America is at a fascist turning point - and only totally disempowering and humiliating Trump will stop it

Thom plus logo Will our leaders and media have the courage to do it?

If Trump isn't exposed as a weakling fraud, our country dies.

Battle lines are now drawn in neighborhoods, workplaces, and even families, as longtime relationships are torn apart over loyalty to America's strongman fascist leader, Donald Trump.

The main key to fascism, the one element that shows up in fascist takeovers worldwide and has for a century, is the emergence of a strongman leader who uses age-old aspects of toxic masculinity to draw in and hold his mostly-male followers.

While the ground is typically laid by an economic crisis and political power vacuums, the strongman and his masculinity-based rhetoric and actions are key to the movement really taking off.

Whether it's the fascism of the 1930s with its well-remembered Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, or the fascism of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Bin Salman or Donald Trump, the key that turns on the takeover is a strongman leader who promotes a macho values set and remaking of society in a brutal and predictable way.

When we think of authoritarians, we typically think of men like just mentioned. But the majority of authoritarian-leaning people in society aren't authoritarian leaders, they're authoritarian followers. Science says they're about 20 percent of any population.

While such followers may project their authority and compensatory "strength" by brutalizing their families or, when given legal authority like joining a police force or running a business, brutalizing their community or employees, at their core they're longing for an authoritarian leader they can follow in the way the knights of legend swore "loyalty to the death" to King Arthur.

The attraction to the strongman comes from his projection of masculinity, which draws authoritarian follower-types like a magnet, usually demonstrated by his willingness to break laws and norms in the service of his power and his claimed (and usually simplistic) "solutions to the problems of society." Misogyny is also always featured in fascistic authoritarian regimes.

While this behavior is typically seen as antisocial and/or criminal and shunned when done by politicians and "normal people," when a political strongman does it, it actually enhances his power and his followers' devotion.

The world sees this today with fascist leaders like President Rodrigo Duterte of The Philippines, who publicly ordered his police squads to execute drug dealers on the streets and in their homes with a bullet to the head, without even arrest or trial, leading to the over 10,000 drug-user murders that he frequently brags about.

Last week Duterte played the most naked of the strongman cards when he said that women, who he often refers to as "bitches," are incapable of serving in leadership positions. "You know, the emotional setup of a woman and a man is totally different," he said on January 14th. Having a woman as a leader, he added, "[W]ill drive you nuts. This is the sad story."

It was his version of Trump talking about women bleeding (being weak) whether it was Megyn Kelly or Mika Brzezinski. It's classic fascist strongman behavior.

From Bolsonaro to Erdoğan to Putin to Xi to Orban, imprisoning or killing political opponents or "bad people" - brutality - confirms the strength of fascist leaders to their followers. Such illegal and extra-judicial behaviors actually strengthen the loyalty of their authoritarian follower base.

Trump putting thousands of refugee children into cages and executing more federal prisoners - most black - than any administration in the past 120 years is another homegrown example. He's also repeatedly and regularly called for violence at his rallies, dating back to 2015, and frequently praises those who use or threaten to use illegal violence (including "his" police), even offering to pay their legal fees.

The strongman authoritarian fascist leader appeals mostly to men, who hold the majority of economic and political power in society, and to those fewer women who've been acculturated to submit to strong male figures. We see this clear pattern repeated over and over in the stories of the men and women arrested for the attempted murder of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi during the failed coup of January 6th.

Even in poor communities - or particularly in poorer communities - while men don't have the kind of political and economic power one normally thinks of when considering national politics, authoritarian-type men play the role of lords of their manors, and sometimes become the men who dominate - or at least cower - their own communities.

When Trump emerged as the nation's uber-authoritarian, the alpha dog of national politics, the one man who was "brave" enough to openly express their rage at "others," they jumped at the chance to fall into line.

So here we are at a turning point in America's most recent experience with authoritarian fascism. (I outline the three other times in American history parallel to now in my new book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.)

Weapons manufacturers funneled millions through their front organization, the NRA, appealing to insecure authoritarian-follower white men and making billions in profits, while leaving America today filled with millions of weapons that every other developed country in the world legally confine exclusively to their military.

Men desperate for money or fame built and promote propaganda-based radio and TV shows and networks featuring authoritarian hosts and commentators, further cementing the certainty and loyalty of Trump's authoritarian-follower base. As Hitler noted, when the Big Lie (in this case "voter fraud") is repeated often enough, it's eventually believed by a critical mass of the people.

History shows that when an authoritarian leader is not utterly crushed, exposed as a failure and a fraud, and stripped of his mantle and patina of masculinity and strength, his movement will grow. Hitler, for example, came out of prison in the late 1920s stronger than when he went in.

Instead of exposing Hitler as a failed wannabe artist, grifter and small-time hustler using his charisma and oratory skills to lie to the German people, the administration of that day let his Big Lie of how Jews and Communists had "stabbed the German people in the back" by prematurely ending the winnable World War I persist, fester and spread.

