stanley2_Jessica RinaldiThe Boston Globe via Getty Images_trump maga rally Jesscia Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Will Fascism Win the US Election?

For months leading up to the US presidential election, Donald Trump has been doubling down on the quintessential features of fascism, presenting himself as a messiah and father of the nation who must be defended by any and all means available. Voters must not harbor any illusions: democracy itself is on the ballot.

NEW YORK – Many Americans can see that voting for US President Donald Trump is tantamount to endorsing white nationalism and the kind of conspiracist, magical thinking that denies real threats like pandemics and climate change. But it also must be recognized that failing to vote against Trump in this year’s election is itself a form of collaboration with an attack on democracy that is already underway.

America today is threatened not just by authoritarianism but by fascism, which operates as an explicitly anti-democratic cult centered around a leader who promises national restoration in the face of humiliation supposedly caused by minorities, liberals, and Marxists. Because fascism glorifies violence and the militarization of politics, we should be wary of the fact that Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Even if his regular use of anti-democratic rhetoric is merely a tactic to divert attention from his failure to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, such language from an elected leader is highly dangerous and should be shocking to citizens in any democracy.

But many Americans are not shocked at all. By normalizing anti-democratic speech and ideology, Trump has increasingly normalized authoritarian rule, too. That is why this election must be understood as a struggle for the survival of American democracy itself. Trump’s strategy of undermining democratic norms and the legitimacy of the election is eerily reminiscent of the destruction of Latin American democracies in the 1960s and 1970s, when autocrats manufactured an environment in which acts that were previously deemed illegal suddenly became the new standard.