Is Donald Trump running as a fascist?: The former president, who has a huge lead for the Republican presidential nomination, has been making some worrying pronouncements on the campaign trail
What to Make of Donald Trump?
Donald Trump, in his push to return to the presidency, is promising something never before seen in politics: A presidency driven primarily by spite and revenge.
Trump had not just implied that he would spend another term prosecuting his political rivals and others by using the machinery of government to strike back at his enemies.
Sure, “Lock her up” was chanted at Trump rallies in 2016, in reference to his opponent Hillary Clinton. But Trump has frequently talked about directly punishing those who have crossed him.
“He’ll start throwing people in jail, and I’d be on the top of the list,” Gen. Mark Milley, who recently retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Atlantic recently.
It is also taken as a given that President Biden, or other top Democrats, have personally ordered all of Trump’s current prosecutions — even the ones at the state level — and that Trump must retaliate by ordering prosecutions against his own rivals. It’s gotten to the point where Trump’s supporters are beginning to expect or even demand, such moves.
“Trump has shown and talked about weaponizing the Justice Department to retaliate against people who he perceives as his enemies and he did, in fact, do that to people when he was president the first time,” Kristy Parker, a legal counsel at Protect Democracy, told The Hill.
Now, one TV news host is asking whether it’s time to use the word “fascism” to describe what Trump is doing.
Mehdi Hasan, an MSNBC host, wrote in a commentary this week that “it’s time for us to finally have a proper conversation” about whether to use that word.
“We have been treated to a nearly three-year roller coaster of further evidence that Donald Trump is, in fact, the fascist candidate for U.S. president,” Hasan writes. Examples used by the host included what has been construed as a threat against Milley. In reaction to Milley speaking about having assured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. would not attack China in Trump’s last days in office, Trump called that move “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been death!”
(One Trump ally, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) went even further, declaring that “in a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting general Milley would be hung.”
Hasan also referenced Trump’s threats to the media, which he frequently engaged in during this first campaign and presidency, and has continued them while running again.
“NBC News, and in particular MSNBC … should be investigated for its ‘country threatening treason,’” Trump had said, later declaring that “when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized.”
It’s not clear exactly what Trump means by “thoroughly scrutinized.” He was not, in his first term, also to actively censor media, although he did try unsuccessfully to block the acquisition of Time Warner, then CNN’s parent company, by AT&T.
Hasan also denounced the ex-president’s “Trumpian extremism and incitement.” He compared Trump to the notorious mobster John Gotti — another New Yorker who was frequently on trial — in denouncing the tough language Trump often uses about judges and prosecutors in his criminal cases.
He also references the episode last week when Trump visited a gun store in South Carolina, and his campaign spokesman stated that Trump had purchased a special edition gun with his own likeness. Once it was pointed out that those under federal indictment, which Trump is, are not allowed to buy guns, the campaign backtracked and stated that Trump had not actually bought the firearm.
“Threatening generals with death, threatening to break up the free press, threatening the judicial system, visiting a gun shop that sold a racist mass killer one of his weapons, stirring up supporters to commit political violence,” Hasan writes. “If all of that doesn’t qualify him as the fascist’s choice for president, then what does?”
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.
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