Nazi comparisons remain a dime per dozen in the political discourse, wielded liberally and often outside historical context. Godwin’s law suggests that any online debate which lasts long enough will result in someone evoking the Nazis.
That moment has arrived in our consideration of Donald Trump. Newsweek commentator Jeffrey A. Tucker asks, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” However, the question stands as more than provocation or insult. Tucker is serious, and offers evidence to bolster the suggestion:
What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is not leftist in its cultural and political outlook (see how he is praised for rejecting “political correctness”), and yet it is still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and demands no limits on state power.
Whereas the left has long attacked bourgeois institutions like family, church and property, fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.
Typically, when fascism is evoked, people think of concentration camps and the Holocaust. Such images fuel the notion that Nazi comparisons are inherently exaggerated. However, it’s important to realize that concentration camps were a product of fascism, not its defining characteristic. Fascism subjugates the individual to the state in the name of some collective, whether “the nation” or “the race.”
Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie describes the effect an implementation of Trump’s immigration plan would have upon the state’s relationship to individuals. Trump’s government would become a “vast and always beefed-up bureaucracy that will have control over whether you can work and when you need to show proof of U.S. citizenship.”
This is how strongmen take over countries. They say some true things, boldly, and conjure up visions of national greatness under their leadership. They’ve got the flags, the music, the hype, the hysteria, the resources, and they work to extract that thing in many people that seeks heroes and momentous struggles in which they can prove their greatness…
… They purport to be populists, while loathing the decisions people actually make in the marketplace (such as buying Chinese goods or hiring Mexican employees).
Trump’s rhetoric, his so-called plan, emerges from the same instinct of economic protectionism which opposes right-to-work and Uber. It’s the politics of scapegoating, blaming the other guy for your inability to compete. For the Nazis, their scapegoat was the Jew. For Trump, it’s the Mexican. He may not be proposing concentration camps. But the rhetorical path he’s leading Republican voters down leads in that direction. It certainly doesn’t lead to less government and more freedom.