Like a weed - or a cancer - it soon infected a majority of the German people, and once that happened the genocide and war Hitler perpetrated was all but inevitable.

Fascists within the Republican Party are already working to consolidate power in 2024 with authoritarian leaders like Cruz, Hawley and Cotton, and are supported by a small number of hardcore rightwing billionaires and foreign strongman fascist regimes.

By not repudiating Trump's Big Lie that "voter fraud" committed by Black people in America's big cities stole the election from him, these politicians and media outlets amplify and strengthen his appeal to his white authoritarian followers.

The future of Trump's modern American fascist movement is now largely in the hands of the Biden Administration, the CEO of Facebook, and the mainstream American news media.

If they continue to soft-pedal the vicious behavior of Trump's toady officials, to pretend that Trump has been pushed into obscurity, and to push the narrative that "it's just a few crazies," they will leave Trump in charge of his movement, just like when Hitler emerged from prison in 1924.

If he essentially gets off with a slap on the wrist, today's American fascist movement will grow just like it did in Germany, and, in modern times, in more than a dozen countries around the world.

And that could well signal the end of the American experiment. The stakes have never been higher.

-Thom

Originally posted on thomhartmann.medium.com .

Comments

deepspace's picture
deepspace 5 weeks 4 days ago
#1

Hopefully, knock on wood, none of the following is a correct analysis, but...

McConnell knows that if Democrats don't succeed in holding Trump and Republicans responsible for the "Big Lie" and the insurrection, and if they don't succeed in persuading average working people that the Democratic Party is better for families and the economy, then they will lose the Senate and the House in two years and the presidency in four. Even now, after four years of loudly broadcasted, in-your-face fascism, the good guys are barely hanging on to power by a thread.

Therefore, McConnell is once again playing rope-a-dope with Schumer, this time by dangling the possibility of convicting Trump of the Article of Impeachment sent from the House -- if the filibuster is preserved in Senate rules. It's the quintessential Faustian bargain.

McConnell is a master at abusing the filibuster; so if it's preserved, he can block critical legislation Democrats need to help the American people. With the formidable right-wing spin/lie machine at his back, he can then convince just enough voters that they should vote Republican in the next elections if they want to get anything done. And of course, the Democrats suck at messaging.

You can bet that once the filibuster rule is established for this session, he won't bother to whip the votes to convict Trump, which means that the only way to hold him and his cronies accountable will be to drag it out in the courts for years, distracting and detracting from Democrats' people-friendly agenda. Not surprisingly, McConnell wins on both key issues.

Two years is a very short time to play this Game of Thrones but a very long time to maintain the attention span of average Americans. Raise your hand if you trust Schumer to play hardball effectively against Mitch the Bitch. Chucky's heart may be in the right place, but his track record ain't exactly inspiring.

Meanwhile, as always, any attempt at solving the big issues falls by the wayside, playing into the hands of the bad guys: fossil fuel as our principal source of energy and ever-increasing climate destruction; militarism and endless war for profit; the rich growing richer and the poor growing poorer; racial inequality and inequity; authoritarian police brutality and violent confrontations; substandard K-12 public education; unaffordable higher education; unaffordable healthcare; right-wing extremism; religious extremism; the fall of democracy and the rise of fascism...

Legend 5 weeks 4 days ago
#2

Right now it is important to get Bills on the floor and require a vote. Mitch has gotten away with not bringing bills to a vote. We need to see the Republicans vote against HR1. Only then will Americans see Republicans voting against something that they believe in. Americans cannot seem to grasp the over 300 bills have never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

We also need to sell ourselves. Biden has done a lot with just a few days in office. But nobody sells it. Trump was bragging about the worlds largest inauguration the first week. Then playing golf. He spent 4 years selling himself and doing nothing good.

cuz's picture
cuz 5 weeks 4 days ago
#3

Thom, President Trump still living rent free in your head? Trying to understand your fixation with the past is like trying to smell the color nine.

lt is long past time to let go and move on to our new administration's decisions.

The sun is up, life is good.

Legend 5 weeks 4 days ago
#4

Repetitive.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 5 weeks 4 days ago
#5

Naive.

vetinla's picture
vetinla 5 weeks 4 days ago
#6

@ cuz, yes,let's all just move on and forget about the criminal/ grifter who's crapped on this nation for 4 yrs, and enriched himself and his family at taxpayers expencse.

Not to worry, he'll skate.....

Thom -Talk 5 weeks 3 days ago
#7

I agree. as The Lincoln Project said "“The House should immediately impeach Donald Trump for directing and provoking this attack. The United States Senate should immediately vote to convict and remove him from office. Any Member of Congress who refuses to do so should be considered a co-conspirator.”

I will not accept the lack of punishment for all involved. Why should any citizen follow the laws, if others, who are more dangerous, are allowed to go free? We do not want a lawless country - do we?

Not hate, but demanding justice is not wrong.

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