Trump is Not a Fascist. But that Didn't Make Him any Less Dangerous to Our DemocracyRoundup
tags: fascism, authoritarianism, Donald Trump, Capitol Riots
Thomas Weber is professor of history and international affairs at the University of Aberdeen and author most recently of Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi (Basic Books). Follow him on Twitter at @thomas__weber.
Over the last five years, I have often wondered how political analysts who have compared Donald Trump's presidency to the rise of Nazi Germany would feel if a time machine sent them to Berlin in 1933. They would be stunned by the differences between then and now.
Unfortunately, there are no signs of these comparisons abating anytime soon. In the wake of the attack on the US Capitol, alarmists warning of a fascist America have gone into overdrive. In a video he shared on Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger told us that the January 6 insurrection "was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States."
The action hero-turned-politician described the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom that presaged the Holocaust as "a night of rampage...carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys." His message: America's Night of the Broken Glass and "selfishness and cynicism," if left unchallenged, could spiral out of control and bring democracy down.
Schwarzenegger's message is noble, but the reference to Nazi Germany is a misguided one. The Night of the Broken Glass did not bring democracy down. That had already happened half a decade earlier. It was not carried out by the 1930s version of the Proud Boys -- it was a state-organized attack that resulted in 30,000 Jews being arrested and sent to concentration camps. And "selfishness and cynicism" had not paved the path to the pogrom.
Schwarzenegger's intervention is a classic example of the historical record of European fascism being rewritten to fit political messages that warn against Donald Trump. The underlying message behind invocations of Europe's dark past is clear: Trumpism is fascism, and, even under Joe Biden's presidency, it is here to stay.
Of course, there is some overlap between fascism and Trumpism, particularly in the use of demagoguery and the promise to restore the glory of the nation. While this overlap is well worth exploring, the alarmists who have performed public 'Gotcha!' dances every time Trump has used the playbook of demagoguery have missed one obvious point: All fascists are demagogues, but not all demagogues are fascists. Ignoring this crucial point blinds us to the real danger the core of Trumpism poses to democracy even with Trump out of the White House.
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