President Donald Trump is the leader of a national fascist movement, and yesterday, his movement attempted to violently reject democracy in his name and in the name of this country, which they believe belongs to them. A years-long alliance with more traditional Republicans fostered its power, and on Wednesday, that movement again showed its force — a naked, terrifying display of fascist insurrection in the halls of Congress not unlike what we saw in Charlottesville, Portland, or Kenosha.
Many of those at the Capitol apparently came from a rally the president hosted near the White House earlier in the day. It is difficult to imagine a more textbook definition of fascism than a deceitful, delusional authoritarian agitating his forces outside his palace, goading them into attacking the execution of a democratic process.
Historically in the U.S., white nationalism has been enacted both by mobs and by laws; on January 6, these forces collided, putting the fascist movement Trump has built (with the Republican Party’s help) on full display. The fascist elements of this country we saw yesterday are America. From the impunity with which they operated to the tenets of their beliefs, they are an embodiment of a racist, slaving, land-stealing, immigrant-hating, settler-colonial empire built for white people to manifest a destiny rooted in supremacy.
When Trump was made the 2016 presidential nominee, it became clear that the Republican Party was willing to make a deal with him. The capacity to activate voters he displayed in the primary process, they apparently decided, was powerful enough that they’d allow him to say out loud many of the things they traditionally signaled only through convoluted layers of policy and rhetoric.
And, through eloquent speeches, prominent members of the GOP were prepared to carry out a futile attempt at a parliamentary coup yesterday before they were interrupted by the other coup attempt in the building. This is the result of the compromise they made, and this was always in the terms of the deal. In exchange for winning the White House and all that came with it, the Republican Party establishment empowered a fascist despot who has endangered this entire nation for four years, and a man who happens to pose a serious risk to their own existing power structure, as he has no loyalty to them. Yesterday, the fascist movement Republicans have let carry them to electoral success turned on them.
But fascism isn’t limited to this type of violent insurrection. When we think of fascism, the first name that might jump to mind is Adolf Hitler. Hitler didn’t build Nazi Germany in a day. Benito Mussolini’s rise in Italy helped set the stage for Hitler and gave us the word “fascism,” but Hitler also looked for inspiration in a notoriously racist nation: the United States of America.
Thanks to scholars like James Q. Whitman, we know the tactics Hitler used to legislate his attacks against Jews were influenced by existing laws and regulations in the United States, which for centuries has built a racially charged legal regime codifying white supremacy — the same apparatus many of us protested this past summer. As Time magazine explains, the United States was the world leader in race-based laws in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Nazis drew on that work. In this sense, the tenants of fascism existed in the United States before the ideology that united these elements even had a proper name in Europe.