IT certainly is not everyday that an event, or series of related events, captures world attention on a scale Donald Trump’s presidential reign (or misrule) has mustered over his four year term in office. Besides the onset of the Covid-19 contagion, the last time we experienced such a sweeping phenomenon was perhaps with the inauguration and death of South Africa’s first democratically elected president. On the occasion of Madiba’s demise arguably every news platform, across the globe, mainstream and independent (in the real sense of the word), carried accounts from ordinary children to presidents, kings and queens all expressing grief or admiration, or both.
In the case of Trump, the overriding and most dominant narrative relates to basically two things:
1. His rule, or style of rule, right from the moment of his own inauguration in January 2017, and more especially, the period leading up to and immediately following the 2020 US presidential elections, and
2. His overall character and moral standing.
Finally now, not only has a verdict been reached, but it is unanimous, definitive, and unshakeable, very much what transpired in South Africa in 1994, and in 2013, but for quite contrasting reasons. And no-one needs a reminder of how Trump has faired in both respects (above). Here are some memorable examples, nonetheless.
On the first count, he’s been found to pose a grave danger to liberal democratic systems of governance. This propensity is perhaps most clearly revealed in his recent claims of electoral fraud and his attempts to bring about fascist rule through a coup de tat, as the recent siege on Capitol Hill purportedly shows.
On the second count, regarding his moral standing, a few words sum it up, ranging from ‘purveyor of half-truths’ and ‘fabricator of lies’ to ‘racist’, ‘white lobbyist’, ‘white extremist’,’white supremacist’ and more.
We, fortunately, still live in a free society where a free press remains sacrosanct. Freedom of expression and the free flow and interchange of ideas are precious fruits of the struggle waged against a tyrannical regime. And how lucky we are to have brains that can think and institutions that encourage and welcome views and conclusions steeped in critical, logical, and rational thought.
So if the political scientist, in particular, (commentators, analysts and sociologists, etc, are not excluded here) prudently applies these historically-distinguished scholarly criteria, i.e. in relation to the verdicts passed on Donald Trump (as briefly earmarked above) then s/he may immediately encounter a barrage of challenges and inconsistencies crying out with increasing intensity for more cogent, logical explanation.
Based on what’s been pronounced particularly and almost exclusively by all mainstream media houses, the dual-tag ‘racist-fascist’ stands out quite prominently where Donald Trump is concerned. How prevalent is such an imposing, monstrous political aberration in modern western politics? Think about it: a racist and a fascist, all at the same time! Because such weighty terms can slip so easily off the tongue, perhaps we need to pause and get some perspective.
Nazi Germany comes instantly to mind. And indeed, Trumpism has frequently been equated with Nazism by his detractors, often or mostly however, without any substance at all. In fact, it is by no means certain if any factual evidence does exist that may lend credence to this specific claim.
In the case of Germany, the racist aspect of Hitler’s fascism pertained to the extermination of the Jews, primarily. Trump’s racism, so we are told, was aimed at African Americans, American Latinos, Muslims, and other minority groups. There’s absolutely no question today that Nazism, in its political/military dimensions, and the extermination of followers of Judaism, were but opposite sides of the same coin. Hitler furthermore had high hopes of ultimately gaining control over all of Europe, England included.
Who, then, had Trump hoped to exterminate? Which countries were under his radar for military invasion, occupation, control and suppression? A really interesting question. There is absolutely no indication of an impending ”gross extermination” at any given time over the course of Trump’s presidency. Second, the invasion of foreign territory became fully part of the US’s imperialist agenda, long before the start of the cold war era. So whatever imperialist intentions Trump may have had, he surely did not invent them from scratch. Nor did he advance them on the scale of his predecessors – particularly Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, GW Bush, and Barack Obama – deemed suitable for US interests. In effect, the presence of US troops on foreign soil reached a near 20 year low under the presidency of Donald Trump. And rather than blow it to smithereens, he signed a pact (now largely defunct) with a die-hard, fanatical, brutal communist regime, North Korea. His reasons? As he put it, more or less – it brought some peace to the world. This, dear reader, is by far not the usual talk of the deep state establishment.
