Former Assistant Secretary of State Douglas Frantz, who served under President Barack Obama, believes President Donald Trump is pushing the United States toward fascism — and he has warned Canada to take heed.
Writing for The Globe and Mail, Frantz said Trump reinforces the message of his slogan, “Make America Great Again,” with daily lies and half-truths — “driving the country toward the brink of fascism.”
> Yes, at first glance, a rise of fascism in the United States sounds outlandish. Doesn’t the country have deep-rooted institutions and civil society as bulwarks against a plunge into the authoritarianism of Hitler and Mussolini?
> I fear that good Americans will trust blindly in those institutions until it is too late. I also fear that our neighbours in Canada will ignore the early signs of similar trouble in their own country – and attempts by politicians to exploit them.
> Before we say it can’t happen in the United States or Canada, let’s look at what history tells us are three warning signs of impending fascism.
Frantz lists three telltale signs that fascism is on its way in:
> First, in a fascist state, democracy is a victim of economic troubles and broken social bonds. In the 1930s, Germany went from being a wealthy country to a poor one in a generation. Nearly one in three workers were unemployed, the middle class was weakened, people had lost hope and needed someone to blame.
> Flash forward to the United States today. For many Americans, the future seems diminished. Nearly 80 per cent of the population lives paycheck-to-paycheck and roughly 70 per cent have less than $1,000 in savings. As a result, seven in 10 Americans expect their children to have less.
In a fascist state, democratic institutions are undermined to make way for authoritarian rule:
> Science and experts are rejected in favour of the all-knowing demagogue. Critical thinking is discarded in favour of simplistic solutions delivered in simplistic language. Nationalism replaces multilateralism.
> Blaming Canada, Europe and China for the loss of American jobs gives Mr. Trump a double-barreled weapon: He appeals to the fear of outsiders and avoids the tough solutions to real problems. He scoffs at the multilateral institutions that have kept the world safe for 70 years and denigrates those who warn of the perils of climate change.
And as his last point, Frantz points to the demagogue’s insistence that only he speaks the truth:
> Deviations are dismissed and words lose their meaning. Think of George Orwell’s 1984, where the leaders created a language in which “freedom is slavery” and “ignorance is strength.”
> How different is that from the daily tweets and rhetoric of Mr. Trump? Or from the assertions by his closest advisers that there are “alternative facts” and that the “truth isn’t truth?” In this twisted formula, the demagogue defines the truth and sows distrust in the institutions central to democracy, such as the free press and fair elections.
While Trump’s demagoguery might have already taken root in the U.S., Frantz warns Canada not to get to comfortable, thinking only the Americans must worry about authoritarianism.
> For Canadians, the perilous path of its neighbour has already brought economic uncertainty and damaged a vital friendship. Mr. Trump’s antics have opened the door for populist politicians like Ontario Premier Doug Ford and right-wing People’s Party of Canada founder, Maxime Bernier.
> With the United States on the sidelines and authoritarianism on the rise in Europe and elsewhere, it has never been more important for Ottawa to lead by example.
> Finally, don’t look at the deterioration of democracy in the United States and think, “It can’t happen here.” It can, unless Canadians maintain their commitment to helping each other, and build on their history of democratic values at home and abroad.