“Go home. We love you. You’re very special.” President Trump’s message to the rioters who stormed the Capitol building on January 6 might double as a particularly pathetic bit of motivational self-talk. Previously inflamed by Trump, the perpetrators of the riot (Insurrection? Coup attempt?) didn’t listen, though by that evening the Capitol had been secured. As of this writing, Trump has still not gone home (Mar-a-Lago?), but there’s no indication that Biden won’t peacefully assume the presidency on the 20th.

Clearly this was bad. Was it fascism? The spectacle put a grisly accent on a running debate about the nature of Trump’s political following and the style of his leadership: Can it be appropriately or usefully analogized to Europe’s fascist regimes, or is calling Trump the f-word just a semantic exercise, a kind of empty nominalism? On one side, scholars like Daniel Bessner and Udi Greenberg decry what they call the “reductio ad Hitlerum” of “the Weimar analogy”; on the other, publicly oriented historians — none more prominent than Timothy Snyder — insist that Trump, in Snyder’s words, “follows a trail blazed by fascists.” (At The Review, Jacob Mikanowski profiled Snyder in 2019.)

Samuel Moyn on the Fascism Question

The historian and legal scholar Samuel Moyn has long been skeptical of the analogy between Trumpism and fascism, but his earlier thinking suffered from “one egregious mistake,” he told me. “I did not anticipate the role that his power to mobilize roving bands of white nationalists could play in our collective imagination — and the other day in real life.” Nevertheless, he says, “there was never a threat of coup.” Read the whole interview here.

The Latest

Recommended

  • At Sidecar, the new blog of the old New Left Review, Mike Davis on the end of Trumpism: “Let me be clear: The Republican Party has just undergone an irreparable split. By the White House’s Fuhrerprinzip standards, Pence, Tom Cotton, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Jim Lankford, even Kelly Loeffler are now traitors beyond the pale.”
  • “I used to go on long walks, and when I came near the White House or the Capitol, I’d always get the sense that a wrong move might get me struck by some unseen sniper.” At The New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham on what the “rioters in the Senate chamber” tell us about the D.C. security apparatus.

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Yours,
Len Gutkin