Scholars are debating if fascism is coming to the US right now via Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Let that sink in. Maybe the term has been thrown around so often in the Age of Godwin's Law that we've become immune to it, but for experts on the subject who devote their lives to studying its meaning, it surely hasn't. The very fact that this group is contemplating fascism's possible appearance in the so-called greatest democracy in the world, should be seriously alarming to its inhabitants. Fascism isn't about a simple political disagreement or typical differences in ideology, it's about the end of democracy.
Last week, I wrote about why violence is as logical a response in the face of this frightening possibility as any. Naturally, this stirred up outrage from reactionaries on the Right--even though my actual critique was directed at liberals. Worryingly, it seems the possibility of a violent response in its face is more troubling to US sensibilities than the possibility of fascism itself. To briefly recap, I argued Trump and his support amongst White Nationalists doesn't represent politics as usual, and may mark the entry of fascism into the US political mainstream. I note that violence at his rallies came first from his supporters and at his behest, while violence from anti-Trump protestors came as a reaction to this. And that as his candidacy is normalized by GOP primary voters, media, and Republican politicians, violent resistance at his rallies acts as a forceful reminder that he isn't just another shitty rightwing politician. Further, to people targeted by Trump's rhetoric--particularly undocumented immigrants, Muslims, and anyone who resembles either in the mind of a bigot--he represents an existential threat. Responding through any means necessary starts to make sense if the election of a candidate might lead to you or members of your family, who are already at risk, being targeted en masse for removal or ban from the country, or to live within its borders under surveillance, and in the face of increased violence from that candidate's newly emboldened supporters.
One aspect of my piece that was overlooked amongst the outrage, was how much bigger a task defeating the forces underpinning Trump's rise is than beating him at the ballot box. The 2016 presidential contest should be a major moment of reckoning in the United States. Megyn Kelly, who asked me to go on her show and then never got back to me to make the arrangements, pointed out on the segment she'd invited me on that many of Trump's proposals are mainstream and quite popular with GOP voters. She's right. And that only makes them more dangerous and demonstrates how low our politics have sunk, and how far we have to go if we're to snap back. After decades sowing the seeds of the conservative populist beast, the beast has finally broken free from its cage. And while banning 1.6 billion people from the nation based on their religious beliefs, surveilling people within the nation due to their religious beliefs, and deporting 11+ million people who are here seeking out a better life for themselves and their families, are tremendously extreme positions completely incongruous with alleged American values, it's easy to see why they've become so popular among GOP voters.
If you've been fed a constant stream of rhetoric that says Islam is inherently at-odds with US values, full of terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, and that terrorism is the biggest threat facing the nation, then banning all Muslims from entry into the US and surveilling those who are already here would seem reasonable. If you've been told again and again that the reason the economy isn't working for you is because of an invasion of immigrants--a group filled with rapists, drug dealers, and other criminals--then building a wall and deporting 11+ million people might seem like a logical response, regardless of its moral or logistical challenges. These misguided attitudes didn't appear out of thin air. They're the result of decades of Islamophobic fear mongering and racialized xenophobic scapegoating. Addressing this requires so much more than anything that's being discussed in the rush to beat Trump this November. We don't just need better journalism, we need a better educated public that's interested and capable of evaluating its message. We don't just need better politicians, we need more representative politics. We don't just need better jobs, we need universal economic security, better work, and more worker control over our workplaces. We don't just need to combat racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and bigotry however and wherever they manifest, we need to tear down the structures they stand on. To make any of that imaginable, we need to find a way for people to have time to nurture, develop, and pursue their intellectual curiosities.
As we face the prospect of fascism's arrival in our supposedly free country, we should be envisioning serious, radical change. The pillars holding up a society that allows fascism to creep into its politics via existing apparatuses are pillars that must be torn down and rebuilt, lest they be used in such a way again. We should be talking about how we're going to dismantle a white supremacist patriarchal system that thrives on ignorance and anti-intellectualism. We should be talking about restructuring our economy in a way that moves us sharply away from the precarious state of existence capitalism forces on so many. We should be talking about a 20-hour work week. We should be talking about free lifelong access to courses in public universities, not just four year degrees. We should be talking about how we went so wrong, veered so far off course, and what we can do to correct it. That task is much bigger than keeping an orange-tinged con artist out of the White House.
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.