December 9, 2015

TO BE FAIR, “FASCIST” JUST MEANS SOMEBODY THE LEFT DOESN’T LIKE, NOWADAYS: Megan McArdle: Trump Is Scary, But Not ‘Fascist’ Scary.

Should we hunker down for America’s version of Mussolini/Hitler-style fascism, a la “It Can’t Happen Here”? Not quite. Douthat wrote a second column, pointing out the ways in which Trump is different from typical fascist leaders. Classical fascism is obsessed with tradition and secret knowledge, which feels backward in our modernist, diverse country.

The more important distinction, to my mind, is that Trump doesn’t have an organization so much as a mood.

Actual fascists, let us remember, were born out of a brutal world war that resulted in territorial losses, and left a lot of demobilized soldiers running around with dim economic prospects. Whatever your opinions on the war on terror, it is not the same scale as World War I, and it has certainly not left the U.S. in the kind of parlous condition in which Hitler and Mussolini were able to grow smaller radical groups into national mass movements. Trump himself doesn’t have that kind of dedication to his cause; just try to imagine him leading a coup, landing in jail, angrily penning “The Art of the Struggle.”

Implausible. Trump has far too much to lose, and too little to gain, to embrace truly revolutionary fervor.

Nor is he operating in a weak state with a short and spotty democratic history. The U.S. government has ticked along for going on 250 years, through multiple crises and an armed insurrection. Americans are pretty emotionally attached to its institutions, for all the complaints about them, and precisely because we are ethnically diverse, we tend to rest our national identity heavily upon our political institutions: not the expansionist “Drang nach Osten,” but the Constitution … the huddled masses yearning to breathe free … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have failed many times to live up to our ideals, but we have never stopped professing them.

All this matters. The main problem with fascists, after all, is not that they have creepy cartelist economic notions and uncharitable immigration policies; the problem with fascists is that they had a tendency to go on killing sprees against neighbors, internal minorities and their political enemies. I don’t like Trump’s economic pseudo-policies, or anti-immigrant sentiment. But they are so far from Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy as to be differences in kind as well as degree. And America has neither the weak institutions nor the revolutionary organizations necessary for a Trump Reich to fester.

To be fair, Obama has done a lot to weaken our institutions, which were no prize already. But don’t worry about Trump. Take Trump as a warning sign of what may come down the road later, if the people who have been running our institutions continue to behave so fecklessly.

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