America – The Land of the Free
This is America – there is no way a fascist dictator could overcome our system of checks and balances and take reign over the country! Are you sure about that? Is there a way where that is actually possible? The answer may not be what you’re hoping for. Due to the current political climate with President Trump the word ‘fascist’ has been tossed around loosely as a description of his administration. So how close is he to actually fitting this illustration that the critics have tried to paint him with? Why do they make this reference? And how exactly could a president take total control of the federal government? We will get to all of this, but let me say first that this is a purely hypothetical writing. I don’t believe it will happen, this isn’t Infowars or some conspiracy theory. This is simply an observation of characteristics paired with what the ‘worst case scenario’ could be. Can it actually happen? Unfortunately, if the presidency somehow slipped in to the wrong hands – the answer is yes.
Why Do They Keep Calling Trump a Fascist?
No, Trump isn’t Hitler. However we can begin with the constant assertion that Trump and Hitler are two peas in a pod. Trump hasn’t actually done anything that’s anywhere near par with the atrocities the world seen from Nazi Germany so why even compare? To understand why someone would say this, one needs to understand what the defining characteristics of a ‘fascist’ actually are. We look to Dr. Lawrence Britt and a report he authored in 2003 titled “the fourteen defining characteristics of fascism.” He discovered fourteen traits that were consistent among known fascist through history including Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and other Latin American regimes. Let’s glance over the fourteen traits, and remember – this is from 2003.
- Powerful and continuing nationalism. Many identify Trump’s administration as overtly nationalist, and he even has cabinet members who self-identify under this label. He mentions constant use of patriotic slogans (Make America Great Again) among other things. Trump carries this trait with ease.
- Disdain for the recognition of human rights. For starters, Human Rights Watch isn’t very fond of him. However it’s a known fact that Trump is an avid supporter of the use of torture, disregarding the opinions of scientist as well as his own CIA director. Not to mention the refugee situation is the biggest human rights crisis since World War II, and everyone knows his stance on that. One could successfully argue that he is two for two.
- Identification of enemies and scapegoats as a unifying cause. Dr. Britt specifically refers to using “patriotism” to rally the masses against ethnic and/or religious minorities. With Trump’s border wall policy and anti-immigrant rhetoric paired with the targeting of Islam and his promise to “eradicate” extremist off the face of the earth, it’s easy to see he is doing both (ethnic and religious). Three for three.
- Supremacy of the Military. This is once again no secret, everyone should know his stance on this. Though they may not know he wants to have military parades which would mimic other dictatorships from around the world and through history. Four out of four.
- Rampant Sexism. When you bring up his comment on grabbing women by the pussy (among countless other misogynistic comments) there’s a very strong argument to be made here. Add the vast accumulation of women who have accused him of sexual assault, and one can argue that this trait is obviously present. Five for five.
- Controlled mass media. Trump is at war with the mainstream media and has even had his counselor label blatant lies as alternative facts. He declared the media to be the opposition party as well as an enemy to the American people, including labeling almost all of the outlets as “fake news.” His constant efforts to undermine the public’s faith in the news makes this an easy six for six.
- Obsession with national security. Refer to number 3 (border wall, immigration ban). Clear cut seven for seven.
- Religion and government are intertwined. Trump has cemented his allegiance with the religious right, and has vowed to put Christianity first. He said he would grant privilege to Christians with his immigration ban. As we have already stated, he has made various comments about the Muslim faith which makes him eight out of eight now.
- Corporate power is protected. We can start with the recent deregulation of Wall Street. Then we can move to how his cabinet is loaded with corporate influence. He has six people with Goldman Sachs ties working for him. He plans on cutting corporate tax rates. He even suggested a corporate tax holiday, as well as promoting a corporate friendly agenda to big business. 9/9.
- Labor power is suppressed. Even though he has flip flopped on the issue, he has said he was against having a minimum wage (Mike Pence has historically been opposed to the minimum wage as well). His first Secretary of Labor selection Andrew Pudzer was against the minimum wage as well as paid sick leave. Trump is against labor unions and the Republicans even suggested a national ‘right to work’ law which would bust them for good. We have to wait and see how he will affect the Fair Labor Standards Act, but given what we know the argument could be made. That’s 10.