Moreover, while despots like Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union), Benito Mussolini (Italy), Francisco Franco (Spain), and Augusto Pinochet (Chile) directed their might primarily at their political critics and movements that either opposed and/or threatened their rule, Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista brings us a bit closer to what the ‘racist-fascist specification’ really means. Batista’s tyrannical rule was overthrown largely because of his utter neglect, disregard, mistreatment and wholesome disrespect of Afro-Cubans during the entirety of his murderous reign. Can we say the same of uncle Don?
But it is in apartheid South Africa where this twin label is perhaps best articulated in real, concrete terms. Who ruled South Africa for decades before 1994, if not a bunch of racist-fascist nationalist conspirators? And how, more precisely, did this gang of thieves and abusers of humankind go about trading their craft?
What immediately comes to mind are ordinary, typically fascistic things like secret police, riot police, military police, bannings, exiles & banishments (Robben Island), late night/early morning raids, interrogation camps, states of emergency, the suppression of social discontent (mowing down of protestors, including school children), the clampdown on free and open speech, deaths in detention – in sum, the ruthless suppression and exploitation of the majority of the people, African South Africans. In other words, South Africa’s brand of fascism was also and at the same time, a national bigoted mission, now internationally listed as a crime against humanity.
Subsequently, and on the basis of being classified a racist-facist, should Trump not be hauled before the International Court of Justice then, rather than face impeachment, which in any case is doomed to fail? Here, too, thus far little to no substantial evidence has emerged of Trump actually inciting violent, destructive protest action.
So now, and lets be straight forward here. The more light is shed on the modus operandi of racist-facism, abeit in the South African and other contexts, the more one is left dumbfounded when we turn our gaze to Trump. Which of the following features best describes Trump’s rule?
Secret police, riot police, military police, bannings & banishments, late night/early morning raids, interrogation camps, states of emergency, the suppression of social discontent (mowing down of protestors, including school children), clampdown on free and open speech, deaths in detention, in sum, the ruthless suppression and exploitation of African Americans, American Latinos, Muslims, and other minority groups.
So what do we really know about secret police, riot police, military police . . . in a country like the US where credible information in such respects is not shared in the public domain? Ask Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. But since Trump has been likened to Hitler we are at liberty to tread a bit more daringly here. What we do know is that Hitler unleashed his brown shirts on villages and towns, one of the main common features of twentieth-century fascism: the utterly feared and heavily-armed ground troopers. They would typically set up check points and road blocks; prohibit free movement and free association; conduct body searches; and go from house to house, ransack them and confiscate property without reward. They engaged in interrogation, physically assault, shooting on the spot, and taking into custody anybody suspected of subversive activity or alternative thought. Hitler’s feared brown shirts not only hounded but also decimated millions of defenseless Jews.
Set literally worlds apart, millions of other citizens had very similar experiences, both before Hitler’s reign and in later years. Hitler seemed to mirror Stalin’s approach, where not only a dreaded secret police but also forced banishment to the gulags, became one of the Soviet tyrant’s trademark tools for human abuse. Hitler of course is remembered for sending his targets to ‘concentration camps’ and ‘gas chambers’, among his many other humanly despicable and destructive deeds.
The rise and presence of the ‘secret police’ (under fascist rule) furthermore is well defined during Argentina’s bloody junta era, as it was in Nicaragua, Chile and other Latin American states, from the early 1950s right into the late 1970s, and often beyond.
So, then, if Trump is indeed a fascist, in the traditional sense that is, which model does he base his plots and plans on, if any at all? If he doesn’t meet these general criteria, can we then speak of ”Trumpism as a distinctly new brand of 21st century fascism”? If so, how would we characterise this ”new brand”, since he surely doesn’t fit the proverbial picture?
It readily appears the aforementioned question has already been answered, silly: he spread vehement lies about the elections, and furthermore sought to bring about a coup d’etat, through a popular siege, led by right-wing white supremacist forces, precisely on the day his successor was due to take up the reigns. Fairly simple, not so, but only perhaps. For sure, coup d’etats are often signature traits of fascist rule. Except for one core consideration, one that’s usually omitted from the broader debate. But before we address, albeit briefly, this crucially salient issue – namely the 2020 US elections itself – lets have a quick relook at Trump’s supposed racist credentials.
