days before his first and not-so “presidential” debate with the 79-year-old Biden, the pandemicist lunatic Trump tested positive for COVID-19.  This test has bever been reported until now, with the release of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows’ new memoir The Chief’s Chief.  The test was supposedly later incorrectly ruled a “false positive”, but the subsequent negative test was false.  Trump had covid, as the world learned just days after the debate.

By Meadows’ account, “nothing was going” to stop Trump from “debating” Biden (that is, hectoring Biden like a drunk fan at an NFL game). The pathetic “debate” host, Chris Wallace of Fatherland (FOX) News, later disclosed that Trump was not tested before the fiasco because the virus-spewing president was late.

The event’s organizers foolishly relied on the honor system – a problem when one of the key participants is an abject narcissist without honor.

It wasn’t just Biden and Wallace that Trump put at risk. According to New York Times reporter Michael Shear: “Hours after he received the call from Meadows informing him of a positive test, Trump came to the back of Air Force One without a mask and talked with reporters for about 10 minutes. I was wearing a mask, but still got COVID, testing positive several days later.”

Trump met with many others, unmasked, while knowingly infected, including his own Handmaid Supreme Court appointee Amy “Coat-Hanger” Barrett, whose ascendancy was occasion for a White House super-spreader event that almost killed Chris Christie.

Biden avoided infection and Trump went on to disappoint millions if not billions of people (the present writer included) by surviving his (severe) covid bout thanks to the best socialist health care available on the planet at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Violence of “Instinctive” Fascism, 2015-21

Meadows’ revelation should elicit no surprise. Repeatedly described as an “instinctive fascist” by his own niece Mary Trump, Donald Trump is and remains all about vicious political violence – and not just of the epidemiological kind that played such a crucial role in the original European destruction of Native America.

As a presidential candidate, Trump told his hate rally crowds to beat up protesters, offering to pay the legal bills of supporters who inflicted violence on vocal critics at his campaign events. He bragged that his followers would stay behind him even if he shot somebody dead on Fifth Avenue.

As president, Trump Tweeted a cartoon of himself beating up “CNN.” He mused about electrifying the southern border. He told a rally crowd of his delight at the thought of Central American migrants being chased by big German Shepherds. He told border guards to shoot migrants and asylum-seekers in the legs and said that he would offer pardons for such crimes. He advanced a sadistic border policy seeking to deter migration through the literal theft of children from their parents’ arms. He provided cover for supposed “good people” among neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who physically assaulted civil rights activists, killing one (Heather Heyer), at the fascist Unite the Right rally (the one where white supremacists marched with torchlights while chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us”) in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017. His administration reversed Obama’s post-Ferguson restrictions on the distribution of surplus US military equipment to local police departments and announced that it would no longer investigate white nationalist terrorism – this even as Trump helped inspire such terrorism.

Trump repeatedly threatened the nuclear annihilation of North Korea and Iran. He covered for the Saudis’ vivisection murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi. He told cops to rough up crime suspects.  He bragged that he and his brass-knuckled friends in law enforcement could end inner-city crime in one day – a not so veiled called for street executions. He bragged that attempts to remove him via impeachment or election would spark his “tough guys” – bikes, cops, soldiers, paramilitaries – to respond with, well, violence.  True to that threat, he later offered direct physical approval (once in his limousine and once from his presidential helicopter) to fascist mobs rampaging through the streets of Washington DC against Biden’s supposed “steal” of the 2020 election. He cheered fascist militia men who invaded state capitols with military assault weapons to protest basic public health measures enacted in response to a lethal pandemic. He tried to make a political hero out of the sadistic war criminal Eddie Gallagher, a child-murdering Navy Seal so pathologically brutal that one of his platoons named him “El Diablo.”

Trump pardoned Gallagher for war crimes. He also pardoned the fascist former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaiho, about whom the world-renowned public intellectual Henry Giroux wrote the following in American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (2018): “Not only did Arpaio engage in racial profiling, despite being ordered by a court to decease, he also had a notorious reputation for abusing prisoners in his Tent City. These inmates were subjected to blistering heat and forced to work on chain gangs, wear pink underwear…By pardoning Arpaio, Trump signals an official position [in support of] racialized state violence against immigrants, especially Latin Americans.”

