The man, the hand gestures.
In a little under a week’s time, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. The property tycoon, reality show host and serial bankrupt (yes) will lead one of the largest and most sophisticated war machines on the planet. Much has been made of Trump’s lack of a political hinterland by the media. Indeed, he has no experience of political office and this supposed outsider status, claim his supporters, is what makes him so appealing. “He’ll shake up the establishment” say his supporters. Yeah, I guess he will but not in the way you think.
Even Warren G. Harding, to whom I have often compared Trump, had political experience as the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and as senator for the same state. Like Trump, his cabinet was stuffed with millionaires. Yet, even Harding described himself as “unfit for office”, something that Trump is unlikely to do, such is the size of his ego and evident lack of self-awareness. Harding’s presidency was dogged by scandals and he died in office. I’ll just leave that there.
Trump has dodged questions about his fitness for office by attacking his opponents. This is the classic tactic of deflection but it also signals his inability to accept responsibility for his actions and, moreover, the words that come from his mouth. I know it’s unfair and unreasonable for a lay person like myself to make a remote psychological diagnosis based on a handful of signifiers, but Trump is a rampant narcissist.
On the question of whether or not he’s racist? Well, Trump has consistently denied it, yet he’s been busily appointing racists to his cabinet and his White House staff. This appears to encapsulate the contradictory nature of the man himself: he will say one thing and do the complete opposite. What cannot be denied is the way in which America’s racists, xenophobes and Nazis have been emboldened by Trump’s victory. His supporters may shrug, roll their eyes and claim “a few Nazis marching doesn’t mean anything” but I don’t recall the same thing happening when Reagan or the Bushes won the presidency. Do you?
Trump’s campaign slogan was the simplistic: “Make America Great Again”. This kind of slogan is reminiscent of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rhetoric and suggested a return to a mythical past. During the bruising election campaign, Trump had been compared to both dictators by many commentators. The Cat once thought a closer comparison could be made to Louis-Napoleon, the future Napoleon III, who spent a great deal of time and effort attracting the votes of the poor. But that’s where any resemblance ends. Unlike Louis-Napoleon, Trump has not written a treatise on the elimination of poverty (Trump doesn’t even read books). In fact, he hasn’t mentioned the issue of poverty at all, preferring instead to charm the impoverished with magick slogans and by blaming Muslims, immigrants and foreigners for for their social condition. One more thing: Napoleon III was a soldier. Trump dodged the draft.
Trump’s ploy was thus cynical and calculating. He appealed to the reactionary instincts of many working class whites by pressing their buttons and schmoozing them, while at the same time making moves to consolidate and extend the power of America’s filthy rich – all of which he did in plain sight. Time will tell if Trump will morph into a latter day Napoleon III, but to do this, he will need to use executive powers to declare a state of emergency and stage a coup against himself as Louis-Napoleon did in 1851. Let’s hope that idea never pops into his head.
So is Trump a fascist? Fascism in the early 21st centuries doesn’t wear uniforms and smash up printing presses as Mussolini’s Blackshirts had done in the 1920s. These Third Position fascists have appropriated the language of the Left and consciously adopted a victim mentality. Their anti-intellectual thinkers (sic) have concocted conspiracy theories, like the Frankfurt School/Cultural Marxism smear, and barely concealed their racism behind the language of classical liberalism. 19th century Liberals like Lord John Russell were quite content to see the Irish starve to death during The Famine, because they saw themselves as superior specimens of humanity. They were committed social Darwinists. The fascist is also a social Darwinist at heart.
The so-called ‘alt-right’ are, to be sure, fascists in all but name. They are mostly male and mainly white. They think feminism is a ‘cancer’ and loathe equal rights for minority groups. They bang the drum for nationalism and glorify the military. They also follow Trump. No doubt some of them may even call themselves ‘libertarians’. Their freedom is a checklist of textbook freedoms for their fellows. Third Positionist parties will often use the word ‘freedom’ to deflect attention from their patent opposition to the freedoms of Others . We can see this in the name of the now defunct British Freedom Party and others on the continent that purport to be the ‘guardians’ of freedom.
Third Positionists have also taken advantage of the confusion generated by mainstream politicians, who have provided them with ideal conditions in which to propagate. Indeed, the triangulationism of Tony Blair’s Third Way and the nouveau Conservatism of David Cameron, which sought to ape it, must take some responsibility for the rise of far-right in Britain. One failed to meet dog-whistle racism head on and the other actively employed it. Both of them were obsessed with superficialities and refused to address real structural problems, and politicians from each party continue to foster division and hatred through their appropriation of the far-right’s rhetoric on immigration. The extreme centre is no place to be at a time like this!
Trump may have cast himself as an outsider and self-styled opponent on the ‘elite’ but he is one of the elites. He didn’t start in business by saving up quarters that he earned through bagging groceries at Walmart. He went to expensive educational institutions and his daddy handed him a few million to get the ball rolling. Trump is a corporatist and corporatism is central to fascist economic thinking. Fascism is nothing more than the marriage between the state and corporate power. It only sees the working class as drones, breeding machines or as ‘boots on the ground’.
The overall political, cultural and social orientation of Trump’s administration does not bode well for the working class white people who voted for him, because it is they who will be shafted; sacrificed on the altar of corporatism. But would Hilary Clinton be any better? No. What America really needed was Bernie Sanders and he was stitched up by the Democratic Party establishment. Now we have a reality TV star and property tycoon as President. Just think, over 30 years ago a reactionary former actor and state governor became POTUS and some people thought he was ‘great’.