With the election of Donald Trump, we’re being told that now is the time to fear fascism in America.
What is this nightmare-vision of a fascist America supposed to look like? This alternate-reality USA, under the uniquely vicious reign of the Trump regime, is one in which minorities have to fear for their lives. The president will speak in openly white supremacist language. Black Americans will have to fear death at the hands of police and vigilantes; latin@s will have to fear deportation; Muslims, Islamophobic violence; and so on. The good people of humanity will tremble as Trump wields America’s fearsome armed forces, secret police, elite death squads, drones, and surveillance technology for the good of himself and his cronies. Earth’s ecosystem—the very promise of a habitable planet—will be sacrificed by men who put profits ahead of human needs and the good of mankind.
Truly, fascist America would a terrifying place. This vision is so terrifying that mere days after the election, even the most conformist liberals have suddenly gotten in touch with the radical antifa apparently slumbering inside each one of them. Highly publicized protests have already occurred in several major cities. Democratic Party propaganda organ Daily Kos, which banned criticisms of Hillary site-wide in March 2016, is suddenly receptive to a planned general strike on inauguration day. Those who can manage to unscrew themselves from the fetal position are resolute in their opposition to Trump’s agenda—“we have all been radicalized,” writes future Molotov-thrower Lena Dunham. All these new radicals, radicalized by Trump’s racist language. Radicalized by the way his administration threatens non-whites with state violence. Radicalized by the fact that he’ll be Commander-in-Chief, and he’ll use that power to kill.
So where the fuck were all these protesters when Obama was actually doing what Trump says he’ll do? Trump’s neo-Nazi dystopia is the USA that exists today, and anyone who doesn’t realize it needs to shut the fuck up and stop pretending to know anything about politics. Anyone who thinks Donald Trump is more of a fascist than Barack Obama is some combination of an imbecile, a liberal, and a charlatan.
Barack Obama was the President who expanded the White House’s power to kill anyone, anywhere, including American citizens. If wielding power like a führer is the mark of fascism, then Obama qualified as of the 2012 passage of the NDAA.
It seems like every dire warning about the Trump administration starts with a bit about the millions of immigrant families that might be torn apart. Many Trump voters would salivate over the prospect of deporting 2.5 million people, as Obama has done—more than every 20th century president combined. Along the way, the Obama administration has created countless millions of refugees by destroying Honduras and Libya, towards whom the president has shown a remarkable callousness that doesn’t seem to trouble these Democrats suddenly frightened on behalf of immigrants.
Trump said that he wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. In 2009, as Obama began his time in the White House, prosecutions for “homegrown terrorism” shot up, as the Obama Department of Justice focused on a Muslim enemy within. By 2010, in the face of nativist hysteria over a “Ground Zero mosque,” the most stirring defense the President could muster was that Muslims were free to practice where they want but they probably shouldn’t. This was at the same time that the NYPD, trained and likely acting on behalf of the CIA, was spying on tens of thousands of Muslim-Americans throughout the US Northeast. Anyone deluded enough to think Barack Obama is a friend to Muslims should ask Tarek Mehanna, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, or the hundreds of thousands of Libyans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, or Iranians who his administration has killed, displaced, maimed, starved, or terrorized. And with less than a week before the election, Barack Obama agreed to appear on HBO’s Real Time hosted by Bill Maher, a virulent liberal Islamophobe who has spent years peddling Trumpian bigotry against Muslims.
Liberals are horrified by Trump’s hatred of journalists, which is supposed to be a sign of his aberrant fascist tendencies. Before the Snowden leak spectacle largely wiped of from the news cycle, progressive outlets had started to cover the Obama administration’s war on journalism, which was sending whistleblowers and their journalist allies to prison at an unprecedented rate. Of course, while Trump’s dislike of journalists makes him Hitleresque, Obama’s actual imprisonment of journalists was, at worst, Nixonian.
Trump will, apparently unlike every president in AmeriKKKan history, be uniquely bad for African-Americans. Will his administration steal the wealth from black homes, the way Obama helped Wall Street loot black America? Will black Americans have to rise up in the streets and declare that black lives matter, to protest the black person murdered every 28 hours in the USA? Will black revolutionaries start being mysteriously and brutally murdered in Trump’s America, like Darren Seals and at least 5 other activists in Ferguson, all of whom bear the hallmarks of falling victim to a COINTELPRO 2.0? Will a Trump Justice Department ramp-up efforts to capture fugitive black freedom fighters like Assata Shakur?
