Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Fascistic Tendencies Of The New Regime (And Some Tentative Reasons For Hope)

Now that Donald Trump has been in power for three weeks, it is becoming obvious that his decision-making is being driven by ideological considerations. I think Trump's personal ideology is rather soft, but his general proclivities align well with the Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who are converting those general notions into hardened directives. Trump is obviously an instinctual ethnic nationalist (it's the one thing he's never compromised on) and in favor of scrapping the international order in favor of making America a free agent. Bannon the self-described Leninist is using this golden opportunity to advance his obsessions, which overlap enough with Trump. It is getting harder for me to deny that it is an inherently fascistic regime that we are dealing with. (Not sure I can say it's pure fascism due to lack of paramilitary arm or abrogation of the constitution, but it definitely rhymes.)

Based on earlier statements and his intellectual interests, it seems that Bannon differs from others on the nationalist right with his interest in religion. He truly believes in a Christian West eternally at war with the Other, especially the Muslim world. His assumption, which is also held by Miller and Trump, is that all Muslims are inherently America's enemy. Based on what I've gleaned from articles about Bannon and the circles he runs in, he is a believer in "organic" notions of society, which fits with his emphasis on religion. And yes, this worldview tends to overlap very heavily with fascism. Fascist movements in Hungary and Greece (like Golden Dawn) are firmly rooted in organicism. For the new organic society to grow, the forest of the current political order be clear cut and the stumps burned. This new regime is not conservative or reactionary, but revolutionary. In that respect, as an ideology of right wing revolution and transformation, it is fascistic.

As with fascism, it all boils down to the nation. Jeff Sessions has been reading all the same articles we all have about how America will become a nation without a white majority in the coming years, and decided to stop that. Trump's regime isn't just going after undocumented immigrants, it is planning to severely curtail legal immigration, too. It is hardly surprising that the first sweeping actions by Trump have been to bar Muslims and deport Hispanics and to build a border wall. The regime's goal behind all of this is to maintain a white majority nation, and to keep white people in charge. Hence the very fast-moving effort to root out "voter fraud." This practice has been used to essentially make it harder for people of color to vote, but now will be tried out at the national level. Trump will need no Enabling Act, by barring enough of his opponents from voting he will be able to maintain his position.

Of course, the fascistic nature of this regime is especially apparent when it comes to the way it wields power. Trump has shown a staggering and unprecedented contempt for the legal system. Today on television Stephen Miller basically said that Trump was above the judges, meaning that he is above the law or constitution. Fascists pride action and conflict over all else, and that has been the hallmark of this administration. Witness ill-fated raid in Yemen, or Kellyanne Conway's touting of Trump as "a man of action." Miller claimed today that Trump had accomplished more in his three weeks than most other presidents had in their entire administrations. That claim is patently false, but Miller needs it to be true to burnish the image of Trump as that man of action.

Ultimately, fascists believe there is no truth except for the nation, the leader, and power. Already we are seeing how feeble it is to "fact check" the current regime. They have no regard at all for the truth, They lie and lie and lie and lie about crime rates and made-up terror attacks. And these aren't just lies, they are lies intended to justify the use of state power and violence. Accordingly, this regime has made war on the press in unprecedented ways. Just remember the day after the inauguration, when Trump sent out Sean Spicer to scream at reporters and peddle the lie that attendance at the inauguration had been underestimated. That was, in many respects, Trump's first real act as president.

Amidst this fascistic onslaught, there are reasons for hope, though. Successful authoritarians rely on mass popularity, which Trump does not have. They also rely on total control of the state, but Trump has been stymied by the courts. They can close the gap by destroying civil society, but civil society, from Twitter to SNL to the Washington Post, has not been forced to bow. The day after inauguration saw the biggest mass protest in this nation's history. Trump is deeply unpopular, opposed by the courts and elements of the deep state, and dogged by scandal.

My reasons for hope are tentative because Congress is in his hands, he will get the swing vote on the Supreme Court, and he has a major ace up his sleeve. If there is a terror attack by Muslims on American soil and/or the United States goes to war, all opponents will be called traitors. I think Bannon is counting on this. I remember well how the hapless Bush regime exploited 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. Fascists see war as a positive good rather than a necessary evil, and if this regime continues in its fascistic ways and the general posture of America in the 21st century, war is sure to come soon. Without war, I can see this regime imploding. With war, all bets are off.

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