In August 2016 I argued that Donald Trump was a fascist. His response to the terrorist attack in New York City yesterday offers us the strongest proof of that to date.
Today, the President of the United States, who swore on a Bible that he’d uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, just called for a legal permanent resident of the United States to be sent to the Guantanamo Bay prison. The President of the United States just dehumanized a suspect in custody by referring to him as an “animal.”
This is the most explicitly fascist thing that the President of the United States has said in the last year, and the fact he felt liberated enough to say it is chilling.
Sending a legal permanent resident to Guantanamo Bay is against the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee due process and equal protection before the law. Sending a legal permanent resident to Guantanamo Bay could be against the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a speedy and public trial as well as legal counsel. Sending a legal permanent resident to Guantanamo Bay is unConstitutional and unAmerican.
And if the President of the United States does send Sayfullo Saipov, the alleged NYC truck terrorist, to Guantanamo Bay, and if the courts are unable to stop him, the President of the United States will have breached his obligation to uphold the Constitution and must be impeached at that point. Failure to impeach the President of the United States at that point would mean that democracy and the rule of law had been replaced by authoritarianism, and the President of the United States had stopped being a servant of the people and was well on his way to becoming a despot.
There are no similar Constitutional restrictions on dehumanizing someone or even a class of people by calling them “animals.” But that doesn’t make it OK. Dehumanizing someone is immoral. Dehumanizing someone is hate speech. Dehumanizing someone is racist. Dehumanizing someone could be sexist. Dehumanizing someone could be Islamophobic, or anti-Semitic, or anti-Christian. Once someone has been dehumanized, any actions against that person can be justified – harassment, warrantless arrest, indefinite incarceration without charge, seizure of property, forced relocation, even murder and genocide. Once someone has been dehumanized it’s only a few steps from slaughtering a million cattle to slaughtering a million Jews Muslims. And when the person doing the dehumanizing is the President of the United States, that gets us perilously close to authentic 1930s-style fascism.
I wrote before the election that then-candidate Donald Trump was a proto-fascist at minimum and probably an actual fascist in the mold of Benito Mussolini. This is not the first time the President of the United States has something that is fascist, but it’s the most explicitly fascist thing he’s said so far. It supports my original conclusion, and we should expect and be prepared for him to attempt to continue down the path to an American fascism.