In recent weeks in the New Jersey political press community, there is increased speculation as to a future run former Governor Chris Christie may make for the White House. Christie is a man of irrepressible ambition, and a future run for the White House on his part should not come as a surprise to anybody who has followed his career.
Few New Jersey columnists have criticized Chris Christie more harshly than I have over the years. I have continuously found fault with his bullying style, his anti-intellectualism, his ethical shortcomings, and his lack of policy courage. Yet none of these flaws would normally prevent him from winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
The real reason Chris Christie will never win the Republican presidential nomination is actually due to one of his better attributes. He is neither a racist nor a fascist. Conservative, yes, but Trumpian, no.
Fascism and racism are at the core of Donald Trump and Trumpism. And recent events have borne this out more than ever.
The GOP is headed for a major 1964-style defeat in November, both in the presidential and Senate races. The accelerating Biden leads in the Battleground States are a certain sign of this. https://apple.news/AqK4g65peTzyFztS1YcfKpQ
Yet after November, Trumpism, even without Trump, will continue to be the governing philosophy of the Republican Party. The reason for this is the nature of the sole remaining core Republican constituencies: White noncollege educated men and, to a lesser extent, white noncollege educated women.
These two constituencies are most vulnerable to racist, xenophobic appeals of a fascistic authoritarian strongman, blaming racial minorities and immigrants for their economic and social disadvantages. To their credit, neither Chris Christie nor my favorite GOP presidential prospect, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is willing to appeal to a rapidly diminishing Republican base by embracing a racist, fascistic agenda. And Mike Pence is an amiable dunce, unable to make a credible appeal based on any agenda whatsoever.
The Trumpian cudgel of racist hatred and fascistic repression will be taken up by the two leading imitators of Charles Lindbergh in Washington today, Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Josh Hawley of Missouri, a graduate of Yale Law School.
These are two dangerous men – Trumpists with intellect. One of these two fanatical reactionaries will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.
Two books serve as excellent guidelines for proving the fascism of Trump, both politically and governmentally. For guidance as to what constitutes fascistic government, the best book, published years before Trump arrived on the American scene, is Totalitarian Government and Autocracy written by Carl J. Friedrich, my political theory professor at Northwestern, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. As for a comprehensive guide to fascistic politics, the recently published book by Yale professor Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, is emerging as the authoritative work.
Friedrich and Brzezinski list six basic features of totalitarian regimes, including fascist states: an ideology, a single party led by one man, a terroristic police, a communications monopoly, a weapons monopoly, and a centrally directed economy. Trump certainly aspires to be an authoritarian leader with all six of the aforesaid powers. And he continues to attempt to obtain monopoly control of communications by his intimidation of journalists.
American institutions have thus far resisted Trump’s attempts to gain authoritarian power. Yet in his efforts to do so, Trump is implementing the major political strategic and tactical practices of fascism. And as Jason Stanley has stated, the political practices of fascism, rather than any governing philosophy, constitute its ideology.
And Trump racism is a vital tool of Trump fascism. The major strategic political practice of fascism is the credo of “us and them.” With Trump, the “us” is white America, and the “them” is every nonwhite group, most notably African-Americans and Hispanic groupings.
Trump has a lifetime record of blatant bigotry against African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Examples abound: His leadership in the “birther” movement, his campaign for the death penalty for the Central Park Five even after their innocence was proven, his discrimination against African-Americans in the rental of his housing units in Brooklyn in the 1970s, his attempts to bar a distinguished American jurist, Gonzalo Curiel from presiding over the Trump University fraud case on the basis of his Mexican ancestry.
This solid record of bigotry enhanced Trump’s ability to communicate with his principal political ally: the white nationalist movement. During his administration, he has reinforced his appeal to them by his blatantly racist opposition to both 1) the removal from public places of statues of treasonous Confederate soldiers who fought to maintain slavery of African-Americans and 2) the enactment of legislation to remove the names of Confederate soldiers from military installations.
To his credit, Chris Christie opposed Trump’s position on the removal of Confederate statues and the deletion of Confederate names from US military installations. I only wish Christie would stop claiming that Trump is not a racist. You know better, Chris.
And now, as we approach the deciding months of the campaign, Trump is doubling down on both his racism and fascism. On the racial front, Trump is making a shameless effort to resegregate America and make our suburbs lily-white. Specifically, he is calling for the abrogation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, an Obama-era rule designed to combat racial discrimination in housing. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/five-decades-later-trump-still-pushing-segregationist-policies-n1233983.
In support of his effort, Trump issued a deplorably racist tweet last night which stated the following:
“The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article. Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!”
Yet Trump’s new outrages of racism are even exceeded by his new extremes of fascism. I speak of his planned invasion of American cities with his personal paramilitary force, namely agents from the Department of Homeland Security.
The potential of the Trump personal paramilitary militia to foment violence has been displayed most graphically in the recent civil disorders in Portland, Oregon. Thugs in the Trump militia have snatched peaceful protestors off the street, beaten them, and forced them into unmarked vehicles.
Most offensively, Trump has openly stated that these cities are being targeted because they are controlled by Democratic administrations. As Jason Stanley has stated, the use of military or paramilitary forces to further a domestic partisan political agenda is the very essence of fascism.
Two former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland
Security in Republican administrations, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff have quite properly condemned Trump’s use of Department of Homeland Security agents for his own personal urban domestic militia. And the very existence of such personal militias constitutes a profound danger to democracy.
Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale and a close colleague of Jason Stanley is one of the world’s leading experts on the Holocaust and the destruction of democracies. His 2017 book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, contains the following passage that seem to directly illustrate the dangers of the Trump paramilitary to American democracy:
“Be wary of paramilitaries…. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.”
This is exactly what happened in Portland.
Chris Christie will never become President of the United States. But he can feel most fortunate that in 2016, he was not selected as Donald Trump’s running mate.
In six months, the nightmare of the Trump administration will be over. The leaders of this administration will ponder the legacy of Trump racism and fascism that warranted his edging out James Buchanan for the designation of the worst president in American history. Chris Christie will have properly and deservedly remained unaffected by this legacy of shame.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.