4. Donald Trump: Ally of the Far Right?
Prominent in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were white supremacists, Christian nationalists, neo-Confederates, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, antisemites, and various other far-right extremists. Were these groups correct in seeing Trump as their champion?
Yes. Trump has denied the connection, but he has used their language, refused to condemn them, and retweeted their messages. He is master of the dog whistle, communicating shared prejudices with little or no audible evidence.
He began his first campaign by labeling Mexican migrants as rapists, then condemned Haitians and Africans as immigrants from "shithole countries." He appeared on the "InfoWars" show of Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who believes that George W. Bush instigated the 9/11 attack and that the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012 did not occur. And he told Jones that "I will not let you down."
Trump comes by his prejudices honestly. His father Fred -- described by Donald as "my hero" -- was known for far-right views and was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927. Fred's real estate business was charged by the U.S. government with blatant racism.
But Fred was primarily a businessman, so while other German-Americans were rallying around the Nazi regime in the late 1930s, he kept a low profile and promoted the false notion that his forbearers were Swedish (in the FBI file on Fred, these years are, interestingly, missing). And after the dimensions of the Holocaust were revealed, he ostentatiously made donations to Jewish causes.
The son has followed a similar script. He has described himself as "the least antisemitic person that you've ever seen," as evidenced by his Jewish grandchildren. But addressing a Jewish audience in Florida in 2019, he evoked classic antisemitic canards of dual loyalty and money-grubbing. As Fred gave to Jewish causes, Donald ostentatiously trumpets his pro-Israel diplomatic moves.
There is another connection to the 1930s. German-Americans were staunch supporters of the America First movement, which fought to keep the United States from opposing Nazi Germany. Donald Trump chose, surely not by coincidence, to make "America First" the theme of his inaugural address.
"America First" is also a pro-Trump show hosted by Nicholas Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and mythologist of the Great Replacement: the idea that Jews and others are trying to replace While Christians. Thus the chant in the 2017 Charlottesville rally: "Jews will not replace us." This was the rally of which Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides."
The extremists on the far right know how to listen for the dog whistle. David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, declared in 2016 that "the fact that Donald Trump's doing so well, it proves that I'm winning."
One of the most active groups in the Jan. 6 insurrection was the Proud Boys, the proto-fascist mob told by Trump to "stand back and stand by." The national chairman of Proud Boys, Henry (Enrique) Tarrio, served as chief of staff of Latinos for Trump.
And Andrew Anglin, of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, said that "virtually every alt-right Nazi I know is volunteering for the Trump campaign."
You are right that Donald Trump is a fascist. But I think we ere when we emphasize too much the role that individuals can and do play in history; just as often they are the instruments of “history.” The fascist movement in the U.S. has been developing over a number of decades now in response to the slipping position of the U.S. in the world, the deindustrialization of the U.S., and the dramatic demographic changes in the U.S. in just our lifetime.
The U.S. fascist movement is built around a classic redemptionist program: the restoration of the white, Christian, patriarchal, free-market America, characteristic of the period from the end of Reconstruction through World War II. At its core is a uniquely American Christian fascism. Millions of people who loathe Trump as an individual voted for him because they agree with this program. And his national rise to power was made possible because for a significant section of the ruling class, fascism is an increasing acceptable resolution of what was seen as an intractable national crisis.
Another defining aspect of the fascist movement is its determination to destroy “the Weimar Republic,” the institutions of liberal bourgeois democracy that are seen as weak, effeminate, atheistic, and internationalist (what the German Nazis called “cosmopolitanism”). “Weimar on the Potomac” is seen as facilitating abortion, homosexuality, open borders, gun laws, and the loss of “love of country.” From a domestic policy perspective, there is a straight line from the Confederacy to the Trump movement. From a real-politik perspective, there is a straight line from “Lock Her Up!” to the January 6 putsch attempt.
At this point, the election results have bought us some time—but only a little time. Reliance on the Democrats, who can’t even bring themselves to use the “F” word to describe the Trump movement, will prove fatal. Would the proper approach to Hitler’s loss in the 1932 election have to extend the hand of “bi-partisan compromise”? It is a characteristic of fascists that they only accept “compromise” on their own terms.
The most serious analysis out there at this time is “A New Year, The Urgent Need for a Radically New World—For the Emancipation of All Humanity” by communist thinker and leader Bob Avakian (available at www.revcom.us). A good background book is How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley at Yale.
This is a very fraught moment in our history. So let’s keep this discussion going.
C. Clark Kissinger