Trump told state governors to respond to the beautiful popular George Floyd uprising with brute force to “dominate the streets.” He wanted to suppress the Floyd Rebellion with federal troops. He responded to the initial protest outbreaks by tweeting in support of police (and perhaps also vigilantes) “shooting” “looters.” He cleared Lafayette Square of civil rights protesters with chemical munitions and horse-mounted gendarmes to hold a Christian fascist photo-op in front of a church. He told the openly fascist Proud Boys to “stand by” for him during his first “debate” with Biden. He sent unmarked border paramilitaries to terrorize anti-racist and social justice protesters in Portland and Seattle. He repeatedly set up peaceful civil and human rights protesters (at least 13 of whom were murdered during the long George Floyd-Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake Rebellion) for violence by smearing them as radical “terrorists” out to “destroy America” and (laughably) “end the suburbs.” He ordered the September 3, 2020, federal police state assassination of the antifascist Michael Reinoehl, hailing this murder as just “retribution” for Reinhoel’s self-defense killing of a Christian fascist street thug (Patriot Prayer member Aaron Danielson) days earlier.

Trump helped spark racist mass murder in El Paso and Pittsburgh with nativist and fascistic rhetoric claiming that immigrants were ruining the “American way of life.”  He helped inspire his teen follower and fascist vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse to kill two anti-racist protesters with an illegally owned military assault rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020. He quickly defended Rittenhouse’s crimes and made a special and telling point of visiting Kenosha on the very last night of the 2020 campaign – a nod to the racist violence he hoped to mobilize in the event of electoral defeat.

But back to Covid-19. Beyond his dedicated advance of ecocide, Trump’s greatest crimes as president was pandemicide, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of people who were not afforded the advanced socialist health care he received at Walter Reed. The 45th president’s lethal, pandemofascist madness continued through the 2020 campaign and past his election loss. Cruelly using his own tragic covid survival as supposed proof that the virus wasn’t that big a deal, the orange-faced maniac rejected safe campaigning to hold super-spreader events that killed hundreds and infected tens of thousands. “While Biden’s campaign rallies were largely virtual or held in parking areas with participants in their vehicles,” the public health expert Laurie Garrett noted, “Trump’s tightly packed, mostly mask-free throngs increased in both number and frequency, further spreading the virus and causing the U.S. government’s top COVID-19 response expert, Anthony Fauci, to warn that the president was ‘asking for trouble.’” As America’s COVID-19 death toll climbed towards a world-leading 500,000 in early 2021, Trump’s mass-murderous covid insanity peaked. While news stories related the horror of a deadly fall and winter surge in November, December, and January, Trump alternated his time between golfing, scheming and acting to subvert the presidential election he lost, and preparing presidential pardons for those he deemed sufficiently loyal to be freed or protected from federal conviction and prison. It was one of the most horrific displays of narcissistic indifference to mass American suffering in the history of the modern U.S. presidency.

And then of course, Donald “fight like Hell or you won’t have a country anymore” Trump instigated the bloody January 6, 2021 Attack on the Capitol, which was, by the way, a super-spreader event followed by 38 Capitol Police officers and 150 National Guardsman testing  positive for the virus. We are still learning the details on just how completely and centrally the Trump White House was involved in coordinating this last-ditch coup attempt. We already know a great deal, of course, including that Trump’s ferocious speech before the riot helped set it off and that Trump refused to act to call the rampage off for hours even as his marauders trashed the Capitol and set up gallows to hang Nancy Pelosi and other elected officials including even and above all his own vice president.

Trump later tried to make a martyr out of the military veteran and Capitol Rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was tragically but justifiably killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to invade Congress and physically punish elected officials for committing the unpardonable sin of certifying Biden’s clear election victory.  Trump even tried to stoke further right-wing violence by insinuating that the officer who shot Babbitt worked for a high-level “Radical Left” Democrat.

It was all consistent with the eliminationist rhetoric that Trump deployed throughout his presidency and the vicious campaign that preceded and predicted that presidency. Trump repeatedly called his political enemies and nonwhite Others “animals,” “scum,” “rats,” “infestations,” and the like. And this vicious bastard, arguably the biggest asshole in the history of the human race, could well return to power in 2025.

(For a “full” catalogue of presidential  candidate and president Trump’s crimes, including many listed below, please see the second and third chapters of my new book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America).

Death Threat Democracy: Like “Germany in the 1930s”

Here we are less than a year out from the Leader of the Putsch’s bitter and perhaps temporary removal from the White House. The white nationalist and sexist violence that the nation’s “instinctive[ly] fascist” 45th president helped amplify and encourage is like a giant rabid serpent that can’t be put back in the murky den from which it was unleashed. Red state (Republifascist-controlled) states pass laws encouraging motorists to run over civil rights protesters and prohibiting local communities and school districts from requiring vaccinations and public masking. The fascist Iowa Board of Regents won’t let University of Iowa professors ask their students to wear masks even during office hours.

