It was true after the racist mob in Charlottesville three months ago. And it’s still true today: Donald J Trump quite literally sympathizes with fascists.
He shares their worldview as easily as he shares their language and videos. He gives their voice and values the biggest platform in politics. He is a neo-fascist sympathizer in the mainstream of American politics, sitting at the heart of the West Wing and world power.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group.
After President Trump shared three of Fransen’s anti-Muslim videos on Twitter on Wednesday morning, the extremist agitator could barely contain herself: “THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP!”
You know it’s a big deal with the fascists can’t stop tweeting in ALL CAPS.
Now it doesn’t take much to learn about Fransen and Britain First. With the help of a wonderful website called Google, Trump could have discovered in milliseconds that Fransen was convicted and fined last year for religious harassment after she hurled abuse at a Muslim woman in front of her young children.
At the time, Fransen was on what she calls a “Christian patrol” when she accostedthe young British mother and told her that Muslim men were trying to rape women across Europe.
Just last week Fransen was arrested for a speech she delivered in Belfast only a week before the Charlottesville mob tried to terrorize us with their Tiki torches.
“Britain First” were the last words shouted by the murderer of the British MP Jo Cox, before he brutally killed the rising political star, one week before the Brexit vote.
How could a president whose inaugural address centered on the notion of America First disagree with a group called Britain First?
The fact is, Fransen sounds a lot like the president of the United States. Consider her speech in Poland, which echoed many of the themes of Trump’s own statements in his infamous Warsaw speech. “There is a cancer moving through Europe and that is Islam. Our children are being bombed, our children are being groomed and our government does nothing … Evil will not prevail”, she said. Sound familiar?
A little more presidential homework might have unearthed the helpful information that one of Fransen’s videos did not in fact show a Muslim beating up a Dutch teenager on crutches. Instead, it was simply a dark-hard Dutch teenager beating up a light-haired one.
But that’s obviously not the point of what the 45th president of the United States was trying to do. Stirring up racial and religious hatred for political ends has become known as “populism” among the pundit class.
It’s considered impolite to call it what it is: fascism. But we are long past the point of giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, or respecting voters who exercise their democratic rights for racist causes.
There’s something more going on here that demands an honest response. Trump is a particularly stupid neo-Nazi sympathizer.
By now, most right-wing politicians have figured out how to flirt with the neo-Nazis without getting burned by their torch-wielding mobs and burning crosses. They stir hatred for immigrants and preach about the sanctity of national culture and family values. But they generally stop short of circulating fascist propaganda. It’s just too offensively obvious.
Even the pro-Brexit British government thinks that Britain First is too extreme for either polite company or presidential endorsements. “British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect,” said the spokesperson for Theresa May, the British prime minister. “It is wrong for the president to have done this.”
So much for the special relationship and the transatlantic trade deal that was supposed to follow Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“Prejudiced rhetoric” is a perfectly British way to describe Donald Trump’s everyday language. “Decency, tolerance and respect” are not the words that come to mind when you conjure up the president’s values and politics.
The truth is the first casualty of fascism, and Trump has no use for it. According to the New York Times, he no longer believes his own voice was recorded on the infamous Access Hollywood tape that caught him boasting about assaulting women.
“We don’t think that was my voice,” he told one Republican senator, using the royal ‘we’ to mask his personal delusions. He continues to suggest in private that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, even though his birth certificate is in the public domain. And his predecessor is, well, no longer president.
But these kinds of fabrications are still helpful because they tarnish everyone. It’s a political game of pig wrestling where everyone is caked in mud, and nobody can get a hold of anything.
So we have the remarkable spectacle of a president who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals taking to social media to wrestle in the mud with NBC News executives about the Today show’s Matt Lauer, who just got terminated for sexual harassment.
“Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!” the president tweeted.
You might file this one under “stupid criminals”. What kind of serial sexual assaulter wants to talk about the sexual harassment of others? The answer is: the one who wants to drag everyone down into his mudbath.
In a world where there are no media referees, and there is no truth, then one fake racist video is as good as a CNN report. And one president’s lie is as good as a video of him saying something incriminating.
The damage caused by Trump’s behavior, as bizarre and reckless as it is, goes far beyond his personal reputation. It undermines American credibility at a time when the world needs to rally to confront the nuclear threat of North Korea, the continued threat of Islamist terror, and Russian manipulation of foreign elections.
Trump has made it clear that he cannot and will not learn in office. There is no presidential pivot, no wisdom that will grow with experience.
The only question is whether his enablers – the Republican leaders and White House staffers who indulge him – will try to salvage their own reputation before they get caked in mud forever.