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Niall Ferguson says Trump is a populist not a fascist

Historians in the News
tags: fascism, Niall Ferguson, populism, Trump



British historian Niall Ferguson began his talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney on the weekend by explaining his theory that Mr Trump was in fact a populist and not a fascist, like many have warned.

He pointed to previous points in America’s history when leaders also campaigned on racist slogans like “the Chinese must go” and were anti-free trade but added that racism was not fascism.

While fascists want to overturn the constitution and start wars, Mr Ferguson believes the only war Mr Trump wants to start is a trade war.

Mr Ferguson said there were five ingredients necessary for populism were all present ahead of Mr Trump’s rise: an increase in immigration, rising inequality, perception of corruption and a big financial crisis.

The last ingredient was a demagogue who could connect with their audience and Mr Ferguson said this ability to speak and connect with people could not be taught and was a skill that few retail politicians had, adding “Donald Trump has it”.

Mr Ferguson also dismisses the idea that Russian interference in the election helped decide the election in Mr Trump’s favour because it only made up around 1 per cent of social media content about the election. However, he believes social media in general did make a difference.

A senior fellow at Cambridge University’s Hoover Institute, Mr Ferguson was among a tiny minority of commentators who believed Mr Trump could win in 2016. Others, for example the Daily Kos website predicted Ms Clinton’s chances of becoming president was 92 per cent. The Upshot in The New York Times said the number was 85 per cent. Betfair said 83 per cent.

But Mr Ferguson said he started to think that Mr Trump might win when he saw the numbers showing he was dominating Ms Clinton on Facebook, Twitter and Google search.

His exact prediction was: “Trump leads by substantial margins among male voters, white voters, over-64 voters and degree-less voters. In short, his support looks a lot like the support for Brexit. If, as happened in the UK, those groups turn out more than the pollsters expect and other groups turn out less, the polls will be wrong. He can win.” ...

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