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Say hello to the clerical-fascist state


With Trump’s threat yesterday to send the U.S. military into American cities, we’re one step closer to the dreaded scenario some of us have been worrying about for several years: the establishment of a military dictatorship.

Of course, it wouldn’t be just a military dictatorship. It would be a military-clerical-fascist dictatorship. This term stems from Mussolini’s Italy, where his authoritarian regime was built with the help of the most conservative of the Vatican’s Catholics (the clerical part). The fascist part refers to the corporations that funded Mussolini, who crafted laws they wanted. And, of course, it was all backed up by the power of his National Republican Army.

I always said that Trump’s role model in history—to the extent he’s aware of history—was Benito Mussolini. Many of Trump’s gestures and body language—the outthrust chin and clenched jaw is the best example—resemble Mussolini’s, although to be fair, Trump also learned a thing of two from Hitler. What Trump likes about them both is, of course, that they were dictators. They didn’t have to deal with meddlesome Governors, Senators or Congressmen. It was their way or the highway, just as it is with Trump today: he can’t stand to be contradicted or challenged. Stand in his way, and he’ll reduce you to an insulting nickname.

Well, Trump says a lot of dumb stuff that never happens, so maybe this threat to deploy the Army in L.A., Oakland, New York, Milwaukee and other U.S. cities is just a bunch of hokum. But maybe it isn’t. The riddle of Trump, for those of us trying to understand if he has an end game beyond getting re-elected, is whether he really will try to seize permanent power, like his friend Putin, who is seeking to have laws passed extending his power until 2036.

Trump would love something similar here. His children already are lining up to follow him in the line of succession. A significant number of Republicans are said to favor either Ivanka or the chinless Junior for president in 2024, and senior Republicans have predicted that either Junior, Ivanka or the dreadfully evil Jared Kushner will be president sooner or later. Maybe all three. These are banana republic fantasies, of course. But if Trump successfully manages to take over the American states by imposing “his” military on them, we’re well on the path to becoming a banana republic, with all the nepotism that implies.

Meanwhile Trump’s Christians are salivating. That’s the meaning of his absurd holding up of a Bible yesterday when he commanded “his” troops to clear the streets so he could pose for a photo op in front of a church.

Trump has about as much understanding of the Bible as he does of the Constitution, but he does understand that the simple-minded evangelicals who think Jesus sent him will applaud his move. With that wink-wink to his religious base, Trump assures them they’ll have a seat at the table if—and it’s a big if—they stand back and let him do all sorts of unconstitutional things that are direct attacks on our democracy. And, of course, they will. Evangelicals never cared about democracy. They want a clerical state with themselves in charge, and Trump is going to let them have one, if he’s in a position to do so.

As for the corporations, look no further than Mark Zuckerberg to see the kind of fascist corporate CEO that Mussolini loved. For reasons of his own that aren’t yet quite clear, Zuckerberg has come out of the conservative closet in the past year, underscoring his devotion to Trump, prepared to use his own immense power to further Republican-Facebook interests (which are the financial interests of most large corporations), and to intimidate his own employees lest they get too outspoken on behalf of Democratic causes.

Now, I’ve listed the clerical, corporate and military assets Trump has, but he possesses one further wild card, or two (depending on how you define these things): the gun owners of America in the form of the N.R.A., and the nation’s police and sheriff’s forces, on the city and county level. Trump claims that they’re all on his side; in the event of a national breakdown or civil war, he believes that local constabularies will crush their own people in order to protect him. We have no way of testing such a proposition, which may well not be true. Probably, if push comes to shove, the internal police forces of America will themselves be divided, with no clear majority on either side.

So, is this it? I’ve wondered that many, many times in the last three years. It never is “it,” in the sense of “it” being some spectacular collapse of the existing order and the absolute consolidation of the power of Donald J. Trump. But “it” always looms out there, like a sword of Damocles threatening to chop off our necks at any moment. This current crisis, or series of crises (the pandemic, the economic meltdown, the riots), is as close to “it” as I’ve seen in my lifetime, during which I’ve seen a lot of shit go down. Remarkably, the stock markets have remained intact, for which I have no explanation except to speculate that investors see more hope ahead than I do. But maybe the hope of the markets is for the very clerical-fascist dictatorship I fear. Mussolini, too, was good for business.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “in the event of a national breakdown or civil war, he believes that local constabularies will crush their own people in order to protect him.”
    Let’s hope that the kind of action engaged in yesterday by the police chief of my city and other officers is a good sign — they “took a knee” with protesters who had assembled in front of police headquarters.

  2. Yes, Bob Rossi, that was a good sign. Another aspect of this is that the U.S. military, and particularly the Army, is heavily comprised of Black men and women. I do not believe they will obey an illegal order from their “commander in chief” to fire against civilians in our cities.

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