Retail store personnel face death threats for asking white nationalist customers to honor company masking requirements. Local school board officials and even school nurses face death threats for enforcing basic public health protocols in response to a pandemic that continues to menace the nation thanks in no small part to violent right-wing anti-vax and anti-mask madness. Local and state election officials face death threats from white nationalists whose anger is fueled by Trump’s Big Hitler- and Goebbels-worthy Stolen Election Lie.

School shootings are now so normalized in this gun-saturated Armed Madhouse the Republifascist National Rifle Association (NRA) has helped create that the latest high school slaughter slips into the “what else is new?” file for millions of US-Americans. No amount of domestic gun slaughter will move the NRA (which makes not-so veiled assassination threats against liberal and left celebrities, politicians, and intellectuals) off its commitment to the genocidal arming of every right-wing man, woman, and child in America. The biblically reactionary super-gerrymandering state of Texas revisits the vigilantism of the Fugitive Slave Act by empowering anyone to sue anybody who helps a Texas woman (including a rape or incest victim) get an abortion. Meanwhile the absurdly right-wing and absurdly powerful US Supreme Court, which stands far to the starboard side of US public opinion, is set (in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) to undo local gun regulations in a way that threatens to spark carnage on a previously unimaginable scale. The high court is also now poised (in Dobbs v. Jackson) to put the stink in stench by unleashing the sheer  patriarchal violence and slavery of forced motherhood on untold masses of women.

As a literally demented agent of an ever more mainstreamed neofascist movement that insanely calls Democrats and corporate America “Marxist,” the demented Republifascist Congressman Paul Gosar (Rf-AZ) recently released a cartoon video showing him killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and turning to assault Biden. The absurd gun-toting neoNazi Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (Rf-CO) provocatively tells white backers than the dignified and eloquent progressive Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is a “terrorist” member of the “Jihad Squad,” sparking a vicious racist death threat to Omar’s office. Elected Democrats across the country, especially ones who are female and nonwhite, regularly receive white nationalist death threats.

In a trial rigged by an openly demented right-wing judge, an all-white jury exonerated the Trumpist teenager Rittenhouse for murdering Black Lives Matter protesters with an illegally owned AR-15. The not-guilty verdicts granted this smiling young heartland butcher are a green light to future deadly right-wing vigilante attacks on people’s rights to publicly assemble and speak out for social justice and human and civil rights. Rittenhouse has recently been feted on fascist Tucker Carlson’s Fatherland (FOX) News’ Hate Hour. He has also gone on the insane Charlie Kirk Show, hosted by the almost unfathomably idiotic leader of the fascist-palingenetic-nationalist “movement” to delete arch-racist slavery, Jim Crow oppression, lynching, ghettoization, police brutality, and mass incarceration – and white systemic racism more broadly – from the record and teaching of North American and US history.  The greatly relieved blood-soaked adolescent is in line for a big money book contract from a right-wing publishing house.

Violent neofascist Congressional lunatics like the QAnon House Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Rf-GA), Gosar, Boebert, Sen. Ron Johnson [Rf-WI] (who advocates stripping his state’s bipartisan election agency of control over determining election outcomes and handing that power to the state’s Republican legislature), Rep. Matt Gaetz (Rf-FL) are said to be the most powerful Republicans in the House of Representatives. Their power rests on their alliance with Daddy Donald, who recently hosted Rittenhouse in Mar a Lago and who is reported (by one of his former campaign managers) to be salivating over his chance to wreak “vengeance” against his  enemies in a triumphant return to the White House. Congress is slated to return to Republifascist control (surely with new fascistic white-nationalist violence-advocates added to the right-wing caucus) in 2022-23.

The Republifascist Party, which reminds Lincoln Project Director Stuart Stevens of “Germany in the 1930s,” reasonably expects to steal the 2022 Congressional and 2024 presidential and Congressional elections largely through technically nonviolent means – gerrymandering, racist voter suppression, legal election nullification, insider ballot shenanigans, judicial cooperation, propaganda and more. Still, physical intimidation will be a big part of its electoral strategy. It will be more than happy to encourage fash-vigilante and paramilitary violence in response to protests that will emerge after the coming “legal” electoral coups. It is looking forward to enlisting white police, the true Trumpenvolk of the Blue metropolises, and white military forces in the suppression of future popular rebellions and the making of a new Christo-fascist Gilead state dedicated to escalated ecocide and heightened racial, ethnic, gender, and class disparity and oppression. People in the nation’s sadly demobilized and fragmented non-fascist majority might want to think about their fight or flight options, bearing in mind that actual physical flight (there is also the inward exile of political withdrawal, quite common already) is available to only a privileged Few and will do nothing to enhance human prospects at home or abroad.

