The Republi-Fascist Specter Looms

Image by Darren Halstead.

It is darkly comedic to think that I used to catch Hell from left-identified folks (usually older white males) for making the obviously accurate observation that then United States (US) President Donald “Stand By, Proud Boys” Trump and Trumpism were fascist.  (“You have Trump Derangement Syndrome!,” “Stop Crying Wolf!,” “This Isn’t the Third Reich,” etc.) Please see the third chapter, titled “A Fascist in the White House, 2017-21,” in my most recent book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America for a detailed discussion of the many ways in which the Trump presidency fit the very definition of “the F-word.”

The ridiculous Trumpenleft fascism-denying criticism continued even after the orange beast sent thousands of his frothing backers to physically attack the US Capitol in an effort to block Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election –  the putsch attempt that Trump wanted to participate in alongside AR-15-toting Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and Proud Boys.

Here we are now coming up on the third anniversary of January 6.  Trump and his party have been screaming it off the rooftops ever since: they are a fascist menace to what’s left of US democracy. And now they may well come to power in 2025 with a fully worked up plan for the Christian white nationalist takeover of the US state.

I have been documenting this at painstaking length here and on CounterPunch across the Biden years and cannot repeat all the details here (my writing on this topic is probably already at the word count level for a small book).

That said, here are four of the most relevant recent developments:

“Trump Wants to Build Big Camps”

1. Trump’s top fascist domestic policy advisor, the virulent white nationalist Stephen Miller, recently told The New York Times that Trump is “planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled. The plans would sharply restrict both legal and illegal immigration in a multitude of ways.” Further:

“[Trump] plans to scour the country for unauthorized immigrants and deport people by the millions per year…To help speed mass deportations, Mr. Trump is preparing an enormous expansion of a form of removal that does not require due process hearings. To help Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out sweeping raids, he plans to reassign other federal agents and deputize local police officers and National Guard soldiers voluntarily contributed by Republican-run states…To ease the strain on ICE detention facilities, Mr. Trump wants to build huge camps to detain people while their cases are processed and they await deportation flights. And to get around any refusal by Congress to appropriate the necessary funds, Mr. Trump would redirect money in the military budget, as he did in his first term to spend more on a border wall than Congress had authorized…]Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown,’ said Stephen Miller” (emphasis added).

“Poison[ed] Blood,” Soil, and “Vermin”

2. In case you missed it, dear reader, Trump earlier this fall said that nonwhite immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” That was classic, pure fascist, Nazi-style, blood and soil language, straight of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

3. Speaking of which, Donald “The Boss Is Not Going to Leave” Trump actually said this at a campaign event in New Hampshire last Saturday: “We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country…The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within.”

Forget for a moment, if you can, the absurdity of (a) Fascist Leader Trump’s conflation of fascists with communists, socialists, Marxists and “the radical left,” and (b) the notion that the US faces some kind of “threat” from “the radical left.” Put that aside and understand that the virulently dehumanizing term “vermin” (meaning rats and/or other disease-carrying pests) is classic Nazi language and that here Trump is also channeling the Nazi rhetoric of a great nation being “stabbed in the back” by its own supposed internal enemies.  Bear in mind that the Hitler fan Trump absurdly conflates the corporate-imperialist Democrats with “Marxist vermin,” consistent with classic fascism’s designation of all competing parties, bourgeois ones included, as enemies of the national volk.

The point of the dehumanizing and demonizing rhetoric is to justify the political and even physical elimination of all opposition to the authoritarian leader.

“Those Who Call us Fascists Will Have Their Sad, Miserable Existence Crushed!

4. Speaking of dark comedy, look at what Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in response to those commentators and politicos who claimed that Herr Donald’s “vermin” remarks “echoed” (try replicated) the “language of fascist dictators” (in the words of the Times): “Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”

Jesus Fascist Christ: “their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House! WTFF (What the Fascist F*#k)!!  Nothing Nazi-eliminationist/genocidal in that statement!!!

