As I’ve said, an armed Trumpster Volunteer Force has so far failed to materialize, and historians interviewed by Peter Bergen of CNN agree that the absence of a movement akin to the black shirts, the brown shirts, or the Minute Men from Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here prevents them them from labeling Donald Trump a fascist:
In Paxton’s checklist of the foundational traits of fascism there is a big one that Trump does not share, which is “the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will when they are devoted to the group’s success.”
There was a “moralistic violence” at the heart of fascism, according to historian Stanley Payne. “[I]t relied on activist cadres ready for violent action combined with electoral participation to gain power with totalitarian goals by a combination of legal and violent tactics,” according to sociologist Juan Lunz. “Paramilitarism was both a key value and the key organizational form of fascism… Violence was the key to the “radicalism” of fascism. They overturned legal forms by killings.” This is Michael Mann, whose Fascists is my source for these quotes.
One is therefore left with the conclusion that Trump is a proto-fascist, rather than an actual fascist. In other words, he has many ideas that are fascistic in nature, but he is not proposing violence as a way of implementing those ideas.
One thinks of Gore Vidal labeling William F. Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” (later on, Vidal said he’d meant to say “crypto-Fascist” but his tongue slipped). Buckley’s admiration for General Franco and support for apartheid placed him side by side with fascist sympathizers. In the 1980s, he proposed branding HIV-positive gays on the buttocks, showing a certain affinity for the Nazi style of doing things.
But Trump? Fascism requires a combination of ideas, action and style. There are plenty of ways to be nasty without being fascist.