- Disdain for intellectuals and arts. He is proposing to cut the National Endowment for the Arts and also cut funding for PBS with his first proposed budget in the name of fiscal austerity. Eleven.
- Obsession with crime and punishment. He is throwing the book at protesters by charging those at his inauguration with felony rioting (including journalist). He has also threatened to “send in the feds” if Chicago doesn’t do something to hinder their growing murder rate. He actually lied and said the “murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” He advocated a national stop and frisk policy, and has also made ICE raids for illegal immigrants a big thing here in recent days. That would be twelve.
- Rampant cronyism and corruption. The rumor mill is churning in a big way for this one. Whether you bring up Michael Flynn’s resignation less than a month after the start of the new administration, or the $500 billion oil deal between Tillerson and Russia, any part of the Russian scandal (the oil, the hacking, the dossier, the unlawful communications), or even the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who wouldn’t deny her family donating $200 million to the Republican party (including to those voting her in), there’s plenty of this to go around and make the case for an easy thirteen.
- Fraudulent elections. This one should be self-explanatory. He has pushed this fabricated story of 3-5 million illegal immigrants voting and costing him the popular vote. He asked to launch an investigation in to this while many of his Republican counterparts are pushing voter ID laws while simultaneously cutting voting access under this ‘voter fraud’ banner. He’s oddly (and falsely) claimed to have the biggest electoral win since Ronald Reagan. So as you see, it can be factually argued he displays all fourteen of the defining fascist characteristics.
I decided to go this route because I thought it was important to illustrate that Trump can easily be characterized as a fascist even with out carrying out the actions similar to that of a past fascist regime. Even though he carries these traits that are similar, that doesn’t mean he will in fact attempt some kind of dictatorship (and I do not believe he will). Let’s now ask the big question – could he do it if he wanted? Keep in mind this would also apply to all future presidents. The answer – an emphatic yes.
That Really Happened?
Apparently federal over-reach is as American as apple pie so I’d like to give some examples of past presidents abusing their executive power. We can start with the Alien and Sedition Acts from John Adams. Though Thomas Jefferson repealed most of it when he took office, this law (which is about to sound eerily familiar) allowed the deportation and imprisonment of foreign immigrants from ‘hostile nations’ while also making it more difficult for them to vote and gain citizenship. That’s just the icing on the cake though, this also allowed the free press and lawmakers to be imprisoned for publicly speaking out against the federal government. Yikes.
Next we will look at some of the actions of Honest Abe. Abraham Lincoln? No, not him! He actually suspended habeas corpus! For those not familiar with the term, that is your right to see a judge to justify your imprisonment or be dismissed. Not only did he suspend it, he did it without the consent of congress. It wasn’t until two years later congress passed a bill justifying the suspension. To stop Maryland from joining the confederacy and isolating Washington DC he had all the Confederate sympathizers in the Maryland Legislature imprisoned and held without trial. In the midst of the turmoil an estimated 10-15k were imprisoned with no trial. He also signed an executive order to arrest the free press who wrote negatively about him.
Then we have the Espionage Act of 1917 which was signed in to law by Woodrow Wilson. This made it illegal to, “utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane…or abusive language about the United States government or to disagree with its actions abroad.” It was immediately used to imprison his political opponent Eugene Debs, who was sentenced to ten years in prison. It has been used multiple times since then in many different cases while undergoing various amendments.
Another mind boggling instance of executive abuse is from FDR when he chose to imprison Japanese-American citizens in internment camps. This order imprisoned 127,000 American citizens for no reason other than ethnicity. This quick brush through history is to show, once again, even by using our own predecessors as a base for comparison we have quite a ways to go before we reach there. But now we can get in to the exact details on what needs to happen.
Judicial Checks and Balances?