Political and racist violence is the multiply accused rapist and textbook malignant narcissist Donald Trump’s stock-in-trade.  Recall, or register for the first time, that he has recently called for the extra-judicial execution of suspected shoplifters, repeated calls for the execution of drug dealers, and suggested that his former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be executed for treason.

I am currently accepting apologies from recovering Trumpenlefties who adopted far-right language (still in use, as seen above) to accuse me and others in and around Refuse Fascism of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS) for pointing out the obvious about Trump and Trumpism – that they were fascist – from day one.

No Margin of Error for the Weimar Dems, Whose Donors Would Rather Hand the White House Back to a Fascist than Elect a Candidate They Are Not Sure of

The wannabe fascist strongman-for-life Trump has a very good chance of returning to power to cancel what’s left of democracy and parliamentary and judicial checks and balances in the world’s most lethal and powerful country. Yes, it’s early, and Trump has some big trials to contend with in coming months, but “Genocide Joe” Biden, a bumbling George III-like character who lucked into the White House thanks to covid-19, looks increasingly like a dead duck in 2024. There’s no margin for error under the archaic Electoral College (EC), which essentially requires the corporate imperialist Democrat contender to beat  his or her Republifascist opponent by 4 points in the popular vote to gain or retain the White House.

As Jeff Cohen argues on Common Dreams, Democrats are right to be concerned about Republican efforts to steal the 2024 election (“MAGA forces nearly stole the 2020 election”) but “there’s another totally legitimate worry that Biden-friendly media don’t like to discuss – that Joe Biden is such a weak candidate, he’s likely to lose a fair-and-square election in 2024. And likely to lose even to the discredited, unstable, repeatedly indicted Trump” (emphasis added).

In a recent New York Times/Sienna College match-up poll, Sleepytime Joe came below Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors Cuz the Guys with the AR-15s Don’t Want to Hurt Me” Trump in five of the nation’s six leading battleground states, the only ones where relevant contests take place thanks to the absurd EC.  Biden’s embrace of Netanyahu’s and Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza makes his prospects more dire, costing him Arab. Muslim, and youth votes.  As Cohen elaborates:

“If your news diet is provided by MSNBC or other pro-Biden corporate outlets, you may have heard Biden likened to the second coming of FDR, a savior to the working classes. That’s not how the working classes see him. They see him as economically ineffectual, especially in dealing with inflation. ‘Bidenomics’ may be a success story in the studios of MSNBC or CNN or NPR; it’s not seen that way by the voting masses…The ‘not-as-bad-as-Trump’ pitch is obviously not satisfying many Democratic-leaning voters and activists, especially young progressives who are angry with Biden over Gaza civilian deaths and other failings…the new poll actually understates the problems… Biden… has lost many of the activists who are needed to inform the ill-informed, to organize get-out-the-vote campaigns and mobilize occasional voters. These activists … know all too well about Biden’s policy reversals and broken promises…As civilians in Gaza are being massacred day after day, Biden’s one-sided ‘I stand with Israel’ policy is losing him countless young activists and racial justice organizers who mobilized for him against Trump in 2020. In Michigan and other swing states, Arab and Muslim activists who detest Trump have said they won’t vote for Biden, let alone mobilize for him… the ‘not-as-bad-as-Trump’ pitch is obviously not satisfying many Democratic-leaning voters and activists, especially young progressives who are angry with Biden over Gaza civilian deaths and other failings….There is only one scenario that offers hope for November 2024: the increasingly unpopular Joe Biden announces in the coming weeks that he won’t be seeking reelection” (emphasis added).

The dismal, donor-dominated, dollar-drenched Dems probably ought to get rid of Biden for 2024 but they won’t. They are a corporate Weimar party that “would,” as Cohen says, “rather lose with Joe than risk the election of a change-oriented Democrat they don’t know well or can’t control.”

The path forward looks shockingly strong for the orange-tinted Amerikaner Retribution candidate, Felonious Don. And this time he has a vast neofascist policy network in place to implement a Christian white nationalist agenda like folks have never seen in this country — to be protected by a federal judiciary he has stocked with cold-blooded revanchists.

