Drexel professor says fascism has arrived in the US

Historians in the News
tags: fascism, Trump, Robert Zaller



Robert Zaller teaches history at Drexel.

In 1935, the third year of Hitler’s Third Reich, Sinclair Lewis published a novel called “It Can’t Happen Here,” speculating on the possibility that fascism might come to America. This spring, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein wondered in an article titled “Can It Happen Here?” whether a native fascism might now at last be in the offing.

Note to Sinclair and Cass: it has happened here. In Donald J. Trump, America now has its first fascist president.

I don’t say this loosely or pejoratively to describe a politician I don’t like. I say it with as much precision as I can, because this country is in the deepest and most awful trouble any of us have known. Donald Trump didn’t run on a fascist ticket; the Republican Party he captured in 2016, dreadful as it was, nominally followed democratic norms. Trump didn’t proclaim himself a fascist. Possibly, he didn’t know, or even now perhaps doesn’t know himself to be one. But he fits the definition, and now he fills the bill.

What defines a fascist? Firstly, a fascist denies the rule of law. This means that he knows no will but his own, and recognizes no limit on his power. To achieve such power, he must defy, circumvent, or simply ignore all other established authority, and destroy the institutions through which it is exercised. In America, these are the three branches of government, and the fourth estate of the press. Congress was created to make laws for the nation at large. The judiciary, within its proper bounds, interprets them. The executive, which Trump heads, enforces them. The press — more broadly now, the media — keeps tabs on how well the process works.

From the beginning, Trump took a sledgehammer to all of these institutions. He has no interest in legislating, mocking Congress as a body and personally attacking its members. He will demand that it act to solve the messes he makes, refuse to indicate what he wants or is willing to approve, and gives both houses the bird when they offer him solutions tailored to please him. This isn’t just a man who can’t make up his mind or even maintain an attention span. Trump is deliberately bent on breaking the legislative branch as such, strangling its functions and humiliating its members. The law will be what he declares it to be on any given day, and if he gets any pushback from the courts, he denigrates them as well, juggles a word or two, and comes back the next day with the same edict. ...

Read entire article at The Triangle

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