We have at this point heard Donald Trump spew forth on every subject that has ever entered his head, and the boundaries of his personality can hardly be called mysterious. He is self-absorbed. He wallows in racism in private and in public. He is completely indifferent to what is legal and what is not, and infuriated by any suggestion that he should not be. And he really, really likes seeing violence done against his enemies. And everyone is his enemy.
Trump's speeches have become more overtly fascist in tone and theme in these last weeks. He is also repeatedly returning to a common theme: the glorification of "beautiful" violence against protesters and reporters. He has repeatedly singled out one reporter, MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi, smugly telling his rally crowds about Velshi being hit in the knee with "tear gas" (it was a rubber bullet). "Wasn't it really a beautiful sight? It's called law and order," was his telling of it last Friday.
Yesterday's Trump told yesterday's rally crowd much the same stories. Trump comes back to the theme again and again: Wasn't it "beautiful," he grinningly asks his devoted crowd of red-hat wearing supporters, to see Americans beaten, hit with tear gas, thrown aside, injured?
"They grabbed one guy, 'I'm a reporter! I’m a reporter!' Get out of here. They threw him aside like he was a little bag of popcorn. [Laughter] But no, I mean honestly, when you watch the crap that we’ve all had to take so long, when you see that, it's actually—you don’t want to do that—but when you see it, it’s actually a beautiful sight. [Laughter, applause] It's a beautiful sight."
It was an extended theme. Trump again (after an explanation of how protesters were using cans of tuna as "ammunition") referred specifically to the injury of Velshi. (Though once again he was misremembering both the network and weapon used.)
The glorification of "necessary" violence is, to repeat, a core fascist principle. The notion is that the law is no longer sufficient; a national "rebirth" requires purging the nation's enemies—the political opposition—by force. The mockery and celebration of and praise for violence behind the thin veneer of "you don't want to do that, but when you see it," is a political message: This is good. If you were to engage in this sort of behavior as well, you would be good. You would be praised. You could count on our support.
Trump is a fascist. His movement is fascist. The Republicans who support him, and who have supported him even as he violates laws, purges watchdogs, and manufactures "intelligence" against his enemies are fascists. He has embraced white nationalist and white supremacist policies, and adopted them. He readily claims to be above the nation's laws, and that his own allies are above the nation's laws when acting as his agents. He chafes at not being able to present the same tanks-and-missiles pageantry he sees in authoritarian nations, and continually presses his generals to provide it.
Trump is obsessively preoccupied with community decline, humiliation, and victimhood, while claiming he and his allies offer unity, energy, and purity, the leader of a party of committed nationalist militants working in collaboration with traditional elites, from McConnell to Mnuchin, demanding the abandonment of democratic liberties, urging redemptive violence, and with no ethical or legal restraints implementing goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
That's it. That's the definition of fascism. The substance of it. We have found yet another book Trump will someday find himself on the cover of.
Trump returning again and again to grinning praise of violence against Americans as the election draws closer is almost certain to have effects. A national leader celebrating these things is not the same as a local militia head bleating about them.
Trump's public insistence that protests be met with police violence—even if he had to spur the violence himself by commandeering a church when its leaders did not want him there—are how a random American teenager came home from a Trump rally to believe he could have his mom drive him to a protest against police violence, pick up a rifle, and act as personal agent of the law to intimidate, order, or if necessary kill Americans who he personally deemed a threat. He presumed, as did a mail bomber with Trump's face plastered across his white van and a series of white nationalist executioners entering buildings to commit the first murders in what they presume will become a "race war," that his political allies would celebrate his actions, copy them, and immunize him from their consequences.
When the nation's top leader is, in rally after rally, smiling in personal approval of past acts against his designated enemies, the message becomes deafening.