Even the idea that Trump and the Republicans are the only ones to speak in openly white supremacist language is idiotic, and someone doesn’t have to go back to Hillary Clinton talking about “super-predators” to find examples. As one blog pointed out:
Obama’s 2008 “speech on race” in Philadelphia (officially titled “A More Perfect Union”), celebrated as “too good for today’s media” and “reviving the spirit of the nation itself,” was a Eucharistic repetition of white supremacist lies. In this speech, the future president delivered an objectively white supremacist view of US history, deriding the idea that white racism is endemic, equating the liberation theology of Jeremiah Wright with the latent anti-black racism of his grandmother, and accusing black radicals and revolutionary anti-racists of fomenting “disunity” at a time when “we” need to come together—while pointing to his own candidacy as proof that racism had mostly been dismantled. Minus the well-worn details about the Senator’s life story and tedious speechifying, the basic lessons of the speech would have been at home on a Fox News panel about “race hustlers.”
One thing is true, though: Trump is uniquely bad in certain ways. The Donald, that two-bit reality-TV huckster, is sullying the august White House walls with his conciliatory attitude towards Russia and China (though his quick about-face on US troops in the southern half of the Korean peninsula is an indication of how serious this is). Still, after a year of Hillary Clinton sounding the drums of war, the Democrats are seemingly united in fury that Trump is a little frigid towards the idea of starting World War III. To be fair to them, they’re absolutely right: Trump can’t claim Hillary’s feverish desire for a nuclear war against Russia, nor her proven track record of killing millions of people throughout the global South.
Anyone who hasn’t surrendered the last lobe of their brain to the Democratic Party, and who’s fond of not being turned into ashes, has to ask themselves why it would be desirable for President Trump to start WW3, as Clinton practically promised to do. This is another question that Nate Silver would get completely wrong, but I think the actually existing fascism of Obama offers a clue. Just like Democrats have transferred all of Obama’s evils to the Nazi caricature of Trump, liberals are the ones who are lashing out against reality.
The reality is that capitalism, particularly at this stage, has nothing good to offer the vast majority of humanity, and even increasing numbers of people in the core. Democrats conveniently forget that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania rose to power based on illusory promises to make things better. Like Trump, his record spoke to the absurdity of his bill of goods, and he boasted a CV only marginally more impressive than “shady tycoon and TV personality.” Even though his economic promises were vague, all the “hope” talk gave people a lot of ideas; when it came time to govern, Obama defended capital against “the pitchforks,” as he always intended. If apathetic voters and fucked-over workers played a part in Trump’s election, why wouldn’t they? And how will the upper-middle class and rich liberal who benefit from this order respond? As one commentator observed, in a story that is typical of America’s sneering liberal bourgeois:
A Seattle-area friend who lives in the farther working-class suburbs came to work to his inner-city, wealthy liberal coworkers bitching that his neighbors “voted us into fascism.” In the same breath, this rich shit complained about the passing of a transportation bill that would raise their taxes: “If they want Trump so bad they can pay for their own buses.” Here’s someone who probably calls themselves a progressive attacking actually existing progressivism because their taxes will go up a split hair, and potentially benefit unworthy types, “deplorables.” Maybe these people wouldn’t feel the need to “shake things up” if they had had what they needed to thrive all along. But then your misty piney mossy café-flanked Seattle townhome might have to fit only one Subaru in the garage.
“Trump now owns whatever happens under his presidency,” writes another newly energized rebel at Daily Kos. Not Obama. Obama, like any high-status Democrat, is never responsible for what he creates, and when he is, it’s at worst a mistake. Actually existing fascism has been erected through a series of bumbles, hypocrisies, mistakes, and odd little ironies. Obama has never been culpable for what he does; today, Democrats wail that Hillary’s worse crime was being imperfect. The bourgeois elements that are the most visible Democrats can never own up to the fact that their alleged “base” doesn’t have any good reason to come out and vote for them. So like the Red State-bogeymen they invoke so frequently, liberals are sprinting away from reality into a bubble of comforting myths and idols.
Rather than face up to the fact that Hillary Clinton has little appeal outside of Goldman Sachs and whatever the Project for a New American Century is called these days, Democrats are cursing Sanders fans, third-party voters, and non-voters with a hatred usually reserved for vegans. Since they can only imagine their own upper-middle class lives orbiting major urban centers, the loudest Democrats think that everyone who’s not exactly like them is a racist, woman-hating cretin, and hope “that they be educated and moved to the vicinity of the major hubs in the northeast and western parts, that they die off [or] that a country would attack the United States and obliterate them.” Rather than actually learn anything of substance, liberals are doing the only thing their politics really involve: sharing and commiserating over an extremely circumscribed set of insipid pop-culture references that flatter them and insulate them from reality. Those leftist critiques of Obama or Clinton that do manage to penetrate this fantasy-world get angrily dismissed as right-wing media conspiracy theories or Kremlin propaganda. And finally, as with any good whitewash, liberals are going to pretend that Donald Trump represents something totally alien and uniquely menacing, as though Obama hasn’t done everything Trump says he will.
