To Know Trump and Clinton, Look to their Mentors

The More You Know:

Neo-fascism is a post–World War II ideology that includes significant elements of fascism. Neo-fascism usually includes ultra-nationalism, populism, anti-immigration policies or, where relevant, nativism, anti-communism, anti-socialism, anti-Marxism, anti-anarchism and opposition to the parliamentary system and liberal democracy.

Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.

These words get thrown around a lot lately.

Most recently Dr. Cornel West said of Donald Trump, “Just to tell the truth, Trump is a narcissistic neo-fascist in the making, and you just have to say that. That’s what it is.” Many people write Trump off as a joke, focusing on tweets, his hair, outlandish behavior, etc.. but you have to look no further than his greatest mentor, Roy Cohn, a Joseph McCarthy acolyte and neo-fascist goon who was a key figure in both The Red Scare, targeting alleged communists – as well as The Velvet Scare, which led to “…the firing of scores of gay men from government employment, and strong-armed many opponents into silence using rumors of their homosexuality.” (wikipedia)

The very definition of the term neo-fascist above reads like a Trump speech checklist. I don’t think there’s room for a lot of argument here. Of course he’d never admit it, he may not even know that’s what he is, but he sure talks like one, and that can have dire consequences. Forget the Supreme Court, do you want a man like Trump wielding the power to issue Executive Orders?

I’d say the case for Clinton being a neoliberal is just as cut and dry. It’s made a bit murkier by the fact that she doesn’t have a mentor in the vein that Trump did – her longtime mentor was Marian Wright Edelman, of the Children’s Defense Fund. Though the two appear to have come to terms since 1996 when they split ways after Bill Clinton’s welfare reforms – Marian’s husband Peter worked for Bill Clinton and quit his job in protest – and tensions lingered for years afterward.

That moment signifies the Clinton’s public turn toward neoliberalism, though Hillary was on the board of Wal-Mart from ’86-’92. Post ’96 Clintonian economic policy featured much deregulation and laissez-faire economic development.

If she was just a neoliberal, she’d be in much better shape with the left. But then there’s her foreign policy. It is known that in her days on the Armed Services Committee of the Senate, she became an acolyte of Robert Gates, the former CIA official who was clearly embroiled, though never indicted, in the Iran-Contra scandal, and who later served a scandal plagued run as Sec. of Defense for both Presidents Bush and Obama. Michele Flournoy, a former Gates undersecretary said to Foreign Policy Magazine in November 2016, “I’d have to rack my brains to come up with an issue on which she and Gates differed.”

What this means is that she espouses a coercive, interventionist, tough-minded philosophy on foreign policy. In retrospect, despite the awful drone strikes, Obama is nowhere near Clinton on that spectrum. He’s reluctant, she’s decisive – when she thinks it’s the right course. She’s also pragmatic and wants to do the right thing for the country.

I think this gets to the nut about why Clinton is so disliked, yet so liked at the same time. She really is a patchwork. She’s a compassionate person who, I think, really does want to end systemic issues around race and criminal justice – who wants to raise the minimum wage and restore the middle class. She wants to fight terrorism and make us safe, while ensuring we don’t ostracize Muslims. Clinton offers something for everyone to love, but something for everyone to hate as well. I think because of her robotic pragmatism, she can’t be easily pinned down to any point on the classic spectrum because she’s truly all over it. We’ll see over the next few months a battle between absolute pragmatism and absolute dogmatism. Let’s all hope for the best, and at the very least, we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and our country in the process.

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