We dodged a bullet in 2020-21 but the Amerikaner Party of Trump is working in a very dedicated and strategic fashion to rig further rightward a Minority Rule system that was already tilted to their anti-democratic advantage – and to make sure that the bullet lands straight in the heart of what’s left of US political democracy in 2022 and 2024-25. And we aren’t even in the ballpark for organizing to prevent this coming disaster, which will likely require liberals, progressives, and leftists to figure out how to stop and fight back against an actual steal.  Sad to say, the question of how to practice reasonable armed self-defense both in private and in public will have to be at least part of what is to be done.

“Should Democrats Somehow Be Elected”

There were only three reasons for Leftists to vote “for” dismal Democrats (including above all Biden) in the 2020 elections. None of them had anything to do with the Democrats being any damn good. The first reason was simply to try to rid the nation and world of the violent, ecocidal, and pathological pandemofascist and bio-terrorist tumor Trump, who was accurately described by the world’s greatest intellectual Noam Chomsky as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” – more menacing to humanity than even Hitler.” (Chomsky made this curious and accurate observation in early February of 2020[1], emphasizing Trump’s environmental transgressions, even before we knew about what would become the 45th POTUS’s full-blown pandemicism.)

The second reason was the hope to enjoy an at least partial modicum of breathing space[2] beyond the relentless madness of the insane clown Trump presidency and Trumpism.  The space was and is required to try to organize for the popular resistance and for the North American socialist revolution that is desperately required if humanity is going to have any chance of saving prospects for a decent and democratic future. The de facto class rule dictatorship of US and global capitalism is actively wiping out livable ecology and (intimately related to the environmental destruction) tipping the planet into a permanent pandemic state and authoritarian rule.  It’s hard to organize against and indeed to even think about the underlying oppression system when one is constantly fighting rearguard actions against revanchist nationalism with an actual (if clumsy and “instinctive”) fascist in the world’s most powerful position.

The third reason to vote “for” Democrats was to give millions of Americans another object lesson in the essential fact that life still sucks under capitalism-imperialism and American “bourgeois democracy” when ruling class Democrats hold nominal power. The systemic foundation of contemporary social and political problems and the strictly limited capacity of US-American electoral politics to offer meaningful solutions become more evident and transparent when Democrats – the pathetically “leftmost” of the two reigning capitalist parties – holds high elected office. The persistence of the same old underlying regime ever after the big bad rightmost major part is (temporarily) suggests that it’s not just about who’s sitting in elected and appointed offices and elite suites but far more importantly about who’ sitting and marching in the streets and public squares. (This is part of the dynamic behind the rise of the industrial workers movement during the 1930s, the New Left and poor people’s movements during the 1960s, the rise of the anti-nuclear power movement during the late 1970s, the rise of the global justice movement in the late 1990s, and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement under Obama.) At the same time, the Democrats are best able to deceptively pose as something they aren’t — a popular opposition party — and turn actual and potential popular movements into big “get out the vote” (GOTV) precisely when they are out of office. They are most effectively exposed as captive to concentrated wealth and empire and most clearly own the stench of the capitalist-imperial order when they hold ostensible power.

The moral and democratic inadequacy of the dismal Democrats and the need for revolutionary system change is being demonstrated for us once more during the Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden administration. Again and again, Biden and his fellow corporate Dems have predictably failed to undertake anything remotely like the sort of political and policy fights that would be required to defeat the Minority Rule Republifascist party, which is right now using the 18th Century slaveowners’ Constitution and the reactionary, anti-democratic power of judicial review to end women’s hard-won half-century right to an abortion – this even as 61% of the US populace backs Roe v. Wade.

Capitalogenic Ecocide – just the biggest issue of our or any time – is proceeding apace under “Weimar Joe,” who has just opened the nation’s emergency oil reserves. “Earlier this month,” The Guardian reported last week, “Biden vowed at the Cop26 environmental summit that the US will ‘lead by example’ in tackling the devastating consequences of climate change. However, just four days after the landmark talks, the Biden administration launched an auction of over 80m acres of the gulf for fossil fuel extraction, a record sell-off that directly contradicts the president’s previous promise of closing down new drilling on public lands and waters…In addition to criticizing the auction, environmental groups have condemned the 2,500 new oil and gas permits authorized in the first six months of the Biden administration – a figure Trump’s administration took a year to reach” (emphasis added).

