In August, 2019, I authored a column defining Donald Trump as a fascist. In doing so, I relied on the definitions and standards of fascism set forth in the books, 1) Totalitarian Government and Autocracy, written by the duo of Carl J. Friedrich, my political theory professor at my undergraduate university, Northwestern, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor; and 2) Yale University Professor Jason Stanley’s authoritative and comprehensive work, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.
I then followed up with another column two months ago in which I noted that the evidence of Trump fascism had been augmented by 1) the President’s open attempts to suppress the African-American vote by persuading reactionary federal and state judges to abrogate lawful vote-by-mail (VBM) options; and 2) Trump’s promotion of a racist “birther” theory claiming that Kamala Harris was ineligible to run for president or vice-president because her parents were immigrants.
The clincher came this past week, however.
It is a common practice of fascist leaders to incarcerate their political opponents. And Donald Trump is determined to be second to nobody in this regard.
Accordingly, this week, he openly called on his Attorney General, Bill Barr to swiftly arrest Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.
He gave special recognition to his Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden, saying he had committed “the greatest political crime in the history of our country.”
The case that Trump is a fascist is now beyond refutation.
I again wish to emphasize, however, that although it is beyond doubt that Donald Trump is a Fascist, I will not compare him with Adolf Hitler. One out of every four members of my extended paternal family was murdered in Hitler’s Holocaust. Donald Trump is not promoting genocide.
Accordingly, I join with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in condemning as offensive the advertisement published by the Jewish Democratic Council of America that draws parallels between the rise of Nazism in Germany and the Trump presidency. I also serious object to those Jewish leaders who have endorsed the advertisement, such as prominent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt and the ADL’s former longtime national director, Abraham Foxman.
It is altogether fair and supremely accurate and appropriate to describe Trump as a fascist and compare him with Mussolini. But any comparison between Trump and Hitler is both odious and has the effect of trivializing the Holocaust.
Now I wish to indulge in reflection regarding my expatriate Republican “Never Trump” role over the past five years.
It began soon after Trump descended down the escalator to announce his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015. Shortly afterwards, I authored the following column, “George Corley Wallace and Donald John Trump,” describing the similarities in these two historic racists.
There was a difference in these two bigots. George Wallace repented his racism before his passing. Donald Trump never will.
I then was listed on the front page of the Washington Post a few days before the 2016 election as one of 78 members of the Bush administration who supported Hillary Clinton for president. I will always be proud of this, as will be my family.
I also authored a column the weekend before the 2016 election in the Star-Ledger explaining my decision to vote for Hillary Clinton for president – the first time in my adult life that I did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate.
I received considerable hostility for this latter column from erstwhile Republican friends, and I have indeed become a pariah in the Republican circles that constituted my former political home. That has not been a problem. Again, my family has stood with me, and I never doubted in the rightness of my anti-Trump cause.
If the polls are accurate – and I believe and hope that they are – my long anti-Trump journey shall come to a positive end next month. Yet as I enter the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, my thoughts are very much with the president I once served, George W. Bush, also known as Bush 43.
I will always be proud to have served in the presidential administration of George W. Bush. That does not mean that I agreed with all his actions and positions.
I was proud of my service with Bush 43 because he was a man of profound decency, sterling character, and most admirable values. He was a man who totally rejected racism and misogyny, the core of Trumpism. Most significantly, Bush 43 venerated democracy, a stark contrast with Donald Trump, who embraces authoritarianism and fascism.
Accordingly, I was most proud of George W. Bush, a loyal lifelong Republican, when he refused to endorse Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, in both 2016 and 2020. This did not surprise me – the values of Donald Trump are totally repugnant to George W. Bush.
Yet I wish in this year of 2020, Bush 43 would go one step further and actually endorse the candidacy of Joe Biden.
Yes, Biden is currently ahead of Trump in the polls by landslide margins. But in the words of that late, lamented, Venerable Sage of Montclair, Lorenzo Pietro Berra a/k/a Yogi Berra, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
If Bush 43 endorses Joe Biden, it’s all over. George W. Bush will have scored his greatest victory yet for American democracy.
This will be a marvelous historical legacy for George W. Bush. On a personal level, it will be a magnificent moment of heartfelt pride for those of us who served in his administration and remain loyal to him. I am hoping and praying that he does it!
Alan 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.