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Peter Dreier is a professor of politics at Occidental College in California.
In this article, he analyzes Trump’s inaugural speech and points out the language and ideas of fascism.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said. By branding his message “America First,” Trump was echoing and invoking a motto of the isolationist, anti-Semitic crusade in the 1930s that wanted the United States to appease Hitler.
“Indeed, Trump’s entire speech was a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland crazy quilt of words that meant the exactly opposite of what was expressed. It was an angry rant, reflecting the personality traits of an insecure bully: narcissistic, thin-skinned, revengeful, and impulsive, lacking empathy or humility.
“Fascists claim to speak for “the people,” while pursuing policies that overwhelmingly benefit a handful of the favored – families, cronies, corporations, and loyalists.
“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, “ Trump said today, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Later, he proclaimed: “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”
“Like other fascists, Trump claimed to speak for the “forgotten men and women,” whose voice has been ignored, whose job has been exported, whose neighborhood is unsafe, whose living standard has declined.
“Fascists always attack current politicians while claiming the mantle of “the people.”
“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action,” Trump said today, using the same words he used several days earlier to defame Cong. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who, unlike Trump, put his body on the line countless times to make America a more humane and inclusive society.
“Fascists seek to unite the country behind a smokescreen of patriotism while scapegoating the weak and powerless.
“We are one nation, and their pain is our pain,” Trump said. “We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.”
“But his speech was a series of deflections away from the core problem facing the United States: the growing power of a tiny wealthy elite – sometimes called the “1%” but in reality the .001% — over our economy and politics.
“Trump has populated his Cabinet and top advisors with some of America’s wealthiest and greediest people, corporate robber barons, militarist zealots, Wall Street titans, right-wing conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and racists, some of them (like Trump) born wealth but who have demonstrated no inclination for public service or even noblesse oblige.
“To deflect attention away from the super-rich, Trump – like fascists throughout history – points his fingers at and scapegoats others. In today’s speech, he avoided explicit reference to Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China, Hollywood, the media, unions, and Jews – groups he castigated throughout the campaign. But his address included many dog whistles that his core supporters understand.
“We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own,” was Trump’s dog whistle to America’s white supremacist “alt right” movement, who want to deport undocumented immigrants while eliminating the social safety net from those who live here and contribute to our society.
“Trump personifies the worst aspects of corrupt crony capitalism. He inherited his father’s real estate empire, made possible by federal government housing subsidies. He has curried favor with Democratic and Republican politicians at the local, state and national level by contributing millions of dollars in campaign donations. He has abused the nation’s bankruptcy and tax laws to avoid his responsibility to his lenders, employees, business partners, and the country as a whole.
“In his address, Trump pledged that “We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” But Trump has used undocumented immigrants to construct his glitzy apartment buildings and hotels. Most of the ties, suits, shirts, and other clothing items sold as part of the Donald J. Trump Collection are made in overseas sweatshops. Even the “Make America Great” caps worn by Trump supporters at the inauguration event, were made in China!
“Like fascists everywhere, Trump’s speech included a list of troubles he intends to fix, without pointing out that they were caused by the policies, people, and principles he embraces.”