Get Ready

Get ready for mass deportations and concentration camps, the invasion of Mexico, the slashing of all environmental regulations, mass prosecution and repression of political dissent and difference, a vicious assault on independent thought and media, and much more to chill the soul. The Weimar Dems will meekly point people back, back, and back again some more to the never-ending nothingness of an absurd electoral system tilted well to the right – this in a time when the rightmost of the two dominant capitalist parties has abandoned late bourgeois democracy and rule of law and crossed over into what the mainstream media-politics still can’t properly call fascism. The Dems are all about surrender, conciliation, complicity, and (they hope) cashing in.

It will be up to basic masses of regular people to organize and fight back in new and revolutionary ways minus all the endless “bourgeois electoral bullshit (BEB),” all the childish identitarianism, the ridiculous preoccupation with narrow and local and reformist causes, the grotesque self and small group obsessions, and so on.

Even if Weimar Joe squeaks by, it’s just a postponement. It’s long past time to stop listening once and for all to your generally older and white left-identified friends with their various reasons that revolution is impossible, unlikely, and even undesirable. Let them mourn away their final years. That’s where they are; it doesn’t have to be where you are.

Radical outcomes are already locked in and the only question is radical terrible/fascist or radical liberating/socialist. The odds are bad? Okay. On the current trajectory, you bet (no pun originally intended). It’s not about the crystal ball. Work to change the odds and make revolution. Continuing to live under this system is total insanity.

Postscript: Dear Dahlia, What Democracy?

Recently a progressive  friend sent me the super-smart liberal Salon writer Dahlia Lithwick’s latest reflection on the fascist menace staring the United States in the face. Read it here.

Lithwick notes how a number of other liberal-leftish mainstream commentators now observe that Trump and Trumpism reflect “an objective, verifiable, and historically predictive set of preconditions for authoritarianism, or fascism, or the end of free and fair elections…” Lithwick observes that this “has been said or written, succinctly and brilliantly, in recent days by Jamelle BouieJoyce VanceRuth Ben GhiatRachel MaddowJohn CassidySeth MeyersJason StanleyZack BeauchampChris LehmannMichael Tomasky, and Scott Lehigh and who knows how many others…..The horse race we are describing? The odds we are clocking? The contest we are all betting on? It’s now,” Lithwick says, “just fascism versus democracy. These ‘stakes’ we are all of us fretting about, this question of whether democracy survives the next twelve months, is the very thing everyone is watching like it’s the NCAA playoffs” (emphasis added).

It’s good that Lithwick and the highly placed names she cites are calling or starting to call Amerikaner Fascism by its proper name (well, minus the “Amerikaner” part) and that she brings up the real danger of passive mass spectatorship (see my comments at the end of this essay), but there are two problems with her essay in my view. First, she either doesn’t know about (most likely) or chooses not to mention the considerable number of Marxist/communist, and other radical Left writers and activists (myself included) who have been correctly calling Trump and Trumpism fascist (in very precisely defined ways) from day one. I’ve been on this beat  for at least five years now.  Refuse Fascism (on whose cutting-edge podcast Ms. Lithwick has been interviewed) was formed in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s 2016 election.  The Revolutionary Communist Party has had a sophisticated understanding of Trumpism as fascism from the start and the World Socialist Web Site has long evinced a strong grasp of the same thing.  At some point we need to release the actual “radical Marxist Left” from the invisible shadows of “who knows how many others,” for its leading thinkers are always far ahead of the mainstream liberal curve. (Please stop cancelling us, for your own good, liberals!)

The second and bigger problem is that it’s NOT actually “fascism versus democracy.”  What US “democracy” are Lithwick and her fellow liberals and progressives referring to? Where is it? Four in every five US Americans think serious gun control legislation should be passed. A vast majority think health insurance should be de-commodified and a made a human right in the US. Most Americans by far support progressive taxation and meaningful government action to reduce economic inequality, reduce the disproportionate influence of money on politics, and meaningfully tackle the runaway climate crisis.

