WHY WOULD TRUMP QUOTE MUSSOLINI?
Donald Trump recently picked an interesting quote of Benito Mussolini’s to re-tweet on Twitter:
On one hand, I can understand the sentiment. I myself have often quoted Emiliano Zapata’s famous line “Better to die on your feet, than live on your knees” and it doesn’t necessarily mean I know much about Zapata (which I don’t), much less whether I would have agreed with him about much else.
Still, Trump’s use of “Ilduce2016” in his tweet hashtag caught my eye as somehow strange, almost a little too enthusiastic. So I found myself wondering, if Trump finds this historical figure inspiring, perhaps we should study the other teachings of the “Duce” to see whether there are other areas where their philosophies are similar.
In 1932, Mussolini published The Doctrine of Fascism, clearly laying out his ambitions for his country. His vision ultimately drove Italy into WWII and brought devastation to much of Southern Europe. With its aggressive rhetoric, Fascism was in no way subtle about the violence that lay ahead and manifested itself in that war.
Primarily concerned with making their nations great again in order to fuel their selfish ambitions, the Fascist dictators of Europe in the first half of the 20th century, Mussolini and Hitler, welcomed tough talk and relished war as proof of their nation’s vigor. The state-centric spirit of Fascism was based upon “a human will dominating the will of others.” They were obsessed with winning.
In the 1930s, Germany and Italy were short on public opinion polls, so their leaders channeled their winning spirit by invading other countries. Can this be compared to Donald Trump?
“America doesn’t win anymore. When I am president we will beat China, we will beat Japan, we will beat Mexico.” Beat them at what? Trump surely cannot be speaking of capitalism, of which he claims to be the “master.” For we all know that practicality and morality work together through mutual consent to produce mutual benefit in the free market.
But while it appears that the master of capitalism is speaking primarily of commerce and how it relates to international politics, he sees it as a zero-sum game: we will win, they will lose. It appears as if in Trump’s view, for the last 40 years, we have been the losers.
Trump’s zero-sum notion of winners and losers sounds uncomfortably close to another Mussolini quote, “Fascism will have nothing to do with Universal embraces.”
In other words, our nation’s interest will never yield to global charity, the type that America made possible in the second half of the 20th Century. The type that lifted millions out of poverty through the protection of free trade. The type that re-built a shattered world in the ‘40s. The type that all our greatest presidents have always recognized as that for which the American persona strives.
Yes, all of this growth, this peace, the Pax Americana (American Peace), benefited us. That is because Capitalism is a system of mutual benefit and mutual consent. Losers are not needed to balance out the winners.
Yet Trump hopes to force Mexico to build a wall. He hopes to stick it to our trading partners to whom we “lose.” Most strangely of all, he hopes to stick it to our allies. Again, he will have “nothing to do with Universal embraces.”
This tough talk can be appealing. It can make us feel confident in his greatness. “Make America Great again” is a nice phrase, but it is alarmingly vague. According to Mussolini and Hitler, they too were making their nations great again. Great enough to exert their will upon the world.
Why has no one checked Donald on his zero-sum win-lose anti-capitalist rhetoric? Americans have never aimed to exert our will upon the world. A “shining city on a hill” is meant to inspire, not oppress. This is not the America we know and love. This is not the America that rebuilt Germany and Japan after WWII in a remarkable display of forgiveness, particularly when juxtaposed to the end of WW1.
It is not the America that directly caused the fall of the Evil Empire thereby liberating Eastern Europe. That is not the America that has waged a Global War on Terror in a historically unprecedented way, i.e. exercising care for reducing civilian casualties.
Trump’s zero-sum philosophy concerning international politics suggests it may also be his life philosophy. In his version of morality and international relations, Trump appears influenced by suspect characters, some of whom he even quotes openly. Due to his consistent inconsistencies, no one can quite classify him politically, but he certainly isn’t a consistent conservative.
To be clear, Trump isn’t a fascist eitherr, but he is flirting with some elements of the ideologies of fascist dictators. That is a strange and dangerous thing for an American presidential candidate to do. How he deals with other nations is directly reflective of how he deals with people, and most particularly those he would govern.
This leads one to Mussolini’s claims that with its tremendous ability to exert force upon others, “Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies.”
Hasn’t Trump already trained his guns on the 1st Amendment, stating that he will make it much easier to sue for slander? Even having never been elected to office, he has trained his guns on the average American in every imaginable avenue by using the government to dominate others starting with eminent domain for private and personal gain.
Finally, all these personal attributes describe men dramatically removed from reality. This is what happens when you do not have a high regard for democracy or your fellow man as illustrated by his comments and observations about others. Like a junk-yard dog or schoolyard bully who preys on the weak, one must wonder, will Trump seek to continue his zero-sum game in the White House?
Look at Trump’s past commitments: his wives, his bankruptcies, his policy flip flops, the trail of question marks and red flags that mark his path. Are we so sure that this man will not turn to our throats?
Are we in danger of allowing our anger at the utter failure of the elites in both ruling parties to push us into supporting new leadership whose words and deeds have been unexamined and unappreciated for what they imply?
That is what occurred in the poor Fascist nations described above. We should consider their experience and seriously consider it as a warning to our times.
Russell Ramsland is a profoundly pro-capitalism serial entrepreneur in Dallas, Texas.