Five months and 26 days have passed since Donald J. Trump left the White House. His Twitter does not exist. His blog died. He is releasing shitty letterhead statements engineered for virality that have achieved it only a handful of times. Trump still grips the hearts of J.D. Vance, some guys that J.D. might write about condescendingly, and tax evaders, but he has less official power than any other time in at least five years. His name shows up just once on today’s New York Times homepage; it is in the Books section.
But there is no time like the present, and David Frum is seizing it. Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush during the uneventful years of 2001 and 2002, is a man with his finger glued to the pulse of politics. He is a trendspotter. He knew the Iraq War was a bad idea as early as 2013. And he’s finally brought that inquisitive mind to bear on the 45th President. On July 13, Frum took to the envelope-pushing pages of The Atlantic to make an announcement: Trumpism is fascist.
This was an out of character move for Frum, who has historically been a downer on using what he calls the “F-word:”
Through the Trump years, it seemed sensible to eschew comparisons to the worst passages of history. I repeated over and over again a warning against too-easy use of the F-word, fascism: “There are a lot of stops on the train line to bad before you get to Hitler Station.”
There’s also a lot of ways to express that sentiment before you get to “Hitler Station,” but let’s keep going. What changed his mind?
The Trump movement was always authoritarian and illiberal. It indulged periodically in the rhetoric of violence. Trump himself chafed against the restraints of law. But what the United States did not have before 2020 was a large national movement willing to justify mob violence to claim political power. Now it does.
In any case, much like when he coined the phrase “axis of evil” setting the precedent that helped justify endless war in the Middle East, Frum has again started a trend. The day after his piece ran, New York Magazine followed up with an article titled “Is It Finally Time To Begin Calling Trumpism Fascist?” (The answer was yes). As of July 15, it is ranked among the most-read articles on their website, second only to a piece called “Top U.S. General Said Trump Preached ‘Gospel of the Führer.’”
Our thoughts go out to Jim Belushi.