America First: Echoes of 20th Century Fascism in the 21st Century

Accusations of fascism in the mainstream media have long been associated with conspiracy theorists; dismissed as fever dreams of the marginal and unhinged. Western

However, as we near the three month mark of Donald Trump’s presidency we must ask ourselves, at what point will it be acknowledged that his leadership has put America on the brink of fascism?

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Source: V Magazine

There are many facets of Trump’s administration and leadership that raise concerns. His utter dismissal of the truth and love for ‘alternative facts’ certainly draw parallels to many a dystopian novel. His appointees to cabinet positions and heads of administrations have raised suspicions of corruption and nepotism. His urgency to systematically repeal many of Obama’s initiatives regarding human rights and health care reveal his lack of compassion for his own citizens. Trump’s priorities as demonstrated by his budget proposal indicate that he is more interested in a military state than a peace-building one. And his America First agenda threatens to destabilize global politics through isolationist policies.

It is not un-noteworthy that ‘America First’ was the name of the anti-Semitic, isolationist, fascist committee which was established in the 1940’s and was a part of a larger fascist movement in the US. This was a movement that sympathized with Nazis and gave rise to the Friends of New Germany which held an enormous 22,000 person rally in Madison Square Garden with banners reading ‘Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans’ and swastikas flanking an enormous portrait of George Washington. Using the same slogan may have been a coincidence, but the modern policies written under the umbrella of America First certainly echo the fascist ideologies of the 1930’s and 40’s.

The extreme nationalism America First promotes is a central tenet of fascism. Unlike communism, fascism does not strive to transcend national and ethnic boundaries, but draws hard lines around its members through policies of exclusion and domination. This is why each fascist government has individualized their symbolism. Obviously, Trump’s administration isn’t foolish enough to emblazon anything with a swastika, but the Make America Great Again hats serve well enough.

In light of the wall to be built on the Mexican border and the proposed bans against immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, it is clear that through the America First policies Trump defines America through exclusion of others rather than a shared identity of Americans. Domestically, the actions he has taken to strip certain sectors of the American population of recently won rights illustrate that even within the legal definitions of American citizenship there are people he does not believe to be ‘American.’ ‘Make America Great Again’ should be amended to ‘Make America Great Again for White, Upper-Class, Cis-Gendered Men.’

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Source: Bangor Daily News

In light of his isolationist policies and how he has diplomatically blundered several relations with allies, it is no wonder that Trump has proposed to increase the military’s budget by $54 billion. This bump would require cutting funding to important domestic programs in the areas of education, health, and welfare. While Trump championed lower-class Americans during his campaign, it is clear that he is throwing them under the bus as President in favour of creating an even stronger military state. Many have asked, ‘If we destroy our domestic programming, what will the military have to defend?’ The isolationist policies and increase in military spending feed into each other, creating a positive feedback loop and only serve to hurt the Americans he is claiming to protect.

We also shouldn’t ignore how Trump is grabbing power by appointing special-interest holders to top government positions. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s confirmed pick for the Secretary of Education, believes Historically Black Colleges were pioneers in the arena of school choice rather than a necessity created by segregation and thinks guns should be allowed in school to protect students against bear attacks. Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon and a man with ties to Russia, was confirmed as Secretary of State. Scott Pruitt, who, during his time as Attorney General of Oklahoma, dissolved the Environmental Protection Unit and has sued the Environmental Protection Agency

13 times, was confirmed as Secretary of the EPA. Each of these candidates, plus many others, are not only unqualified for the positions they are currently serving, but have interests in direct competition to their responsibilities. Additionally, Trump has threatened to fire anyone he has appointed if they question any of his orders. These appointments and threats have helped him to put together an administration that will act in one single interest: Trump’s.

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Source: Illustration by Kiv Bui sundial.csun.edu

The America First agenda, Mexican wall, and proposed Muslim bans are turning America towards isolationism. The repeal of many Obama administration initiatives relegate several sectors of the American population to secondary citizens. Cuts to domestic spending and increases in the military budget herald the rise of the American military state. The appointment of special interest holders to top political positions indicates that Trump is hoping to consolidate power. Extreme nationalism, isolationism, exclusion, militarism, and the centralization of power all indicate a disturbing possibility that America really is on the brink of fascism.

 Louise Smith

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