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Is America Going Fascist?

Given US President Donald Trump's propensity for racist, divisive rhetoric, it is easy to see why so many of his opponents would describe him as a modern-day Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler. But by implying that all Trump supporters are irredeemable extremists, such rhetoric merely plays into his hands.

CAMBRIDGE – White nationalism is on the rise in the United States. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 6,768 incidents of extremism and anti-Semitism (mostly from the right) in the US in 2018 and 2019. That figure is significantly higher than in previous years, leading many to conclude that President Donald Trump is to blame for the uptick in domestic extremism.

Since the launch of his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has overtly and covertly encouraged violence by his supporters. After a white supremacist, James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one and injuring dozens, Trump infamously said that there were “some very fine people on both sides.” And he has not shied away from racist rhetoric when describing African countries and even non-white members of Congress.

Trump’s words have consequences. In addition to the Charlottesville killer, several other high-profile white nationalists who have carried out acts of violence or domestic terrorism have said that they were inspired by the president. These include Cesar Sayoc Jr., who mailed pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton; Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue; and Patrick Crusius, who gunned down 22 people in El Paso. New research by economists Karsten Müller of Princeton University and Carlo Schwarz of Warwick University draws a direct causal link between Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

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