The appointment of Stephen Bannon, head of "alt-right" (read: white nationalist) website Breitbart News, as Trump's senior counselor removes any doubt about the new order that awaits the United States. All those who seek to reassure us that Trump will moderate once in office point to his appointment of GOP chairman Reince Priebus, longtime pillar of the party's establishment, as his chief of staff. They are reading it precisely backwards. This does not represent Trump tilting to the establishment. It represents the Republican establishment embracing open fascism. This is the same Bannon who in a 2014 e-mail to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership: "Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that's the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty." Hate has now won, and the Republican leadership has utterly folded to it. Any other reading is merely an illustration of Oscar Wilde's maxim: "The basis of optimism is sheer terror."
The Republicans have long used code-words ("welfare cheat," "tough on crime") to mask their racism, but at Bannon's Breitbart, the mask is off. For instance, as the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, they ran a headline glorifying the Confederate flag and urging their followers to "hoist it high and fly it with pride"—just weeks after the Charleston massacre.
Bannon's headline calling neocon Bill Kristol a "Renegade Jew" has won the most attention, but his actual intent was bait Kristol as a traitor to the Jews for not supporting Trump: "To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven." The Jewish establishment is divided, with the Anti-Defamation League nearly alone in decrying Bannon, and the Zionist Organization of America coming to his defense. We will now see how much overt Nazism conservative Jews and Zionists will be able to stomach in exchange for an aggressively pro-Israel position.
The Hill reports that David Duke and the American Nazi Party have issued statements hailing the appointment of Bannon. The LA Times notes that a local Klan chapter in North Carolina has announced a Trump victory rally, and declared that TRUMP henceforth stands for "Trump's Race United my People."
The neo-Confederate League of the South issued an election day statement vowing to "drive a stake" through the heart of "the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites." (DeadState) Richard Spencer, the man credited with coining the "alt-right" euphemism (and whose Radix journal runs crap dissing MLK as the "God of White Dispossession") hailed Trump as "energizing" white nationalists. "He's fighting for us. He's saying we're going to be great again… And there's this implicit identity to this. There's this implicit nationalism… I think implicit in what Donald Trump is doing is a conception of America as a European country." (Daily News)
Andrew Anglin of Daily Stormer boasted: "Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor. Make no mistake about it: we did this." And he astutely read the politics behind the appointments: "I probably would have preferred Bannon as chief-of-staff and Priebus as press secretary. But apparently Trump views Reince as a Washington insider who is also loyal to him and can be a go-between between the administration and the old GOP establishment. And I think he knows what he's doing here." He added: "The kike media is now portraying Trump as a cuck who is going back on everything, even though he has gone back on nothing.” (The Independent) Earlier, he also gloated: "Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected—and he's happy about it. This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man."
In the week since election night, a wave of hate crimes has swept the nation. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has opened investigations into two incidents. First, a huge swastika was painted on the side of a softball dugout in Wellsville with the words "MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN." Then, a swastika with the word "TRUMP" appeared on a wall at the SUNY Geneseo campus. (WGRZ Buffalo News) In Massachusetts, racist slogans appeared on a hilltop outcropping overlooking Easthampton, including "FUCK BLACK LIVES MATTER," 'BUILD THE WALL," "GAS THE JEWS" and (of course) "TRUMP." (MassLive, MassLive) On the night after election day—which was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht—swastikas and the words "SIEG HEIL" and "TRUMP" were painted on store windows in South Philadelphia. (PhillyMag) In Pennsylvania's Southern Lehigh High School, there was an outburst of white kids making the Hitler salute and hurling racist and anti-gay slurs on their fellow students. Black kids were called "nigger" and "cotton-picker." (Lehigh Valley Live) A Twitter user in Pittsburgh, Calif, posted a photo from his neighborhood of a nice suburban home displaying a huge banner reading: "YOU CAN HANG A NIGGER FROM A TREE; EQUAL RIGHTS HE'LL NEVER SEE."
This is just a small sampling. BBC all too cautiously asked Nov. 11: "Are hate crimes spiking after Trump's victory?" That same day, The Independent flatly called it: "Donald Trump's victory followed by wave of hate crime attacks against minorities across US—led by his supporters." Incidents are cited from California to Kansas in whicn Muslim women wearing the hijab were assaulted by men declaring their support for Trump. A litany of several more such incidents is provded by BuzzFeed—including flyers posted in bathrooms across Texas State University calling for "university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage" to be "tarred and feathered." USA Today cites the Southern Poverty Law Center saying the post-election spate of hate crimes is "worse than post-9-11."
Trump's media-prompted and perfunctory call for his supporters to "Stop it"—like his lukewarm disavowals of Klan support—is transparently disingenuous. He is throwing his base a wink. The feint to the center is aimed at lulling the liberals into a false sense of security, and assuring the continued cooperation of the Obama White House in the transition. Once Trump actually takes power, this facade will be dropped like the proverbial hot potato. With all three branches of government under his effective control, there will be no restraints on his power. The Priebus appointment indicates that the Republicans who control both houses of Congress will come into line. And Trump will promptly appoint the deciding vote on the Supreme Court. Everything will be in place for the establishment of a dictatorship.
Fascism is not always an easy phenomenon to define, but we've noted that the essential ingredients are amply displayed in the Trump phenomenon: ugly ultra-nationalism that seeks to correct perceived humiliation, xenophobia and demonization of the Other, and (of course) exaltation of the great leader. The first of these is perfectly summed up in the slogan "Make American Great Again"—often openly interpreted by his followers as "Make America White Again." To these we can add fetishization of violence and contempt for democracy. We can add an enthusiasm for military aggression, populism tinged with anti-Semitism, and rank anti-intellectualism. These constitute the basic sine qua non. And none of them are missing.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is promoting a petition calling on Trump to dump Bannon. We fear there is a danger in appealing to Trump for anything. This legitimizes him, and contributes to the normalization of fascism. He needs to be opposed outright, and the legitimacy of his presidency rejected.