Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Right to Warn of “Fascism in the United States”Roundup
tags: political history, fascism, Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
Federico Finchelstein, professor of history at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College, is the author of A Brief History of Fascist Lies.
Pablo Piccato is a professor of history at Columbia University and the author of A History of Infamy Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico.
On Tuesday, after television coverage of the Democratic National Convention drew to a close, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expanded on her 97-second recorded convention message by taking to Instagram. The firebrand progressive, a favorite target of Republicans and an occasional thorn in the side of the Democratic establishment, had a message to deliver about party unity. “Let’s keep it real,” she said. “We need to win in November.” Then she dropped an f-bomb: The election, she said, was about “stopping fascism in the United States. That is what Donald Trump represents.”
Fascism. Ocasio-Cortez had used a word that other DNC luminaries had avoided during the first two days of the convention. Is its avoidance justified, or is Ocasio-Cortez right to use this term?
One reason it remains taboo in the mainstream to label Donald Trump a fascist is that Trump is uniquely American. It’s hard to imagine another culture that could produce the brash New York City mafia don/reality TV celebrity. Rapper Tupac Shakur famously pointed out Trump’s iconic and long-standing role in the American imagination back in 1992: “You’re taught that in school and in big business if you want to be successful, if you want to be like Trump, it’s ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme,’” Shakur told MTV. It’s therefore quite understandable when some intellectuals push back on the narrative that Trumpism should be viewed in relation to global movements and ideologies like fascism.
We, however, see the idea that Trumpism is uniquely American as another version of American exceptionalism. The failure to see Trumpism in a global context of far-right ethnonationalism—indeed, we would say, in the context of the long history of fascism—is a failure to understand that the United States is not special, not immune from global intellectual currents that affect countries from India to Brazil. Samuel Moyn, perhaps the most formidable European historian to challenge the term “fascism” in the present context, has warned that broader applicability of the concept of fascism—broader, say, than just early to mid-century Europe—entails the “disquieting possibility that fascist tendencies lurk everywhere in modern politics.” If this line of reasoning is right, Moyn cautions, “most of modern political history is fascist, latently or openly.”
This is, in fact, our position. It is rooted in the history of global fascism and its aftermath.
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