Steelmanning America as Drifting Towards Fascism
Since Trump was elected it's become fashionable to unreservedly claim that America is on the path to fascism. In the last year, particularly, this even seems to be a mainstream consensus on reddit, though that's hard to gauge.
As a rule, people who actually try to make the argument that we're becoming fascist fail to impress me, and end up reminding me of Scott's post about crying wolf. Mainly it seems to me that business as usual has stayed the same or moved left, but the commentariat has moved so much further left that business as usual looks further to the right than it used to.
But claims of rising American fascism are *so* pervasive, and *so* apparently unevidenced that I feel like I must be going crazy. So I'd like to ask, in all good faith, if anyone can provide a solid argument that fascism is, or is becoming, a problem in the US.
I'm looking to be convinced here -- my gut says that there must be more to this than I've seen; that the correct position is probably more complex than 'no, it's the children who are wrong.'
Disclaimer: I don't think America is on the path to fascism necessarily. This is more of a steelman, although I do endorse a lot of it in less dramatic form.
Let us define fascism as:
A cult of personality
around a strong-man dictator
because democracy is "inefficient" and only gets in his way and allows enemies to sabotage us
based around white nationalism
and a genocidal distaste for the racial "other", that is said to be responsible for all the nation's woes.
Americans seem increasingly, worryingly accepting of all of these things, but especially on the pro-Trump side of things.
1. A cult of personality
The last few decades, all the most successful candidates on both sides of the aisle have run on a kind of messianic vision, where they're this hypercompetent outsider who's going to sweep away all corruption. They've had a hard core of supporters who were very emotionally invested in them, to the point of dismissing factually-accurate criticisms as "fake news" and being devastated if they lose.
The above description roughly applies to Obama, Bernie, and Clinton; but it applies to Trump most of all. The cult of personality among hardcore Trump supporters is insane. I've seen a bunch of posts comparing Trump to Jesus from ostensibly committed Christians! His supporters, due to his constant and blatant lying that goes well beyond any other politician, have to constantly twist themselves to deny reality. This isn't a small group, and Trump holds constant rallies for them.
2. around a strong-man dictator
3. because democracy is "inefficient" and only gets in his way and allows enemies to sabotage us
American faith in democracy and human rights, and the amount of power accrued to the President, have been declining and rising respectively since 9/11.
Trump, specifically, has made some worrying moves. He claimed that Hillary had cheated in the election, after he won, which - unlike all the other statements about that election - seems to have no purpose but to undermine elections generally. He's pardoned his supporters when they committed racially-motivated crimes. Pre-election there was that whole stunt where he promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who beat up a protestor at one of his rallies (although he then went back on that when someone actually did.) He's endorsed the use of torture on US citizens that the Obama administration walked back, and promised to bring it back and intensify it further, although thus far he has failed to deliver on that.
And, of course, he and his administration have pursued a policy that the President is inherently above the law - which has currently reached the point of Republican officials actively breaking the law to show their contempt for the impeachment process, most seriously by flat-out ignoring Congressional subpoenas - but also with things like his claim he could pardon himself if he committed any crime, committing obstruction and the DoJ openly saying they can't indict the President, arguing in court that he doesn't have to release tax returns to investigators because he's immune to prosecution, etc.
It's not too hard to imagine a situation where, say, Trump wins 2020 but the Democrats win both houses, they impeach him, and he declares the process illegitimate and attempts a coup. I don't think that's super likely, and if it did happen I think he'd probably fail. But that's new, and if it did happen things could go sideways fast.
4. based around white nationalism
5. and a genocidal distaste for the racial "other", that is said to be responsible for all the nation's woes.
I don't think I really need to explain this one, but I will anyway. Trump's great contribution to the field of racism is his merging of racialized anti-Islam hysteria and animus against Hispanic "illegals" (literally illegal immigrants or not) accused of stealing jobs, into the single issue of "securing our borders". He's also pushed the idea - which I also think is original to him, certainly I don't remember seeing it before 2016 - that immigrants are mostly dangerous criminals and they're responsible for an increase in crime, stealing and killing with impunity because they're outside the system. Thus "immigrants" become responsible for 9/11, the Great Recession, your mate losing his job because it was outsourced to India, and the (imaginary) rising tide of crime you see on the news. Of course, "immigrants" in this context does not include immigrants considered white, but does include second, third, fourth-gen immigrants who aren't. It's primarily a racial or ethnic category rather than a literal one.
Is this genocidal, though? Well, no, certainly not as explicitly or as virulently as Nazi attitudes to Jews. But it's alarmingly close at times. There's been talk of ending birthright citizenship, possibly retroactively, and mass-deporting these people. The treatment of immigrants at the Mexican border, already pretty bad, has been stepped up and seemingly deliberately worsened (something many on the Right endorse to "teach them a lesson" and provide "deterrence", despite being convicted of no crime.) That's including denial of basic hygiene and medical care which is absolutely killing people. Their legal situation is a joke, with mass trials and little legal representation. It's commonly claimed on the Right that any standard is acceptable, because the Bill of Rights shouldn't apply to non-citizens.
As many on the left have pointed out, this can be a slippery slope, and the Nazis didn't start with death camps - just concentration camps with increasingly poor conditions.
Although it's recieved far less media attention and it's kind of irrelevant, I also want to bring up that Trump loosened the rules of engagement for US military in the Middle East, resulting in significantly increased civilian casualties. Does it bother you that the past three Presidents of the United States have all authorized new and exciting war crimes? It bothers me.