From Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness
By Alexander Reid Ross
First, the future
Fascists in the US today can agree on little more than the desire for a white ethnostate. Despite conjecture on Trump’s deep interests and desires, few indicators suggest that he would effect such a drastic transformation as that. However, it is the question of process that matters most.
There is truth to journalist Arun Gupta’s insistence that Trump’s program would lead to ethnic cleansing, which is why fascists have taken such a shine to him and why the ACLU has declared that they will “see him in court.” Trump has announced his plan to immediately deport as many as three million migrants from the US, and alt-right founder Richard Spencer, who has already associated Trump’s platform with “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” has called Trump’s presidency a “first step” toward a white ethnostate.
If one reviews the plans that Trump hopes to implement on his first hundred days in office, the glaring omissions may be the most important. First among these is the rights of women to their bodies — both in terms of reproductive rights and protection from sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, on city streets, and in relationships.
What stands out here is the cultural factor — the process through which the behaviors and attitudes of the ruling elite send signals to the public regarding what is acceptable — as well as the political factors tacit within legal rights to abortion and to protection from harassment and assault in the workplace. Reproductive control over women is seen by “race realists” as one of the primary ways of ensuring “racial purity,” but under a Trump/Pence agenda this would take place implicitly.
Among the members of Trump’s team who will have a say in the structuring of social dynamics is Peter Thiel, the top financier of the so-called neo-reaction, which mixes the elitism of fascists like Julius Evola and conservatives like Robert Carlyle with a kind of futurist, techno-fetishism assembled around the notion of right wing transhumanism. Thiel has shelled out for neo-reactionary Curtis Yarvin, who insists on a “neo-cameral” governmental system that would set up a CEO of the US, as well as Michael Anissimov, who once twitter harassed a female journalist, saying, among other things, “I just want to cut someone’s face and see their blood running down it and their crying in the meanwhile, LOL.”
Twitter harassment has been a mainstay of the neo-reaction, including GamerGate and the Sad Puppies movement that accompanied the SciFi Hugo Awards. Other neo-reactionaries, whose sadistic, dystopian elitism is deeply intertwined with white nationalism, include the video blogger RamZPaul, who appears regularly at “race realist” conference American Renaissance. This link with Trump should come as no surprise, given his attachment to Breitbart, which serves as a mainstream haven for white nationalism and neo-reaction.
Trumpism: Linking futurism to regression
Given this foundation in white nationalist futurism, there should be no surprise that Trump seeks to shred any small climate progress undertaken by previous administrations. Just as Trump once insisted he would turn the Republican Party into a workers’ party, workers are identified as the primary stakeholders in a new, aggressive economic drive to deregulate the energy industry. “I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal,” he insists, adding that he will “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”
Interestingly, Trump claims to fix environmental infrastructure while insisting on defunding UN climate research and programs wrought from the global Conference of Parties (COP) process that has accumulated more than twenty years of arduous negotiations. This fantastical notion that the environment can be delinked from the climate and “fixed” without regulating industry forms a clever ideological fulcrum to convince people who want to balance the economy with ecology. However, without formulating any visionary economic policies, simply ceding the environment to the corporations takes the US back to the so-called “Reagan revolution,” which fully embraced the reactionary gaggle of ranchers, loggers, and miners who fomented the “Sagebrush rebellion” of the late 70s and early 80s.
It is of consequence that the same far right elements have accrued around Trump’s candidacy. The implications are that Trump’s environmental agenda will reset the Republican agenda of “drill baby drill” and return to the early Reagan Administration’s Department of the Interior under James Watts, noted for stating, “If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.” In this way, like Reagan, Trump has fused futurist white nationalism with the atavistic illusion of traditional Americanism — ranchers on the old West, patriots, pioneersmen, and frontiersmen guided from the New York penthouse.
This kind of vast expansion of the extractive industries would only be possible through a sweeping transfer of public lands to private ownership — a demand that has just found its way to the Republican Party platform along with anti-GLBTQI language that GLAAD says makes it “the most hateful Republican Party platform in history.” Aside from giving the green light to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, Trump’s Republican Party that now holds the majority in Congress and the Senate hope to oversee one of the largest land grabs in US history — the effective elimination of the national forest system, wilderness areas, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and national parks. Obama was not an environmental president by any means; in fact, 2015 topped records for oil production in the US. However, Trump will only deepen the movement toward resource extraction and the devastation of what makes this place on Earth great.
