Donald Trump remains the highest total fundraising in the GOP, and experts say the fundraising emails fueling his political ambitions increasingly echo conspiracy theories and use fascist rhetoric that appeals to the worst impulses of the right.
Trump fundraising emails helped generate $378 million in small donations for the 2020 campaign, and there are $110 million in the former president’s war chest from February. That’s more than the total reported by the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee combined. This fundraising success suggests that Trump’s message resonates with a substantial piece of the Republican base as other far-right politicians launch sensational attacks on abortion rights, black history, public schools and LGBTQ people ahead of the midterm elections.
of trump misleading fundraising emails are not just a heinous scam. If you are a Trump’s subscribed supporter coveted mailing list, you are told that “sinister forces” are destroying a nation that rightfully belongs to “loyal patriots like you”. Only Trump can ‘save America’ from this humiliation, the emails say, winking at fascist rhetoric of the 20th century, according to experts.
Some calls appear to work like a raffle, offering donors a chance to meet Trump in person or attend a “top secret” rally. A February email signed by ‘Donald J. Trump’ invites supporters to join the famous president’s ‘circle of intimate friends’, where a ‘privileged few’ will be ‘exposed to confidential information – information I trust will not be shared with anyone else.
Promises of secret information and closeness to Trump appear to invoke QAnon, the far-right racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Trump battling an ‘elite’ cabal of ‘pedophiles’ who continue to receive winks and nods of Trump and allied lawmakers as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia).
Experts have debated for years whether Trump and his movement are fascist, but Trump’s lies about a stolen election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have crossed a red line for historians such as fascism scholar Robert Paxton. Some journalists are now openly calling Trump’s movement “fascist” or neo-fascist. Indeed, experts say elements of fascist thinking are found regularly in Trump’s speeches as well as his fundraising emails, which are paid for by the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee and backed by two pro- Trump.
In a practical explanation published at The conversation, Joe Broich, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University, broadly defines “fascism” as historians see it. Fascist parties first appeared in Italy after World War I and spread across Europe and the world, including the United States, South America and India. Fascism is “the extreme logic of nationalism”, the idea that nation states should be “built around historical races or peoples”. Fascists are obsessed with race, Broich writes, as well as the idea that true “patriots” and “good people” are “humiliated” while “bad” ones take advantage.
“Fascism [says] our existing law is not tough enough; like, they’re still digging democracy or still digging relative pluralism, so let’s tear it all down and rebuild around the people, ‘the people’ — and that’s one of the major bingo boxes that Trump ticks,” Broich said in an interview.
Broich recalled when Trump famous says a mostly white Minnesota audience that they had “good genes” – before warning them that President Joe Biden would flood their community with refugees from Somalia, a statement critics say invoked eugenics and racial superiority.
A fundraising email signed by Trump on April 5 with the subject line “It’s very, very sad,” laments that “Our country” is “destroyed by Joe Biden and the Democrats.” “We are no longer respected,” the email read, “so sad to see what has happened to our great United States.”
“To say ‘we are no longer respected’ is classic, it’s like a caricature of old-fashioned fascisms,” Broich said. “We’ve been humbled, we’re going to get our pride back – it’s like a sad joke, it’s like Mein Kampf.”
The fundraising speech is largely devoid of any real political content, other than a cursory mention of a “disaster” on the border and a commitment to “SAVE AMERICA.”
Of course, there is a real humanitarian disaster on the southern border, and migrant rights groups blame racist policies set up under Trump and continued until recently under Biden. Trump and Republicans like Texas Governor Greg Abbott have long exploited the xenophobic fears of immigrants of color to rally their nationalist base. Trump built his presidency around his border wall, and Abbott is is currently militarizing more the border with all the resources he can muster in response to Biden’s decision to scrap Title 42, the so-called “stay in Mexico” policy.
