Several years ago, Union College political science professor Clifford Brown said to me that the GOP had adopted the hard-ball style of southern politics, where winning is everything. I thought him right about the GOP, but was dubious about the potential they had for winning on a national level. Even worse, I don’t think I understood the implications very well.
But now what I call fascist dictatorship has progressed in the US and many other parts of the democratic world, such as Turkey, Hungary, Brazil, and Italy. I realize that classical fascism rejects democracy. But modern media has reduced the self-correcting power of democracy. Just look at the "spin" that the media has allowed Mr. Trump to put on the highly critical Mueller Report. Indeed, democracy has smoothed the way for fascists to gain power more easily and hold it more effectively. Voting provides legitimacy even when, as one person said of gerrymandering, the voters no longer choose their leaders; the leaders choose their voters.
If there’s no longer a contradiction between democracy and fascism, Trump scores pretty high on the fascism scale, as presented by historian John McNeill in a Washington Post editorial called “Grading the billionaire on the 11 attributes of fascism" at https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/10/21/how-fascist-is-donald-trump-theres-actually-a-formula-for-that/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.265a65f64a97
Moreover, with Trump’s deliberate casting of all Democrats as enemies of the US, and his mental instability, I increasingly see a resemblance to Hitler. Calling Trump another Hitler is hurling an epithet, I realize, and I wish I could avoid doing so. But the comparison is a warning of what may be be coming. There are obvious differences, of course: most importantly, he is neither a raging anti-semite nor interested in world conquest. But his overt and cruel hostility to minorities and immigrants certainly resembles anti-semitism, just with different scapegoats and less drastic consequences. His preference for policies that would reduce much of the citizenry to destitution while enriching (temporarily) his oligarchic supporters is, if also not as horrible as Hitler’s wars, likewise devastating to the nation he leads and much of the world outside.
We are seeing something else resembling Hitler’s history play out. Trump seems to have gained substantial support from business leaders and very wealthy families, as did Hitler, and like the Germans (and Russians for that matter) our oligarchs seem to have made the mistake of thinking they could “control” his worst excesses. Instead they are at his mercy, as witness his bullying of GM and other firms.
But Trump himself is simply one vile person. More dismaying to me is the total support that GOP leaders have given him. Their support is natural enough for people who prioritize "winning" over maintaining the norms and values of American civic life, but it means that if Trump uses illegal and brutal tactics to retain his Presidency, they will maintain their support--indeed, they will cheer him on. With the reaction to the Mueller Report now known, we can be certain that no moral sense and no Republican politician would now restrain Trump from using such tactics as voter suppression, ballot miscounting, internet scams, and perhaps even starting a war if he felt them necessary to winning.
Consequently, I think that one way or anther he bids fair to “win” re-election next year. The result will certainly be to stack the Supreme Court with his supporters, so that even if John Roberts votes against his power grabs and his disregards for the Constitution, they will stand. In addition, his victory would probably restore GOP dominance of the legislature, and with that the destruction of virtually all federal government capabilities apart from police and military units, with grevious consequences for our constitutional government and way of life as well as for most citizens personally. Elections would then continue to reflect extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression, only more so, with Democrats reduced to a vestigial opposition like Putin’s opposition in Russia. This matters mainly because then, the vast majority of citizens would find themselves helpless to restore prosperity or justice in their lives.
I fear that we will see, very soon, a first step in this direction. One emerging step is for the Trump Administration to simply ignore Congress, refuse to honor or enforce its subpoenas, and continue to govern without Congressional oversight, investigation, or approval of nominees. Another possibility is that since Trump has proposed extreme budget cuts to most social programs, the House can only reject them by shutting down the government, a step that would destroy Democrats' public support. The only alternative would be to agree to his budget (with trivial exceptions, of course) and that would also destroy their public standing.