It is a good time to recall Sheldon Wolin’s prophetic remarks in the early spring of 2008. “Should Democrats somehow be elected,” Wolin wrote in his chilling volume Democracy, Incorporated as Barack Obama’s star rose, they would do nothing to “alter significantly the direction of society” or “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards. …The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts,” Wolin wrote, “points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists [and environmentalists – P.S.] there is no opposition party working on their behalf.” Wolin’s imagined “in-power” corporatist Democrats would work to “marginalize any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

Wolin called it (so did I in a much less heralded book published around the same time). A dollar Democrat was elected president along with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. What followed under Barack Obama (as under his Democratic presidential predecessor Bill Clinton) was the standard “elite” neoliberal manipulation of campaign populism and identity politics in service to the reigning big-money bankrollers and their global empire. Wall Street’s control of Washington and the related imperial agenda of the “Pentagon System” were advanced more effectively by the nation’s first Black president than they could have been by stiff and wealthy white Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney. The reigning U.S. system of corporate and imperial “inverted totalitarianism” (Wolin) was given a deadly, fake-democratic re-branding. The underlying “rightward drift” sharpened, fed by a widespread and easily Republican-exploited, highly racialized white-identitarian sense of popular abandonment and betrayal, as the Democrats depressed and demobilized their own purported grassroots base. Indeed, the eliminationist right-wing cancer metastasized during the Obama years. It is metastasizing and spreading again under the hapless octogenarian fascism-mollifier Joe “The Parliamentarian Said No” Biden, who is looking more like our next Millard Filmore (or Paul von Hindenburg) every day.

Choose Your Adventure: Prologue to Fascist Consolidation or Socialist Revolution

So now we have an even crazier right-wing driven more toxic than ever by covid, the George Floyd Rebellion, and four years of the maniac Trump in power.  Sixty percent of the Republican base embraced the big fat fascist fib that the 2020 election was stolen. A significant share of that base supports political violence to protect a white supremacist notion of the “American way of life.” A giant swath of the country sees January 6th as a positive event. The Trump-captive Republifascist Party is gearing up with an epidemic of state-level voter suppression bills and gerrymandering commissions to lock in a return to Congressional power in 2022 and a spate of red-state election nullifications are taking aim presidential contest. I’m not a big fan of the centrist Obama pal and Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, but he was dead on when he wrote this last June:  “The most important and most relevant truth of the [January 6] riot is that it was not the culmination of the insurrection, but its prologue. If the Republican Party, as currently constituted, takes back the House and Senate next year (an outcome that is not only plausible but, history tells us, likely), and if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2024, it doesn’t seem likely that Congress will certify the victory. And then the four horsemen will most certainly ride.”

The horsemen will likely ride with pathetically little serious opposition from the so-called “party of the people,” the dismal dollar-drenched neoliberal Dems, who may go down in the history books as the junior partner party in the rise of an American fascist order in the third decade of the 21st Century. The overpowering stench of their appeasement is increasingly hard to ignore. Also hard to overlook is the utter institutional obsolescence and right-wing bias of the 18th  century slaveowners’ governance order (a longstanding topic of mine – please see this and this and this) within which the Democrats pretend to represent the populace against a Republican Party that has crossed into fully on racialized and authoritarian space beyond “normal” bourgeois democracy and rule of law.  It is up to the people themselves to write a different history. They must form new revolutionary organizations appropriate to the tasks of not merely defeating fascism but of creating the kind of post-capitalist world that doesn’t breed fascism and destroy livable ecology.  It’s just an existential fact that it will take an actual revolution, nothing less, to set humanity on a decent course and avert sheer and potentially terminal catastrophe. This where we are now.


1. “What might be debatable,” Chomsky wrote, “is whether he is indeed the most dangerous criminal in human history (which happens to be my personal view). Hitler had been perhaps the leading candidate for this honor. His goal was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future (along with millions of other species)…Trump is. And those who think he doesn’t know what he’s doing haven’t been looking closely.”

2. For this writer at least, the civil rights slogan “I Can’t Breathe,” taken from the dying last words of the Black men Eric Garner (Staten Island, 2014) and George Floyd (Minneapolis, May 25, 2020), took on a triple meaning in 2020: (a) the breath-squeezing violence of racist police brutality; (b) the breath-squeezing, Trump-fanned disease Covid-19; (c) the crushing of democratic political space and collective and even personal sanity by the constant political onslaughts of Trump and his Amerikaner supporters.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).