And now, as soon as humanity has its first shot at finally being rid of the Clintons, and taking a small step back from the brink of ultimate atomic horror, these people want to gnash their teeth about America finally becoming fascist.
If Trump is a fascist, them countless prominent American liberals are too, chief among them the widely beloved Barack Obama. Contemporary America doesn’t look like Nazi Germany for the simple reason that it isn’t Nazi Germany (J. Sakai argues that “Settlerism filled the space that fascism normally occupies”). What the Democrats offer is a slightly more “woke fascism,” in which the slave-owning settlers are remade in entertainment media as cool black guys, with all the “problematic” racist history elided via a harmonious multi-ethnic makeover. It’s worth noting that Donald Trump makes overtures to the same woke fascism as Obama and Clinton: after the Pulse nightclub massacre, Trump promised to defend “the LGBTQ community” from foreign attackers. In other words, Trump and Clinton alike promise a typically colonialist defense of liberal values like gay rights from the swarthy hordes.
So color me unim-fucking-pressed that now that a blatantly villainous Republican is headed for the White House, everyone is talking about a united front against fascism. Of course, given that the vast majority of the newly radicalized loved and still love the child-murdering white supremacist Barack Obama, what we’re talking about is a just another united front against the GOP.
I know it’s ancient history to be talking about the Bush years, just like it’s hopelessly passé to unironically talk about “imperialism” in 2016, but please indulge me. I remember back when George W. Bush was president, torturing people around the world, “shredding the Constitution,” attacking Iraq and Afghanistan and threatening Iran with nukes. At the time, it was pretty common, even popular and fashionable, to call the president a fascist. Even on TV! Everyone who wasn’t a Republican was radical: it seemed like Democrats and communists alike could gripe over everything from a stolen Florida election to the invasion of Iraq.
Then sometime around 2007, a neoliberal and fundamentally conservative mediocrity named Barack Obama showed up, and while he made a lot of noise about how different he was, there was almost nothing of substance to back it up. Once he was president, all the stuff that was proof of George W.’s fascism became a trifling issue, a simple mistake, or a regrettable necessity when Obama did it. As Obama continued George Bush’s legacy, and as Dick Cheney came out in support of Hillary Clinton, liberals stopped thinking of the Bush administration as a fascist criminal enterprise and started seeing it through Sorkin-colored glasses, with a George Bush-Michelle Obama hug at the twilight of the Obama presidency marking the decisive transition.
So I actually remember how this went down the last time the mainstream was this comfortable talking about fascism—although the chorus was never this deafening. I remember that all the liberals quieted down about fascism when their guy was doing it. So did a lot of the radicals, to the eternal shame and discredit of those absolute frauds. As the popular Democrat Obama brought hell to millions with the brazenness of a Duce, calling the president a fascist went back to the fringes, where it had been, and where it will be again once it’s no longer politically expedient for people at the top to have us raising hell against Trump. I know exactly how this goes, since it all happened before, and not very long ago, either. And just like with Obama, whose coronation was a sort of inversion of this, I remember that anyone who’s remotely skeptical of this obviously elite-approved narrative will get dismissed as a crank or a spoilsport.
However, maybe for now we could have some perspective. I know he’s popular and cool, but Obama’s been in office nearly a full eight years. Maybe these last 70 days, the radicals now hyperventilating over Trump could develop some idea of what Obama’s actually been doing this entire time?
And if the still-uncompromising black revolutionary and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal can say “If Trump is the price we have to pay to defeat Clintonian neoliberalism–so be it,” then maybe some of the liberals still dry-heaving can pull themselves together and learn a single thing about what America and the world are really like outside their privileged little bubbles? I mean, I know how fond these people are of pretending that they’re the only adults in the room, the only people using their inside voices. Maybe they could try to be as smart as Trevor Noah keeps telling them they are.
In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and be skeptical about all the no pasarán shit that cropped up the instant Hillary lost. Maybe if the inspiring new Credulous Dipshit Brigades could name a single fucking instance of fascism that’s not practiced by Obama, then this whole thing wouldn’t look like such an obviously astroturfed, color-revolutiony scam.
What I know for sure is that any radicals who end up calling liberals comrade in the coming weeks are allying themselves with people who want a more violent, more genocidal, and ultimately more fascist president. Almost every liberal complaint includes references to Donald Trump weakening NATO, as though that wouldn’t be one of the most progressive developments for the good of humanity. This is where liberals give themselves away: just like they wanted Obama to restore America’s reputation after Bush so it could be the most effective fortress of capitalism, they trust Clinton to be a more capable imperial steward than Trump. If you find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with liberals at the barricades, know that your allies are fighting on behalf of American fascism, if the word means what we keep hearing it does.
And if you think Trump is more evil than Obama or Hillary Clinton, you’re ignorant as fuck and you’re a liberal.