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Even Trump’s near-concession is a lesson in fascism

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.
Reuters/Leah Millis
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Reporter

The essence of Donald Trump’s political vision is perfectly encapsulated by the beginning of his near-concession message, issued less than a day after his angry mob stormed the US Capitol.

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election,” opens the statement shared as a tweet by Dan Scavino, the White House’s director of social media. Trump’s own account had been temporarily blocked by Twitter because his tweets continued to spread falsehoods on the election, and appeared likely to fuel more anger while seemingly asking for peaceful conduct. Despite the mob action, lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday night and certified Joe Biden’s presidential election win early today.

The rest of the president’s message isn’t exactly a concession, either, as he continues to baselessly dispute the outcome of a vote he lost by a large margin, and on the day that Democrats gained the majority in the Senate, too, with the historical election of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia. He never actually admits he lost—he merely says that he intends to leave office peacefully on Jan. 20, while promising a continuation of his political project.

And it’s the very idea of “disagreeing” with a legitimate election outcome that explains that project, betraying not just an utter disregard of the electoral process, and indeed democracy, but a fascist worldview.

At the core of the fascist ethos is the equation of the leader’s personal beliefs and opinions with the truth, explains authoritarianism expert Federico Finchelstein in his book, A Brief History of Fascist Lies.  In such a worldview, facts and evidence are secondary. Reality is defined not by what they are, but by the leader’s opinion of what they should be. If, in order to match this truth, facts must be changed, however violently—so be it.

The outcome of an election is not, of course, something one can disagree with, so long as it’s been conducted reasonably fairly by robust institutions and officials committed to upholding the law, which indisputably was the case in the US. Disappointment, anger even, are understandable reactions, but an outcome is a fact, not something to have opinions on. This, however, does not apply to the world in which Trump, or other fascist or authoritarian leaders operate—the electoral process and democracy is only accepted, and even celebrated, when it is a means to confirm their power. But when its outcome challenges that power, then it becomes utterly dispensable.

The events that unraveled since the election showed that this worldview went far beyond Trump’s mind, and in fact informs the conduct of his political allies and supporters with the acceptance of—or at least without any substantial challenges from—the Republican establishment.

Since the election, the world has witnessed not simply the anger of a (very large) defeated majority, but its complete refusal to accept reality.

The events that unfolded yesterday were the ultimate attempt to annihilate facts in order to uphold the belief that Trump could not lose the election. The actions of the mobs that stormed the physical center of American democracy and the representatives who attempted to stop the vote certification from within that building through spurious claims may differ in form, but not substance, or means. They are both expressions of that same “disagreement” with the election outcome, and its corollary that the democracy that rejected Trump is not worth keeping.

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