Now please remember, this is the worst-case scenario. This is purely hypothetical, but could happen. With that being said we will begin with the judicial side of the checks and balances system since a judge just ‘overturned‘ Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven countries. If you recall, the first judge who ordered the ban to cease was ignored by customs agents who continued to carry out the order of the president. At first I was outraged thinking, “he can’t just ignore a federal judge, right?!” Or can he? When I went to research this topic what I found left me stunned.
To find the answer we must go back in history and review the Supreme Court case for Worcester v. Georgia in 1832. The court ruled that the Cherokees were a sovereign nation meaning that only the federal government could work out a treaty or agreement with them. At the time the Georgia legislature was attempting to drive them out of the state by negotiating with them directly. Done deal? Not exactly.
This is where simple civics comes in to play. The judicial branch has no authority to execute any law they set in place. The execution of the law is the sole responsibility of the executive branch of the government (the president and his cabinet/agencies). So what happened? President Andrew Jackson completely ignored the Supreme Court ruling. Not only that, he is quoted as saying, “the decision of the supreme court has fell still born, and they find that it cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate.” He completely ignored the order. I’d also like to point out Lincoln ignored an order from his Chief Justice regarding the suspension of habeas corpus.
The president has to act on the behalf of the court to carry out it’s laws, the judicial branch has no authority to carry them out themselves and there is no law in place that forces the president to do so. This means? The president can totally ignore the court and it’s 100% legal. This would be step one to fascism, but he wouldn’t do this because the fear of impeachment right? Not exactly.
Legislative Checks and Balances?
This is where the country falls victim to a fascist takeover, and the worst part about it – it’s fairly easy. By this stage the people of rational thought will realize exactly what’s going on. Whereas the ones who are listening directly to the president (rather than the media) will be in an oblivious state of political bliss. Half the country is cheering on the dismissal of ‘so-called judges’ while the other half is more than likely petrified of what’s to come. By this time we can expect political dissent. You already have John McCain coming at Trump saying this is how dictatorships get started, imagine what people would be saying at this point!
The 25th amendment allows the executive branch to remove the president if they see him as mentally unfit, but being he appointed everyone I see this as a slim to none possibility. The only shot we got is an impeachment through congress. So what does he do? Easy, just lock them up. Or even better, just kill them and get it over with. Wait for it, here’s the best part – it’s totally legal!
How though? Well it all started with 9/11 and G.W. Bush signing the notorious USA PATRIOT Act. Not only did it make spying on the American population with out a warrant 100% legal, it actually gives legal grounds to Trump on detaining immigrants and refugees trying to get in to the country. This law allows the indefinite detention of any immigrant (even the totally legal ones) for as long as they please. This egregious act set the stage for what I believe is the worst bill in American history in regards to stripping American civil liberties.
The National Defense Authorization Act was signed by Barack Obama giving unprecedented powers to the executive branch, though he promised not to use them. Now I am a life long Democrat. I voted for Obama twice. But this my friends (or should I say comrades) is the bill which enables fascism. The executive director of the ACLU (of whom I am a member) declared “President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law.” It allows the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens. But that isn’t even why it’s such a big deal, it also allows American citizens to be lawfully assassinated with out a trial. Yes, you read that correctly.
But that guy was a terrorist, totally different right? Well, not quite. Check THIS out from the 2012 election cycle. Yes, you can use this to legally kill or indefinitely imprison political opposition by slapping a ‘domestic terrorism’ label on them, anybody in America actually. This is a terrifying reality. So the first step would be to ignore the federal court system. The second step, when the congress moves to impeach Trump all he has to do is say they are Islamic sympathizers and label them domestic terrorists to lock them up indefinitely. Who will challenge his authority after that? Point being – we could easily fall in to a fascist system no matter who the president is.
So what do we do from here? There are big issues we all fight and argue over but we cannot allow this to continue. The NDAA threatens the very democracy that we have shed blood to preserve for the last 241 years. What will happen? None of us really know just yet. But the one thing that I know for sure – we gotta come together to make sure this is never used to take our country hostage.