Donald Trump and the “F” word

Yesterday I said this about Robert Kagan’s claim that Donald Trump will bring fascism to America:

It’s obvious to me that Trumpism contains an authoritarian streak. To equate it with fascism, or even with the authoritarianism implicit in the left-liberal agenda, is a different matter.

Michael Ledeen argues that Kagan has hurled the “F” word at Trump without a proper understanding of what it means. Kagan sees fascist movements as incoherent mobocracies led by strongmen. They have “no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society.”

In Kagan’s telling:

“National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Fuhrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation.

But, as Ledeen explains, “it’s fanciful to call Nazism a bundle of contradictions when, a decade before coming to power, it had a detailed diagnosis of what ailed Germany, and how to fix it.” Ledeen is referring, of course, to Mein Kampf, which provided the basis for the Third Reich.

Kagan’s view of fascism is far too broad. Ledeen points out that it encompasses Communists from Che to Mao. It would also extend, I think, to many a caudillo.

In addition, Kagan overlooks the revolutionary aspect of fascism:

Italian fascists claimed to be able to unleash the creative powers of a “new fascist man,” while the Nazis advocated the superiority of the Aryan race. Neither concept is to be found anywhere in Trumpism either in theory or practice.

I find aspects of Trumpism disturbing — enough so as to prevent me at this point from supporting him. But I agree with Ledeen that these aspects are not to be equated with fascism.

Whether Kagan used the “F” word out of ignorance, as Ledeen says, or to achieve maximum rhetorical bang, the charge is over-the-top.

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