By Brooke Faulkner
Among many scholars and political scientists, there is an acknowledgement and even growing fear of the potential rise of fascism among many developed Western nations. Elections over the past few years in both the U.S. and Europe have led to more and more consolidation of power among right-wing politicians, with a growing number of votes going to those holding relatively extreme beliefs. Within the U.S. in particular, the most obvious case of this was the election of Donald Trump.
Although there are certainly arguments between parties, there are few political scientists who are able to argue that Trump has not gained and maintained popularity through the use of fascist techniques. At this point, he certainly cannot be compared to some of the most notorious fascists such as Hitler and Mussolini, but there are warning signs in nearly all facets of government that he is using similar forms of manipulation to rally his base.
The recent government shutdown in the U.S. — the longest in history — was merely one illustration of this playing out. Oftentimes, this “creeping fascism” in the U.S. goes unnoted; however, attempts to bully Congress into accepting his proposal for a wall tend to lean on classic aspects of totalitarianism and fascism. Trump’s approach to negotiations is just one of many ways in which fascism is rising within the government today.
Healthcare and insurance are other examples within the U.S. of the consolidation of market power and influence that could be linked to a fascist state. There are many who argue that the Trump administration is helping to encourage this by working to roll back healthcare protections such as women’s healthcare care and previous condition coverage associated with the passage of Obamacare. These policies ultimately aim to help large companies rather than the American people.
For example, some economists have estimated that over 10,000 more Americans will die each year will die due to the tax reform legislation passed last year that revokes the Obamacare individual mandate. Essentially, people who are unable to afford healthcare will go without and defer the care that they need, which ultimately makes them more likely to die. Those arguing for greater nationwide healthcare coverage options tend to deem this piece of legislations as an abandonment of moral responsibility.
Even with insurance, many Americans are not able to fully cover the expenses of their medical bills and must look for alternatives due to skyrocketing costs for treatment. This is particularly true when it comes to the prices of prescription drugs that many are dependent upon for survival. The failure of the current administration to tackle and work to address many of these issues links to an underlying support of big business.
Perhaps more so than in any other sector, the crackdown of the media encouraged by the Trump administration is a prime example of the workings of a fascist regime. Over and over again, Trump has worked to demonize the media and change the scope of public conversation to suit his own desires. His brutish treatment of reporters who fail to produce articles that show him in a positive light has actually led to increasing violence against reporters.
This type of behavior is a classic fascist strategy. Trump is a master of shifting blame and promoting conspiracy propaganda that ultimately leads to the erosion of the American public’s trust in the media. This can be seen time and time again as opinion polls capture the percentage of Americans that think that the media is “out to get Trump” or that many reputable news organizations have a liberal agenda.
Within a fascist system, this continual erosion of trust in the media could eventually lead to more and more severe crackdowns on the media’s right to report on certain issues. Furthermore, it could greatly reduce the amount of investigative reporting that is completed regarding the behavior of government officials. Ultimately, this can significantly reduce accountability and increase shady policies that do not benefit the majority of the population.
Differing generations have long had varying views on foreigners and how to work within a diverse environment. For instance, older generations have long been linked to a greater sense of homogenous community organization, while younger generations tend to be more open to globalization and celebrating differences among community members. Fascists take a more conservative approach in line with the ideas of older generations, often suggesting that any differences are not worth tolerating.
This can be seen within the Trump administration’s unwillingness to completely disavow the behavior of white supremacy groups. More and more nationalist groups are feeling as though they have a foothold within the U.S. and are able to speak up without the fear of reprimand or social shunning. Although Trump has claimed he is not racist, many of his actions and failures to speak at critical injunctions have led many to believe otherwise.
Fascist behavior can also be seen in the way in which foreigners are treated by the current administration. More so than any modern U.S. leader, Trump has stoked fears regarding immigrants. Although the vast majority of these claims have been largely disproven, they haven’t failed to have a substantial impact on public opinion, especially among Trump’s loyal base.
The idea of isolationism is not a new one within the United States. In fact, up until World War I, it was largely the mode of operation within the country. Even as far back as the creation of the U.S., the belief was that interference in international issues simply took away from a domestic focus.
Of course, in a modern globalized society, this argument is a difficult one to find benefit in. Time and time again, the Trump administration has pursued isolationist goals, ranging from the border wall to the trade war with China, and claimed that they are actually benefiting the American people. Furthermore, he has frequently complemented modern dictators and those that commonly fail to support “American ideals.”
On the surface, this may not seem like such a huge deal, but given that fact that there is a growing right-wing fascist movement within some countries, there is certainly cause for political concern.
Throughout the American government, there are many ways in which the consolidation of fascist power is becoming more and more visible. Although the current government shutdown is a quick and obvious example, there are more creeping signs such as government support of certain healthcare policies and foreign governments. Even more disturbing is the slow erosion of media support and views on civil rights.