A photo of President Donald Trump delivering a speech at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

President Donald Trump delivers a speech at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Photo credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

Q: I think we tend to confuse nationalism with fascism. I personally believe there is nothing racist nor facist about being a nationalist (love for one’s own country/patriotic). After the 9/11 attack on our country, America was at its peak on nationalism, every household, regardless of race, hoisted the American flag at their respected houses, so why was it ok then? But it’s not ok now?

A: Good question. Of course, nationalism is often a healthy impulse like it was during WWII or after 9/11, or when we root for team USA at the Olympics, or celebrate our many leaders who advanced the causes of civil rights and individual liberty.

A good and healthy form of nationalism flipped to fascism as soon as Donald Trump became the torchbearer and then cult leader of the Republican Party, and it started with these words at his campaign launch:

Civics Lesson: Benito Mussolini, Fascism’s Founder

Benito Mussolini was the founder of fascism and ally to Hitler.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (July 29, 1883 – April 28, 1945) was an Italian politician and journalist who founded and led the National Fascist Party. He was Prime Minister of Italy from the March on Rome in 1922 until his deposition in 1943, and “Duce” of Italian Fascism from the establishment of the Italian Fasces of Combat in 1919 until his execution in 1945 by Italian partisans. As dictator of Italy and principal founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired and supported the international spread of fascist movements during the inter-war period.

Mussolini was originally a socialist politician and a journalist at the Avanti! newspaper. In 1912, he became a member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), but he was expelled from the PSI for advocating military intervention in World War I, in opposition to the party’s stance on neutrality. In 1914, Mussolini founded a new journal, Il Popolo d’Italia, and served in the Royal Italian Army during the war until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering on Italian nationalism instead of socialism, and later founded the fascist movement which came to oppose egalitarianism and class conflict, instead advocating “revolutionary nationalism” transcending class lines.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” – Donald Trump, June 16, 2015

The main definition for fascism that I’m using comes from Yale historian Jason Stanley:

“… fascist politics would focus on the dominant cultural group. The goal is to make them feel like victims, to make them feel like they’ve lost something and that the thing they’ve lost has been taken from them by a specific enemy, usually some minority out-group or some opposing nation.


This is why fascism flourishes in moments of great anxiety, because you can connect that anxiety with fake loss. The story is typically that a once-great society has been destroyed by liberalism or feminism or cultural Marxism or whatever, and you make the dominant group feel angry and resentful about the loss of their status and power. Almost every manifestation of fascism mirrors this general narrative.”

88% of Trump supporters and voters are white. In the American form of fascism, the “American Patriots” who view themselves as “true” Americans are overwhelmingly white Christians, and while not explicitly racist as were the Nazis, their view of true American culture is one in which all blacks, hispanics, and immigrants conform to a certain code of dress, fashion, religion, and language. 

Writer Rebecca Solnit calls the Trump brand “ethnonationalist fascism”:

“Some of us have been watching ethnonationalist fascism come for several years, complete with its traditional antisemitism (globalists is a code word for Jews, if anyone was unaware of that). It’s flaring up while it’s being threatened right now. And Putin was the global leader of the revival. A lot of Americans drank what he was pouring; quite a lot of them didn’t know where it was coming from. So while the actual Russian army appears to be clumsy and out of date, the troll armies and propaganda efforts such as RT were powerfully effective.”

Trump is also a fascist because of his regular and constant incitement to violence over the years, culminating in the 1/6 insurrection. This NY Times video compiled several of Trump’s incitements to violence through March of 2016.

So, it’s not “mean Tweets,” as Trump supporters like to call them, but Trump’s rhetoric, language, and behavior constitute a fascist incitement to violence to overthrow our Constitution and rule of law. The Daily Show had a good rundown in 2016, it was already very obvious by then that Trump was helming a fascist movement. Highlights from their Twitter thread:

Trait number 1: “a cult of action.” 

Trait number 2: “an intolerance of criticism.”

Trait number 3: “aggressive masculinity.” 

Trait number 4: “fear of outsiders.” 

Trait number 5: “resentment at national humiliation.” 

Trait number 6: “intense nationalism.”


This ABC video compiles how Trump’s violent rhetoric over the years contributed to dozens of hate crimes and hundreds of incidents of violence against minorities and immigrants.

This Washington Post article lists 12 key things that make Trumpism a fascist movement. The most critical item on the list, written in July of 2020, was this prescient prediction:

2. Trump persistently lies about voter fraud, setting the stage for him to use emergency powers to seize control of the election or challenge the results if he loses.

I could go, on and on, but hopefully, this answers your question.

Eric Forst is the founder and CEO of Civics Nation. With more than 20 years of experience as a marketing technology executive, Forst has spent his career helping clients in politics and industry better understand voters and consumers. In an age of fake-news and Russian propaganda, our civic duty of being an informed citizen is harder than ever. Forst’s deep understanding of the methods of ad-tech and AI helps Civics Nation readers identify fake news, the methods of propaganda, and learn the civics and history lessons needed to make informed votes.
Facebook Comments
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Civics Nation

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: