Is Donald Trump really a 'fascist?'

Some in the GOP are beginning to use the term – evocative of the dictatorships of World War II – to describe the billionaire presidential hopeful.

Brian Snyder/Reuters/File
Donald Trump, pictured in Derry, N.H. Aug. 19, has supported reintroducing waterboarding of terror suspects, putting mosques under surveillance, and requiring Muslims to register in a database. Pictured in Derry, New Hampshire, Aug. 19.

Is Donald Trump really “fascist”?

That’s the (loaded) word some in the GOP are beginning to use to describe the billionaire presidential hopeful. It seems his recent nativist statements – including his apparent endorsement of a national registry for Muslims in the US, and support for the surveillance of mosques – have pushed Republicans who think Trump is unelectable over the edge.

CNN has a rundown of those who’ve used this “f” word in a Trumpian context. They include prominent national security conservative Max Boot; Jeb Bush adviser John Noonan; and right-leaning Iowa radio host Steve Deace, among others.

A fellow Republican candidate, albeit a minor one, has gone there, too. Trump’s idea of a deportation force to hunt and expel undocumented immigrants in the US amounts to “fascist talk,” said former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore last Friday.

It’s extraordinary, really – a word evocative of the terrible dictatorships of World War II linked with the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Generally speaking, fascism occurs when a complete dictator eradicates democratic opposition.

CNN takes the comparison seriously enough to ask experts in fascism what they think. The general conclusion: no, Trump’s not a fascist per se, but he does seem to have an “authoritarian sensibility.”

In other words, some of that stuff he’s pushing might not be constitutional, strictly speaking.

But will that matter? That’s the subtext of these charges. The GOP horse race has turned the corner and is heading toward the beginning of actual voting in just over 60 days. Many anti-Trump Republicans may be starting to panic. They thought he would fade by now. He hasn’t.

It appears as if the reality show star/real estate magnate can say anything without losing supporters.

In recent days Trump has insisted, against considerable evidence otherwise, that thousands of Muslims celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers on New Jersey roofs on 9/11. He’s watched dispassionately while supporters beat an African-American protester at one of his rallies. He’s retweeted false numbers, originally linked to a white supremacist group, that claim blacks are responsible for the vast majority of murders of both blacks and whites in the US. He’s called for the re-imposition of water boarding, because even if this harsh interrogation technique doesn’t work, terror suspects “deserve it anyway.”

Remember when Trump was going to collapse because he said former POW John McCain wasn’t a war hero, because he’d been captured? That was a long time ago. Yet Trump is still the frontrunner, leading the field by almost eight percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys.

That’s why GOP opponents have turned the dial up to “stun.” But it’s certainly possible the fascism card won’t work either.

“And how about the suggestion that Trump is a fascist dictator in the making? Good luck with that,” writes The Atlantic’s David Frum.

Trump dominates the issue of illegal immigration, according to Mr. Frum. To his supporters – generally lower-income, less-educated voters – he looks strong, while the rest of the party has seemed naive and weak.

The “fascist” charge will have no more effect. Plus, conservative media outlets have long insisted that fascism was the purview of meddling, big-government-loving leftists.

“By definition, therefore, Trump can’t be a fascist – and anybody who says otherwise is probably a covert liberal himself or herself,” writes Frum.

Frum believes the best way to attack Trump is via his strength – portray him as a late-comer to the immigration issue, somebody whose building projects employ lots of undocumented workers and who supported “amnesty” himself not that long ago.

It may be that Trump’s core support of 25 to 30 percent of Republican voters is rock-solid, however. In that case, the GOP opposition may be just trying to ensure he does not gain supporters beyond his base in early-voting states.

“For six months, the plan was to destroy his support by waving him off as a boorish joke and waiting for him to ‘gaffe’ himself out of the race. The strategy now, apparently, is to simply contain him,” writes Allahpundit at the right-leaning Hot Air.

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