The key sources projecting this view, which has been echoed by all and sundry, have failed thus far to offer a logical explanation for the actual increase in voter support amongst those very groups Trump has been made out to denigrate and exclude, i.e., on account of their racial and/or cultural backgrounds. Certain socialist platforms at the time sought to expound on how the ‘uneducated sectors’ of the US nation, particularly, became more prone to fall for his questionable dictates and demands, and lofty promises. After all, the words of a president usually do count for something. But such conclusions by and large carry little weight, again, since little to no concrete evidence has thus far been presented to back them up. Unless we truly believe that African Americans – especially those who came out to vote for Donald Trump – are generally unschooled, gullible, naive, and wholly constrained in terms of their socio-political awareness.
But not even with the dawn of democracy in South Africa, then still crippled by decades of gutter education, did we encounter a decisive swing, in terms of voter patterns, towards anything deliberately or overtly racist. In fact, with the 1994 elections none of the existing racist formations enjoyed any meaningful support from historical victims of racism. How likely is it for victims of racism to not merely support, but actually increase their support, moreover for a bigoted presidential candidate? One logical explanation could very well be that such supporters may not view Trump as racist at all. But he is racist! Why? Simply because media networks like CNN and others says so?
The notion that Trump sought to bring about a coup, is premised on his (outrageous/dangerous/unsubstantiated) claims of electoral fraud. In other words, had Trump conceded to Biden’s win, he in all probability would not have had reason to push this line, logically speaking. Why concede and accept defeat and then carry on like a baby crying over spilt milk? The overriding point is this: it seems that the great troubles currently overshadowing the US, in its entirety, start right at this very point. The 2020 US presidential elections. And what has become more notable every single passing day, ever since that alarming attack on the US Capitol, is the clampdown on anybody who dares to even raise it.
The numerous courts Trump turned to with his claims, rejected them out of hand. Here, too, some really interesting factors come into play. Why turn to the courts in the first place? The true and real fascist ordinarily does not concern himself with ‘democratic practices’, such as soliciting the input of courts of law in official disputes. They normally are a law onto themselves. But Trump did turn to the courts. And he lost all of his cases. But did he really?
We could start a very serious conversation by asking which court cases Trump actually lost through due process? It is now well known that those sitting in judgement were by no means inclined to subject his qualms (as well as tens of hundreds of voter affidavits, often from well-established, independent sources) to careful, systematic scrutiny and review. It is this factor, among many others, that more fully explains the utter rage that now runs throughout US towns, cities and capitals. The fact that some outright supremacist groups made an appearance on that day and in no uncertain ways, is largely attributed to . . . you’ve guessed it. But can anyone actually say with a fair degree of certainty that Donald Trump solicited or even supported such right-wing supremacist formations or that he is, in actual fact, and unquestionably, a born and bred racist himself. And merely parroting CNN’s aversions and inventions does not help one single bit at all.
The political scientist worth his salt does not blindly repeat hearsay or fail to question its origins, goals and implications. Nor is he entitled to peddle in cheap politics while professing to advance sound scholarship – a chief responsibility as well as duty of all academia. Party politicians and bureaucrats usually concern themselves with strictly in-house party politics, where loyalty to names and tradition, and not so much fact and real evidence determine daily programmes and agendas. While it could be expected that our own mainstream stenographers would simply follow the direction taken by their masters, it has been disastrous to see once trusting voices falling line, hook, and sinker for the unsubstantiated heaps of twaddle now choking our air waves from morning to night. And no. This author is by no means a supporter of Donald Trump. What he does support is scholarly rigour. And if mistakes are made, these must be challenged and the record set straight. This principle, incidentally, applies to all, this writer included.
While tempers may have dampened somewhat since Donald Trump’s departure from the White House things are by no means calm on the western front, not by any stretch of the imagination. The notion that some 80+ million US citizens can now be seen as purveyors of fascism, or racist-fascism to be more exact, is as ludicrous as it is dangerous. And this the American people will never accept. So brace yourself. The centre will not hold. Hier kom moerse groot k*k.