In a very interesting and well researched online article by Dylan Matthews that asks the above question, the short answer is “no,” but the longer answer is that in his unique way he may be more of a concern to us than if he were. In a couple of brief paragraphs, the author insists that while Trump is not a Fascist, he is
. . . still illiberal. To be very, very clear: Donald Trump is a bigot. He is a racist. He is an Islamophobe and a xenophobe. He profits off the hatred and stigmatization of traditionally oppressed groups in American society. That makes him, and his European peers, and racists in other eras in American history, a threat to crucial values of equality and fair treatment, and a threat to the actual human beings he’s targeting and demonizing. And he’s in particular mainstreaming Islamophobia, which is on the rise in recent months, as seen in a recent incident in which a Muslim engineer was harassed at a Fredericksburg, Virginia, civic meeting. “I’m really not sure those views in Fredricksburg would be aired were it not for Trump’s ‘mainstreaming’ of these prejudices,” [the UK’s Matthew] Feldman says.
Kevin Passmore, a historian at the University of Cardiff and author of Fascism: a Very Short Introduction, puts it well: “For me, the point about Trump’s proposals is not whether or not they are ‘fascist,’ but whether or not they are moral.” And they very clearly are not.
[See also my earlier post “Smoke Before Fire.”]
I must confess I have thought of the Trumpet as a Fascist, as I have many of the knee-jerk conservatives on the far right who spread hatred, seek to close off the country to immigrants, expand policing, invade privacy, and generally play the role of ugly Big Brother. But while these are qualities that are found in those whom history knows as thoroughgoing Fascists, we are told that this is a rather loose use of the term. For one thing, Fascists always advocate the violent overthrow of the status quo, something that none of those on the far right advocate — so far as we know. Although I would point out in passing that the Trumpet may well be guilty of inciting riots given the fact that the incidence of Mosque burnings in this country have risen alarmingly since his hateful comments about the Muslims.
But the author’s comment in the above quote takes us to the key point: while Donald Trump may not be a Fascist, strictly speaking, he may indeed be even more frightening in his total immersion in himself, his blind ambition, and apparent lack of any moral fiber whatever. The really troubling question remaining after all this is: Why on earth he is so popular in this country with so many people? Is it possible that the lunatic fringe has moved to the political center in this country and that people are so sick of politics as usual they will settle for someone, anyone, who promises simple solutions to immensely complex problems? I suspect this is so. For those who find it too difficult to think — and those numbers are growing — a person’s ability to make gray issues appear black and white with simple answers ready at hand is easily mistaken for genuine wisdom. And this man also knows how to play on America’s fears and deep-seated prejudices.
The Founders insisted that this democracy could only survive if the citizens were educated at least to the point where they could recognize fraud when they saw it. But this hope seems to have disappeared in the dense smoke of political rhetoric, an anemic educational system, and an entertainment industry that appeals to the lowest urges in us all. After all, if Dirty Harry can eliminate crime with his .44 Magnum, why can’t we all? Make My Day!