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US commentators still seem to be mulling the prospects of how close, or how far they came to living in an authoritarian fascist state under Donald Trump.  It is interesting how little air time the States dances with fascism get in the media today.

The liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman put things well on the morning of January 7, 2021, in a column titled “Appeasement Got Us Where We Are”:

‘So, is it finally OK to use the F-word? One shouldn’t use the term “fascist” lightly…Donald Trump, however, is indeed a fascist — an authoritarian willing to use violence to achieve his racial nationalist goals. So are many of his supporters. If you had any doubts about that, Wednesday’s attack on Congress should have ended them.’

Observing the events one day before, when Donald Trump instigated an attempted putsch meant to overthrow previously normative bourgeois electoral democracy and constitutional rule of law, the esteemed veteran historian Robert Paxton, author of the classic volume The Anatomy of Fascism, finally relented. He had to admit that he’d been wrong on Trump and that the 45th US president was in fact what Krugman said – and what many of us on the margins had been saying from the start.

Paxton was one of a bevy of “fascism experts” who had been proclaiming that Trump didn’t qualify for “the F-word.” This august list of Trump fascism-deniers included an impressive roster of 20th Century European historians who were hopelessly out of their depth when it came to analyzing 21st century US society and politics: Paxton, Stanley Payne (emeritus at the University of Wisconsin), Roger Griffin (Oxford), Richard Evans (Cambridge), and Samuel Moyn (Yale) (also meriting mention here is Japanese historian Gary Leupp [Tuft’]s). But field specialization and professional immersion in the previous century was no excuse for other deniers: NYU law professor Bruce Neuborne and the political scientists and government professors Sheri Berman, Cory Robin, Eric de Bruin, and Jason Brownlee. The heights of denialist comedy were scaled by Neuborne, who couldn’t put “the F-word” in his text or index in a book that discovered no less than twenty common themes, tactics, and policies that Trump as president was “copying from the early Hitler government” while “following Hitler’s playbook” and “letting Hitler’s genies out of the bottle”: holding power without winning majority support; finding and using direct lines of communication with their base; blaming others and dividing along racial lines; relentlessly demonizing opponents; constantly attacking objective truth; relentlessly attacking mainstream media; assaulting science; cultivating a fawning alternative media to spread lies; regular orchestrated mass hate-rallies; extreme nationalism; closing borders; embracing mass detention and deportation; using borders to protect selected industries; embedding authoritarian rule by rewarding capitalist elites; rejecting international norms; attacking domestic democratic processes; attacking courts and the rule of law; glorifying the military and demanding loyalty oaths; proclaiming unchecked power; relegating women to subordinate roles[1].

When asked about parallels with Trump and the Trump presidency, the “fascism experts” engaged in straw-dog reasoning by ticking off numerous and obvious ways in which the 45th United States president and the United States during the Trump years fell short of the committed doctrinal fascism of Mussolini and Hitler and the fully consolidated fascist regimes of interwar and WWII Europe. Nothing less than Classic Coke passed muster for these sweet-rooted connoisseurs of pure historical fascism, who chattered about the absence of “real fascism” in Trump and Trumpism as they missed and/or unduly downplayed remarkable political, rhetorical, ideological, and movement continuities between fascism old and new while failing to grasp contemporary US and global fascism as a movement and politics – a movement and politics with a very real (if clumsy and more “instinctive” than doctrinal) fascist cult leader in the most powerful job of the most powerful nation in world history from January 20, 2017 through January 20, 2021.

The next presidential election in the US should be very telling as the populace will once again have to choose between the ribald Republican strongman and some hapless Democrat empty suit.

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