Much of this direction hews to the Christian Reconstructionist philosophy that Mike Pence brings to the table. An incredibly powerful religious movement, Christian Reconstructionism asserts the divine mission of spreading Christianity over all corners of the world — and not just any Christianity. Theirs is an anti-GLBTQIA agenda that rejects women’s rights in favor of white, patriarchal rule over property and independent from virtually all regulation. Without the support of this movement, Trump’s own dissolute and atrocious behavior toward women and families would have ruled him out of the running.
It is this alliance, however, between neo-reaction and Christian Reconstructionism that marks arguably one of the weakest links in Trump’s populist alignment, and renders it a complex, radical right formation as opposed to an outright, hardline fascist movement. This is not to say that Reconstructionism is not friendly to fascists, or downright white nationalist — for instance, Trump’s domestic policy advisor for his transition team is a fellow at the anti-LGBQTIA hate group Family Research Council, whose Reconstructionist president Tony Perkins paid neo-Nazi David Duke $82,000 for a list of supporters to make robocalls on behalf of Woody Jenkins’s failed senatorial bid, and, about a decade later in 2002, provided the keynote speechfor a white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens fundraiser. However, it is difficult to see what kind of macabre chimera this coalition will form between the gay futurist, Peter Thiel, and the anti-gay Reconstructionists.
Steps toward fascist states
Deepening the populist rhetoric that marks his climate policy, Trump declares that he will immediately deport millions of undocumented migrants from the US, although the number he provides for the first push is a fraction of the 11 million he has presented overall. If he deploys civilian militias to help engage in this work, he is still not too far from Bush, Jr., or even Obama, who deported more immigrants than any other president in US history. Neither of those two worked to suppress the powerful border militias in the late 2000s, some of which were rather openly fascist in ideological disposition. However, what stands out in the numbers is that, while Obama deported more than 2.5 million migrants between 2009 and 2016, Trump states that he will deport as many “immediately.” His campaign used the number 11 million, which comes right out of the white nationalist movement.
From there, he plans to reform “visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.” The opening part about enhanced penalties would obviously mean a life preserver for the prison industry, which faces challenges from abolitionists, the decriminalization of marijuana, the recognition of its social failures, and an institutional rejection of private prisons. Undocumented people caught re-entering the US will face a stiff prison term, entering a spiral of criminality that broadens as attempts build up. Furthermore, Muslims will be subjected to “extreme vetting,” a chilling phrase for all its lack of specificity.
The “Americans First” line and its references to a pro-Nazi anti-interventionist group in the inter-war period should not be overlooked. To help implement his plan for controlling migration, Trump has brought the architect of SB 1070, Kris Kolbach, onto his transition team. A veteran of anti-immigration network set up by white nationalist John Tanton, Kolbach helped create SB 1070 with the help of the American Legislate Exchange Council (ALEC). SB 1070 was then sponsored by the President of the Arizona State Senate, Russell Pearce, who once sent his supporters an article by the neo-Nazi group National Vanguard and endorsed neo-Nazi border militia leader JT Ready for public office.
By declaring that Mexico will pay for an incredibly expensive, large wall across the US-Mexico border, Trump provokes anger that he can use later as an excuse to deploy military or police operations across the border — perhaps something like an invasion. Although it would appear that an invasion would not be likely, this again would not be completely unprecedented, given the history of “Rough Riders” and the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine establishing intervention in Central and South America in the event of debt default, as well as more recent Drug War-related interventions into the politics of Central America — particularly, the invasion of Panama under Bush, Sr.
Given Trump’s trade agenda, such an open form of imperialism would act as a kind of foreign policy replacement for neoliberalism. His promise to reign in corporations by drawing factories back into the US and to lower the business tax for everyday Americans speak to the values of “the little people,” the middle class or petite-bourgeoisie. Trump’s further scapegoating of China as a “currency manipulator” will exacerbate the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, and likely increase the militarization of Japan, while also increasing racist persecution of Asians in the US.