So what? Who cares? None of these opinions and much more that the majority believes determine policy in the US.

As the distinguished liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched volume Democracy in America?:

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have little or no impact on the making of federal government policy.  Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout…[so that] the general public has been virtually powerless…Majorities of Americans favor…programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes.  Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs].”

It isn’t just on the political economy issues that Gilens and Page emphasized that the great American “democracy” defies its holy words of popular self- rule with icy deeds of autocracy. US policy stands well to the right of majority opinion on abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action, and voting rights, for example.

And it isn’t just because of the political-economic power of concentrated wealth alone that “American democracy” is a frankly misleading term. Another cause of democratic morbidity is the cold and timeworn Minority Rule nature of the US constitutional set-up, which drastically overrepresents the nation’s most revanchist and reactionary, racist, fundamentalist, gun-worshipping, woman-hating, and, well, fascist regions and people. The critical institutional elements here include the following:

+ an undemocratic Electoral College presidential election system that renders millions of popular presidential votes irrelevant while focusing presidential races on a small handful of contested states while grossly inflating the electoral power of the nation’s most reactionary regions and states.

+ strictly time-staggered elections for federal legislative offices and the presidency.

+ an unnecessarily bicameral legislature with an exceptionally powerful upper chamber – the US Senate.

+ a grossly undemocratic and right-leaning US Senate apportionment regime that grants each state two representatives (Senators) regardless of population size. (If liberal and progressive, multiracial and multi-ethnic California, home to 39,237,836, had the same populace-to Senator ratio as super white, rural, and far-right Wyoming [pop. 578,803, less than 5% of the total population of Los Angeles], it would have 135 US Senators. If the New York City borough of Brooklyn were a state and US Senators were apportioned there with the same populace-to-Senator ratio as red Wyoming, it would have none 9 U.S. Senators.)

+ federalism and states’ rights whereby fifty states possess remarkable autonomous power to make highly relevant policy in defiance of majority national public opinion with their own separate executive, legislative and judicial branches. This includes remarkable freedom for individual states to anti-democratically gerrymander state legislative and US House of Representatives districts.

+ a “wild west,” openly plutocratic campaign finance regime chock full of untraceable dark money, sanctified in two key Supreme Court decisions (Buckley v Valeo/1976 and Citizens United/2010).

+ the awesome autocratic, God-like power of judicial review granted to a presidentially and lifetime appointed and Senate-vetted Simon Says Supreme Court (currently under Christian Fascist control) free to violate majority public opinion on any matter at all.

With all due respect for subsequent modifications, this is a constitutional set-up for class rule, not democracy, consistent with the slave-owning US Founders’ original propertarian, militantly anti-democratic intent. And it is shockingly well suited to Republi-fascist consolidation in 2024-25.

It’s kind of hard to sell “democracy” to the US masses as the alternative to onrushing fascism when the nation’s already authoritarian (though not yet fully fascist) bourgeois republic and empire is what you are calling “democracy.” And that harsh historical reality and the broader Aldous Huxlean/Herbert Marcusean/Neil Postman-esque/Rollerball culture of moral nothingness and diversion produced by corporate war and entertainment media (among other things) is no small part of the explanation for a dark question that Lithwick cleverly asks in her sharp essay (which is perhaps flawed by the assumption that most Americans possess enough sense of what democracy is to even recognize its passing) :

“What if the media is actually covering the spectacle precisely because the stakes—casual brutality, violence, callousness, lawlessness, and the descent into anarchy—are perfectly visible, legible, and clear?… What if the problem is really that watching this MMA smackdown between fascism and representative [so-called] democracy is, in fact, the 2023 version of good clean fun?”

In other words, what if the Trumpist-fascist crushing of what’s left of (unmentionably bourgeois) “democracy” (American Style) in the world’s most powerful and dangerous nation is perceived as just more entertainment and sport by millions upon millions of that nation’s dangerously degraded, demobilized, diverted, and desensitized subjects?  A chilling query.

Shorter versions of this essay appeared on The Paul Street Report.

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