Broich said fascism is “revolutionary rightism” that is both anti-establishment and fiercely anti-socialist. Fascism is “revolutionary” in the sense that the current political system must be seized or overthrown in order to protect “the people” (or the “people”, also called “volk” in German) from whoever is targeted “the other” perhaps by fascists. (In the case of Nazi Germany, targets included communism, liberalism, socialism, immigrants, Jews, and Slavs.)
In the same April 8 fundraising email, Trump says “the system is totally broken.” He writes that the country is “going into socialism and communism” – at the same time, apparently – and that the leadership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is to blame. Trump incorrectly calls all Democrats “socialists” and “communists.” (Of course, much to the chagrin of many progressives, the mainstream Democratic party is decidedly do not Yet if Trumpists believe the system is broken and communism is somehow on the rise, then they might also believe violence is necessary to “save America,” experts on fascism say.
That sentiment was clearly present as armed militias, fascist gangs and angry Trump supporters sought lawmakers to attack on Jan. 6. Trump’s rhetoric continues to encourage violence more than a year later. During a recent speech in South Carolina, Trump urged subscribers to “sacrifice their lives” to defend a country supposedly attacked by progressive forces. Inspired in part by Trump, Republicans across the United States have responded to widespread calls for racial justice by pushing to ban books and classroom discussions on “critical race theory,” their catch-all term. inaccurate for equity programs and anti-racism education:
Getting critical race theory out of our schools is not just a matter of values, it’s also a matter of national survival. We have no choice…. The fate of any nation ultimately depends on the willingness of its citizens to give – and they must – to give their lives to defend their country…. If we allow Marxists, Communists and Socialists to teach our children to hate America, there will be no one left to defend our flag or protect our great country or its freedom.
Besides the call to arms, how is this different from the red-baiting that has dominated GOP rhetoric for decades? In short, this is not the case. Socialism is a well-worn boogeyman for Republicans. However, for Broich and other experts, Trump’s fascist departure from Republican orthodoxy crystallized with the violent effort to overturn the Jan. 6 election. because the Proud Boys fit the description.
“Both parties wanted to outsmart the other at [ballot] box, but now I think with Trumpism they have no problem giving up democracy,” Broich said. “I think that’s the big change.”
Trump’s fascism ripples through the Republican Party, especially at the state level, where hardline lawmakers are demanding publicity by attacking public school teachers, LGBTQ students and families, the right to vote, and any realistic discussion about the racial history of the nation. Anti-racist curricula and gender-affirming health care for trans teens, for example, are presented as affronts to patriots and Christians, or as Broich puts it, “attacks on the integrity of the volk.”
“For Trumpism, we could say it’s an ‘assault on real Americans,’ you have to attack them so you can rally around Trump’s flag in counterattack,” Broich said.
Not all reactionaries and authoritarians are fascists. Former President George W. Bush is generally not considered a fascist because he is a member of a political establishment rather than a right-wing revolutionary. Both men are certainly warmongers, but they represent the current system in place in their respective nations. Trump, on the other hand, stood up to Jeb Bush and the Republican establishment as a right-wing populist underdog in 2016. Since then, Trump has ignored a long list of Democratic standards that culminated in his refusal to concede during of the last elections.
“Fascism is always revolutionary rightism, so fascism must attack an established, older right…. It’s impossible for Jeb Bush, but that’s explicitly what Trump did,” Broich said.
Broich argues that fascism exists on a spectrum like any other political ideology, but there are defining characteristics of fascisms historically. Tick enough boxes on the fascist bingo card – anti-leftist violence, racism and xenophobia, crony capitalism, extreme nationalism, paramilitaries and street violence, a strong central leader – and you’re in fascist territory. Of course, Trump isn’t identical to the fascists of the past, but a close look at how he rallies supporters — and takes their money — offers a glimpse of what a fascist future might look like. Even though Trump is no longer in the White House, his fundraising emails show that we cannot ignore the continued possibility of such a future on the horizon.