Trump the tyrant: The US now has all 14 traits shared by history’s fascist regimes

Woman with pink hair at an anti-Trump demonstration

Flickr / Alisdare Hickson

Every day, Trump fascism spreads through the US. Throughout history, there have been traits common to all fascist regimes, and the president is taking the US into dangerous waters on all counts.

In his analysis of fascist regimes, Laurence W. Britt came up with fourteen traits common to all of them. As we hurtle toward a crucial presidential election, Britt’s list proves that those who refer to Trump as a “would-be dictator” are not far off the mark.

Britt’s list, originally published in Free Inquiry, has been borrowed in conservative and liberal discussions. It has been reprinted and altered, and if his name is still attached to the result, it is often misspelled. Laurence W. Britt, an author and former corporate executive, analyzed information from seven major fascist regimes, “Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papa dopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia.”

The 14 common traits of the fascist regimes from Britt’s list demonstrate how Trump’s policies are bringing America dangerously close to fascism.

1. ‘Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.’

A formation of fighter jets


First on the list of Britt’s signs of fascism is “Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.” Many Americans feel their heart swell with pride over a patriotic display, but there is a point at which enough can be enough. As Shakespeare wrote, “The lady doth protest too much”. When considering Trump’s fascist tendencies, consider his slogans, “Make America Great Again,” and “America First.”

“The fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy,” wrote Britt, “was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.” Sound familiar?

The president and his supporters appear to burn with a feverish national pride. But it’s not a pride that includes all Americans. His embrace of the US Civil War Confederates as “patriots,” and continuing use of racist language conveys a message that appeals only to his base.

2. ‘Disdain for the importance of human rights.’

A photograph of a children's detention facility. Sleeping mats and foil blankets lie together on a concrete floor near the center of a fenced in area.

Custom and Border Protection

Trump’s rampant “expressions of nationalism” slide smoothly into Britt’s next common sign of fascism: “Disdain for the importance of human rights.” It is no surprise when you consider how Trump uses the threat of military against US citizens. Or how Trump actually did send paramilitary troops to Portland to disappear citizens from the streets. Or how Trump’s administration separates children from their families at the border and cages the children. And the list goes on.

“The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value,” according to Britt’s research. human rights are, “A hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite.” As far as the ruling elite is concerned, Trump fascism is shared by Attorney General Barr as he cracks down on the general population in favor of protecting his president’s cronies.

3. ‘Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.

A photograph of Donald Trump next to his quote, "I don't take responsibility at all."

Screenshot / YouTube

Whether it’s immigrants, people of color, or Muslims, Trump is happy to heap blame on others and inflame racial hatreds. Trump fails to protect American citizens from COVID-19, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump points the finger at the World Health Organization, China, and even Barack Obama.

Britt found that “The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions.” The aptness of the description is chilling  — and so are Britt’s details, which mirror Trump’s fascism.

“The regimes would incite ‘spontaneous’ acts against the target scapegoats,” like the soaring number of hate crimes as the president whips up his supporters with hateful rhetoric.

In the next phase of this thread, “Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.”

4. ‘The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.’

A photograph of National Guard troops blocking access to the Lincoln Memorial.

Screenshot / Twitter

“Ruling elites always identified closely with the military,” Britt wrote. Whether it’s the “Nuclear Button” on Trump’s desk, or the “domination” of Black Lives Matter activists, this president’s moves are right out of the fascist regime playbook. Now that he is Commander in Chief, Trump is happy to ready the military to “intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.”

Right on cue, Trump fascism excludes the US Armed Forces from his federal hiring ban.

There is also a hypocrisy to the president’s rhetoric. Trump may say sweet words about the US armed forces, but in reality, he often demeans and betrays the military. The president who faked a bone spur to get out of serving in Vietnam may be overcompensating as he undercuts military justice and ridicules John McCain for getting captured.

5. ‘Rampant sexism.’

A photograph of Donald Trump leaning his puckered lips toward a beauty pageant contestant during a photo shoot.

Screenshot / YouTube

Laurence Britt puts a fine point on sexism and even homophobia among fascist regimes, which, “inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic.”

The way Trump refers to and acts against women is revolting, but it is also among the signs of fascism. “You can do anything,” Trump said. “Grab ’em by the p*ssy.” And Vice President Mike Pence’s “dangerous bigotry” fits women’s relegation to a role as second-class citizens.

And it’s not just women. The Justice Department’s argument against the rights of LGBTQ people in front of the Supreme Court is a prime example of Britt’s warning. The fact that the court ruled in favor of the rights of gay and transgender people is one hopeful outcome in the battle against Trump fascism.

6. ‘A controlled mass media.’

Cartoon television with the Fox News logo on the screen

Canva / Fox News

The president’s relationship with Fox News and other conservative outlets exemplifies the next sign of fascism on Britt’s list. While the differing coverage on Trump’s favorite network and more mainstream news sources often draws comment, it is the mark of something much more dangerous.

The president sows doubt among citizens about the unreliability of the media by crowing, “fake news,” every time he dislikes coverage, but he also takes a more active role in suppressing the free press.

In March of 2020, as the US battle against coronavirus was just beginning, Trump’s re-election campaign sent a letter threatening TV stations if they continued to show a Priorities USA ad criticizing his response to the pandemic. Continuing to air the commercial, “could put your station’s license in jeopardy,” the campaign claimed in its letter.

The letter threatened action from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ordering stations to “cease and desist from airing it immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements.”

Washington broadcast attorney Jack Goodman calls the ad “core political speech” protected by the First Amendment. Intimidation is a common tactic during election years — but the president does appoint members to the FCC, including Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman named by Trump.