The aggression toward China is accompanied by the favoring of Putin, an alliance that would marginalize other global powers — not least of which being the European Union and perhaps even NATO — and challenge the US’s pretensions to unilateral global superiority. Instead, Trump would play into deeply-rooted fantasies of what Russian fascist Alexandr Dugin calls “a multipolar world” of apartheid-style ethnostates from Portugal to Berlin to Moscow and down to the Indian Ocean. It also exploits long-standing racist attitudes toward Asians in general in the United States, which are shared across the Atlantic in Europe by populist radical right Eurosceptic parties linked by Moscow’s support and a Duginist network that will surely feel a boost as the Trump wave’s demonstration effect washes ashore.
Trump has already begun reaching out to radical right populist parties in Europe — even before reaching out to their respective heads of state. The Islamophobic sentiment that Trump rode into power could easily give itself to a rising wave of anti-Semitism, as represented by the alt-right — particularly if the populist radical right sweeps away the left and center in the next round of elections. That Trump has indicated that he will continue the mass rallieswhile in office suggests the ominous potential for collective, mass violence and an ongoing personality cult.
Thwarting the ethnostate
What carries over most of all in Trump’s populism is his determination to “drain the swamp” of Washington, DC. Imposing term limits on Congress and diminishing the federal payroll through attrition speak to longstanding populist complaints with federal corruption and over-spending. We can likely rule term limits out, since the Senate and House will both be controlled by politicians who enjoy term limits very much. However, the “draining of the swamp” can be tied to slashing progressive budget initiatives supported by Democrats, while the attrition of the federal workforce gives people with the ability to fire their subordinates the ability to create a controlled, tradition atmosphere that rapidly shunters into obsolescence.
As the data shows, the cross-class mobilization of interests that Trump galvanized was not particularly impressive, falling behind Romney and McCain in votes gained. Just over a quarter of eligible US citizens voted for Trump. However, the radical rejection of the “DC establishment” pulled the Democrats under water, as Hillary’s constituency bailed on her at the ballot box. The press’s rejection of Bernie Sanders in favor of Clinton during the primaries rendered her most valuable media partners moot in those northern states still fuming over the suppression of their favorite blue-collar candidate. “We just saw massive shifts in the industrial midwest from ’12 to ’16, and those are the same voters,” said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. Now that Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and AFL-CIO are singing the tune of reconciliation, the press seems subdued as Trump ushers futurist white nationalists and regressive Christian Reconstructionists into the White House.
The question of fascism that has lingered for so long amid this election becomes more important in the long run. More than one-third of Trump’s supporters follow open white nationalists on Twitter, who are among the most outspoken advocates of Trump’s policies; meanwhile, his past relationswith Roy Cohn, Roger Stone, and other grey eminences point to a creeping fascism under the populist generalism. His team would involve other white nationalists like Kobach, assuring that the deportations would lead closer to a white ethnostate, the rejection of a woman’s right to make decisions that immediately effect her own body and physical wellbeing would fall under patriarchal control, and this is to say nothing of what he will do to labor organizing — just remember what the AFL-CIO was saying a few months ago.
In August 25, 2015, I wrote an article called “Trump the Fascist,” in which I stated that Trump’s trajectory “lands quite clearly in the tradition of ultra-nationalism known as ‘Americanism.’” With his palingenetic overtures to the rebirth of an old, dying America, Trump has certainly activated the mythical core of the fascist imaginary, which is being enacted throughout the US in the form of a spate of recent hate crimes that may carry on through the weekend. Although Trump’s agenda is a mixed bag between what one can precisely describe as fascist or white nationalist and the populist radical right, it is this trajectory that truly matters, which is why his policies and the white nationalism that he encourages must be directly confronted and opposed. People of conscience with any faith in liberty and justice must openly resist the decline into racist hatred and violence, effectively halting the momentum of the Trump wave by making our cities and towns safe for all people.
Alexander Reid Ross is a lecturer at Portland State University. His latest book, Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press), is forthcoming.