Does the election of Donald Trump to the U. S. presidency in 2016 signify a shift in American politics? Many people seem to believe so, but they weren’t sure how to define this shift. They turned to the dictionary for help. And the word they searched was “fascism”. So many people looked up the definition of fascism that it was the second most popular word searched on the Merriam Webster online dictionary in 2016.
Here is the Merriam-Webster online dictionary’s definition of fascism:
Often capitalized: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
To help better understand how Trump is changing American politics, Charlotte Dems hosted a two-part discussion “How Fascism Works”, presented by Dale Anderson. In his compelling and thorough presentations, Anderson explored the questions of whether fascism is now occurring in the U. S., what are the dangers of fascism, and what steps we can do to counter these threats.
We should be aware that pre-World War 2 in the 1930s, both Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Adolf Hitler (Germany) were both elected to office in democratic countries. However, they were able to manipulate voters to gain control of their countries. Anderson compares the tactics they used to what is now happening here in the US.
Trump, of course, is not undoing democracy by himself, nor is he the first person to attempt this. Anderson mentioned Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), who in the late 1940s – 1950s stoked fears of communists infiltrating the US and government.
Anderson identified four groups who are collaborating with Trump. They are white supremacists; Christian evangelicals; Oil & Gas, and fossil fuel industries; and super-wealthy. These groups want to preserve their position by opposing any attempt to challenge them. They support Trump because he allows them to do what they want. He also has the same enemies as his collaborators.
Attacking the foundations of our democracy and Constitution
Trump attacks basic US. institutions that are the foundation of our democracy and Constitution. He is politicizing the courts and government agencies. An example is Trump’s attempts to place a citizenship question on the 10-year census, hoping to suppress minority participation in the census. The census is used to determine the allocation of congressional districts throughout the states. An undercount of minorities would handicap states that have large minority populations.
Another tactic Trump uses is attempts to “neutralize key parts of civil society”, Anderson said. Trump constantly attacks the free press by claiming they are “fake news”. He bashes anyone who disagrees with him.
According to Anderson, the Republican Party is also using fascist tactics such as “rewriting the rules of the political game”. For example, in Florida, the Republican legislators and governor rewrote a constitutional amendment that had given the right to vote to ex-felons who have completed their sentences. The legislature and governor negated the amendment by passing a law that in effect creates a poll tax. The result of these actions, Anderson warns: “Democracy is being disabled. Democracy is being eroded by slowly disabling social norms.”
“Nothing is real if it doesn’t end in the street.”
So, what can we do to stop this spread of fascism? Anderson said it is up to each of us. We must “commit our dollars, talent, voices, our bodies, and our time”. When committing our dollars, Anderson urged us to support the free press and investigative journalism. “Newspapers are in jeopardy. It’s a terrible time for newspapers when we need them the most”. We should also support organizations that are on the front lines of protecting democracy such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League.
“Don’t give money to your children. Give money so that they will have a future.”
How much money should we commit? “Donate more than feels comfortable. Don’t give money to your children. Give money so that they will have a future”, said Anderson. Committing our bodies means being active. “We need to confront fascists”, Anderson said. “Nothing is real if it doesn’t end up in the streets”.
Our commitment to keeping democracy alive and defeating fascism requires concerted effort and planning. Anderson presented his personal plan of how much time he will spend weekly, what activities to do, and where he will donate his money. He closed his talk by asking, “what is your plan?”
Please make donating your time and money to Charlotte County Democratic Party part of your plan so that together we can continue to be on the frontlines to preserve our precious democracy.