Fascist regimes use, “Control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats,” to control mass media. The goal is always the same; “keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.”

7. ‘Obsession with national security.’

Side by side photo of the border wall and Trump giving a thumb's up

Flickr / Hayley Gagnon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Trump’s obsession with the border wall, for which Mexico has not paid a dime, went hand in hand with his ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Three years later, the ACLU was finally able to achieve some success against Trump’s fascist Muslim ban, forcing the administration to help reunite immediate family members with refugees already in the US.

Meanwhile, Trump gave a $1.2 billion contract to one of his buddies to build some of the wall.

“A national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite,” Britt wrote. “Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting ‘national security,’ and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.”

8. ‘Religion and ruling elite tied together.’

A photograph of Donald Trump holding a bible standing in front of a church

Screenshot / YouTube

When it comes to fascism, “most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion.” The six religious leaders who joined Trump’s inauguration set a record for prayers for the swearing-in of a president.

VP Mike Pence gives even more cover to Christian conservatives who use value-based arguments to rally around this president.

Trump’s complete lack of any actual practice of worship is not a bar to this approach. “The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug,” notes Britt. “A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.”

9. ‘Power of corporations protected.’

A photograph of a single wind turbine in front of a line of factory buildings billowing smoke.


Trump’s much-touted tax “cut” shaved a cool $7 billion off of Big Pharma companies taxes. His cabinet has been loaded with “oil and gas advocates,” including Scott Pruitt, who was tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — after Pruitt had spent his professional life attacking the EPA in court.

From removing climate change data from the EPA web site to the latest slash of clean air regulation under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has used every opportunity to grease the skids for Big Business no matter the environmental cost.

Or the human cost — coronavirus recovery funds has even lined the pockets of Trump and his fellow big wigs even as Republican senators fought against aid to American workers.

“Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised,” Britt observes about fascist regimes. “Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.”

10. ‘Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.’

A photograph of a woman in a hard hat working on an engine assembly.


Trump’s acting labor secretary, Patrick Pizzella, took over after Alex Acosta was run out of town over the sweetheart deal he cut alleged serial child rapist Jeffrey Epstein. Pizzella is supposed to be protecting workers’ rights, but in fact, he describes union leaders as mob bosses. This is just part of Trump’s attack on unions in the US, a country that is already ranked worst among the world’s major economies.

Britt wrote that “Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge…the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless.” And Trump fascism doesn’t rest on the president alone.

GOP lawmakers introduced Right to Work legislation to further undercut unions.

11. ‘Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.’

Person with colorful paint on their face


The White House has a long history of hosting artists and performances.

In addition to restoring residential portions of the White House based on her historical research (rather than decorating it in the contemporary style), First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was famous as a champion of the arts. The blockbuster Broadway hit Hamilton famously debuted its first song at an Obama era White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.

Donald Trump has been visited by few performers and hosted no such cultural affairs. Trump’s main focus on the arts has been to propose funding cuts for four years running to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

“Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes,” explains Britt. “To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.”

12. ‘Obsession with crime and punishment.’

Photo showing a jail cell


Trump likes to tout himself as a “Law and Order President,” a concept that originates with Lyndon Johnson. Historian Elizabeth Hinton cites Johnson’s policies “to invest more in policing than in social welfare programs,” in an interview with Time Magazine.

Trump follows Johnson’s lead as he threatens — and uses — military brutality against activists who protest police brutality. Even on the campaign trail, Trump encouraged police to injure suspects while arresting them.

Britt discusses fascist, “systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse.” Attorney General William Barr is with Trump all the way on this particular item on the list, supporting absolute obedience to the police while gutting the courts to protect his fascist boss.

And now, as AG Barr pursues counter-investigations against those who revealed the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, Britt’s prophetic description of “trumped-up criminal charges…used against political opponents of the regime.

“Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.”

13. ‘Rampant cronyism and corruption.’

Jared and Ivanka exiting a plane


Trump isn’t the only one making money on his presidency. First Daughter Ivanka has used her position to help her garner 16 patents in China. Jared Kushner is involved in schemes from his position in the Trump White House that have made him tens of millions of dollars. Even Republican donors are in the mix.

“Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves,” warns Britt. “This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well (see fascism sign #9): for example, by stealing national resources (#10). With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled (#6), this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.”

14. And finally, ‘Fraudulent elections.’

Sign that says voting cancelled

Flickr / Democracy Chronicles

Trump has spent his entire presidency defending his election in one way or another. After losing the popular ballot but winning the White House in electoral college votes, his first day in the Oval Office was spent announcing his sparse inaugural attendance as the largest in history. The president’s complicity in Russian election meddling — or how complicit he was — is a question that looms over him and provokes him at the slightest mention.

This is a time to defend election security and the right to vote, both of which are basic foundations of the United States as a nation. Instead, as even conservative groups demand Vote-by-Mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump spits out lies about tampering to mail-in ballots.

“I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election,” he told NBC’s Chris Wallace. Trump’s lies about voting fraud build a foundation on which to he can attack an unfavorable election result.

When Wallace asked if he would respect the election results, Trump responded:

“I have to see.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s new Postmaster General is tampering with the  US Post Office, potentially reducing its ability to function as the US nears what will likely be the largest vote-by-mail effort in American history. Republicans, for their part have spent years perfecting election fraud.

Britt’s last entry outlines some of what have become standard GOP election tactics. “Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes,” all of which sound familiar to those who follow the struggle for equal voting rights.

If all else fails, Laurence Britt outlines the fascists’ voter suppression “last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.”

Stay strong, RBG.

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