Eyes roll whenever comparisons to Nazi Germany are made, and for good reason. The analogy is almost never called for, and is almost always an example of rhetorical hyperbole. George W. Bush was compared to Hitler. Barack Obama has been as well. Neither comparison is fair. But that does not mean Nazi comparisons are always inappropriate. If anything, the overuse of Nazi references has desensitized the public to manifestations of actual fascism. When “fascist” becomes nothing more than a pejorative, few will take its meaning seriously.
Right now, we have an actual fascist running for president of the United States, and he seems poised to secure the Republican nomination. Donald Trump is a fascist, not in a vague rhetorical sense, but according to the father of fascism’s own definition. Benito Mussolini coined the term and defined it as complete subjugation of the individual to the state. He wrote:
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State…
The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone….
Note, fascism is not characterized by the Holocaust. It is not characterized by the deaths of millions. The Holocaust was a product of fascism, not a component of it. One need not propose or carry out mass murder to be a fascist, but only support an all-powerful state that completely subordinates the individual to the arbitrary will of its leader.
Liberals called Bush a fascist because, in their broad view, he subordinated the personal liberty of the individual to the state. Conversely, conservatives have called Obama a fascist because, in their broad view, he has subordinated the economic liberty of the individual to the state. But whether the subject of comparison has been Republican or Democrat, either has always held some allegiance to individual liberty. Bush at least feigned allegiance to self-determination, if more in the economic sphere than the personal. Obama at least feigns allegiance to self-determination, if more in the personal sphere than the economic. Trump makes no pretense in support of liberty in any sphere.
Conservative author Matt Walsh, known for his provocative commentary in defense of principle, notes that Trump is perhaps the first serious contender for president of the United State who campaigns openly as a tyrant. Other presidents may have exhibited tyranny to one degree or another, but none have been as unbridled as Trump promises to be.
“Hillary Clinton is a tyrant,” Walsh noted in an interview with television host Dana Loesch. “But she has to pretend, at least, that she’s not.” Indeed, American tyranny has always been piecemeal, the product of pitting one group against another, promising spoils while retaining a sense of freedom for a favored constituency. Trump promises only “greatness,” a vague concept defined by bombast and brute force.
Consider Trump’s war with Apple. Trump has said regarding the company’s refusal to construct a backdoor to its products’ encryption, “I would come down so hard on [CEO Tim Cook] — you have no idea — his head would be spinning all of the way back to Silicon Valley.” This was in response to Cook explaining that a federal order to decrypt a phone once belonging to a suspect in the San Bernardino terror attack would require his company to effectively unlock every Apple product on the market and expose customers to intrusion. Cook explained that the means to do so does not even exist, and would have to be created. So not only would Donald Trump violate the Fourth Amendment rights of every Apple customer for the chance of gaining evidence against a single terror suspect. He would conscript slaves to construct him the means, punishing them under the force of law for failure to comply. For those keeping track, that’s a violation of both personal and economic freedom, and a “yuge” violation of the Constitution for good measure.
Trump exhibits the vindictiveness of an undisciplined child, coupled with an eagerness to satisfy that impulse with force. Recall his threats to sue Ted Cruz on the question of eligibility, not due to the merits of the case, but as retaliation for campaign ads citing Trump’s past comments in favor of Democrats and their policies. In a similar vein, Trump tweeted out a threat to the owners of the Chicago Cubs after campaign finance filings revealed that they had funded a super PAC that ran ads against him. It wasn’t all that long ago that conservatives were up in arms over Lois Lerner and the Obama administration’s using the IRS to target conservative groups. What do you think Trump will do, given power and the slightest provocation? This is a guy who defines other people by their personal allegiance to him. Question the leader at your peril.
It would be a mistake to brush off Trump’s fascist tendencies simply because they pale in comparison to history’s villains. Barack Obama is not Joseph Stalin, but both are socialists. Similarly, Donald Trump is not Adolf Hilter, but both are fascists. Each believes that the individual should be subordinated entirely to the state under the whim of an unbridled leader. That’s the relevant comparison, and one which should inform a voter’s decision.