The Real “State of the Union”
Donald Trump is leading this country into a dark place. Let us remember what Sinclair Lewis said in the 1930s: when fascism comes to America that it will be wrapped in the flag, sing the national anthem, carry a cross and be called, “Americanism”. But I won’t even use the loaded word “fascism.” We can just go down the list of typical qualities associated with the nativism and corruption of justice associated w1ith such political philosophies. Many points in Trump’s “State of the Union” signal a dangerous conservative trend and potential constitutional crisis.
- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism.Trump makes use of patriotic mottos and symbols. Trump’s phrase “make America great again” is the most typical example and seeks to capitalize on the sense of decline in America, a decline that is mostly indefensible..
- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights.Trump fears enemies and has simplistic categories of either “loyalty” or “disloyalty” and everybody must be fit into one category or the other. And if you are in the disloyal category then your human rights get compromised.
- Identification of Enemies as a Unifying Cause. Trump’s base of supporters are unified over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat which is typically either someone from a different ethnic or ideological group, or some enemy actual or perceived.
- Supremacy of the Military. Soldiers and military service are glamorized. This glamorization is different than paying respect and recognizing sacrifices made by veterans. Trump prefers military people and is in the process of directing massive increases in funding to the military, money that will not be available for health care subsidies.
- Sexism. Need we say much more about this. His crudity with respect to women knows no boundaries.
- Controlled News. His labeling of the news as “fake news” is an attempt to muzzle the press and control the information environment. His effort to delegitimize the most basic sources of information necessary to a democracy is unprecedented.
- Obsession with National Security.Trump uses fear and the threat of criminal immigrants to scare people into stricter immigration laws.
- Religion and Government are Intertwined. Surprisingly, and even though Trump is far from an upright religious person, he has the support of Christian groups partially because of his willingness to blur the line between government and religion.
- Corporate Power is Protected.The industrial and business aristocracy in Trump’s world often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite. Note his tax bill which is more beneficial to the wealthy than the average citizen.
- Labor Power is Suppressed. to corporate greed. He opposes labor unions because they are the only real threat to corporate greed.
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption. Trump’s appointment of groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability is blatant. He perhaps will not appropriate national treasures but has begun the process of appropriating the legal system (e.g. tax laws) in order to benefit himself.
- Fraudulent Elections. Again, we need to say little more. Talking with the Russians about dirt on Hillary Clinton is about as debased as you can get with respect to election fraud.
Even at the risk of exaggeration, which I prefer to avoid, Trump “bumps up against” fascist qualities rooted in right-wing nativism. His criticism of law enforcement agencies is unprecedented and a potential danger of considerable importance. All the signs were in his State of the Union speech and should be a serious warning about the real “State of the Union.”