Fascism-Lite in America (or the Social Ideal of Donald Trump)
(2018) 7(2) British Journal of American Legal Studies 291
24 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017 Last revised: 2 Jun 2019
Date Written: August 23, 2017
What explains the election for the 45th President of the United States? Many commentators have said that Trump is a fascist. This builds on grave concern, since Citizens United, that democracy is being corrupted. This article suggests the long term cause, and the shape of ideology is more complex. In 1971, an extraordinary memorandum of Lewis Powell for the US Chamber of Commerce urged that ‘[b]usiness interests’ should ‘press vigorously in all political arenas for support’. Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court, and a few years after, despite powerful dissent, a majority in Buckley v Valeo held that candidates may spend unlimited funds on their own political campaign. This is what Donald Trump, and many like him, were able to do since. Citizens United compounded the problems, but Buckley v Valeo was the ‘Trump for President’ case. This provided a platform from which Trump could propel himself into extensive media coverage. The 2016 election was inseparable from the social ideal pursued by a majority of the Supreme Court since 1976. No modern judiciary had engaged in a more sustained assault on democracy and human rights. Properly understood, ‘fascism’ is a contrasting, hybrid political ideology. It mixes liberalism’s dislike of state intervention, social conservatism’s embrace of welfare provision for insiders (not ‘outsiders’), and collectivism’s view that associations are key actors in a class conflict. Although out of control, Trump is closely linked to neo-conservative politics. It is too hostile to insider welfare to be called ‘fascist’. Its political ideology is weaker. If we had to give it a name, the social ideal of Donald Trump is ‘fascism-lite’.
Keywords: Democracy, Fascism, Corruption, Lewis Powell, Antonin Scalia, Donald Trump, Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, Corporations, Campaign Expenditures, Free Speech
JEL Classification: G30, G38, J40, J51, J58, K22, K30, K31, M14, P16, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation