ITHACA, NY – Political commentators and bloggers have started throwing around the word “fascist” when discussing presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Cornell history professor Isabel Hull says he doesn’t quite pass muster.
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In an article for Vice magazine, Hull was interviewed about whether or not 21st century America under Trump might resemble Germany or Italy circa in the early 1940s. Her conclusion: Trump “isn’t principled enough to be a fascist.”
Instead, she labels him a nativist-populist: “That is, some one from the right wing, angry about various aspects of the present, longing for a golden past, and focused primarily against his own government, but not equipped with a set of adamantine principles to be put into practice, no matter what, and no matter the cost.”
It is important, the article points out, to differentiate between raw fascism and Nazism – the latter being an offshoot defined heavily by its scientific racism and antisemitism.
Despite “fascist” being a loaded term, the idea isn’t to draw direct comparison between Trump and some of the worst dictators in our history, the article suggests. “The question is whether the policies that Trump is sort of proposing could lead to a marriage of business and government in which ideals become uniform, dissent is swiftly punished, with the whole thing centered around a personality cult.”
Hull says that some of Trump’s policy ideas, like his desire for the mass deportation of immigrants and plan to revoke birthright citizenship – that is, the idea that a person born in a county is automatically a citizen thereof – border on a fascist ideology.
Hull points out that a lot of Trump’s positions that are seen as distasteful by the left, such as surveillance of presumed domestic enemies, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and fear-mongering “all have an unfortunately long history in this country.”
What makes Trump interesting, she says, is his methodology: “the Big Lie—which he refuses to retract, the violent uncouth language that passes for ‘truth’ in some circles, apparently, and the encouragement or at least acceptance of minor violence—pushing and shoving—against dissenters, whether they’re journalists or just vocal critics.”
“These things do tiptoe into the extreme right-wing,” Hull says. “They all were characteristic of fascist movements before they assumed power, though the violence in that case was much, much more extreme.”
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