Recently, the United States experienced another transfer of power between presidents. Although this change of leadership dissipated some of my tension and heartache, I know many people feel apprehension and fear regarding the next four years. I want to take this opportunity to address those people and form a bridge of understanding. Here, I will lay out my interpretation of the moralities and accomplishments of former President Trump as his supporters saw them. However, in the fairness of understanding, I will describe one reason his ideas made many others, including myself, uneasy.
I will start with something that everyone, despite their political affiliation, can agree with: Trump had a big presence. He boldly told people exactly what he thought of them no matter who they were. From powerful politicians to reporters and even his staff, Trump made it obvious that he would speak out against anyone or anything he did not like. This allowed his supporters to distinguish the “good” from the “bad.” It also made him stand out from other politicians because he seldom spoke through a veneer of political flattery. “By talking like a real person and not trafficking in platitudes and liberal pieties, he has made it difficult for conventional politicians to do their thing,” freelance writer Saritha Prabhu wrote in The Federalist.
Trump also created a connection to our national symbols that let his supporters feel pride through them. He stood under the American flag with pride and even had an infamous encounter hugging it. Although this action could have been seen either in a positive or negative light, he made it clear that it was okay to love the symbols of our nation. His supporters took this in stride.
People also love that he stood for a more classic version of America. His motto, “Make America Great Again,” promoted Judeo-Christian values, American jobs and a strong belief in capitalism. The quote itself is from a speech former President Ronald Reagan gave in 1980 about the “American dream.” Although the “American dream” has been an ideal since the founding of our country, the phrase itself often refers to a mid-twentieth century idea of our society.
Along with these beliefs, Trump also made national security paramount. He began building a wall along the Mexican border, which some of his supporters viewed as an, “[absolute necessity] to keep our nation secure and to gain some control over an immigration crisis that has spiraled out of control,” as Wayne Grudem stated in an article for TheStream. He also fought for gun rights and more funding for the military. In David Allport’s “Here are 30 reasons to like President Donald Trump — and these are just for starters!” he said Trump, “is a patriot who really loves America and is committed to the safety and well-being of Americans.”
Now, we have looked at some broad aspects of Trump’s mantle: his declarations of which politicians and media outlets could be trusted, his promotion of national symbols, his attachment to traditional Christian values, his focus on “America First” policies and his promotion of national security. These are reasons so many people loved, and still love, Trump. I believe they are also the basic elements of fascism.
It might seem like a far cry to claim Trump’s love for his country makes him a fascist. However, when nationalism is mixed with sexism, racism, disdain for science and slander against the electoral process, people are put on edge. Trump has been recorded as saying, “Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything,” he has allowed border migrant camps to degrade into horrific conditions in the name of national security, dismissed science during the COVID-19 pandemic and, with no evidence, convinced millions of people that mail-in ballots rigged the election.
These elements of Trump’s presidency reminded me of my rudimentary history classes on WWII. Hitler was able to rise to power through spreading distrust against the media, making nationalism paramount, focusing on a government led solely by himself and separating groups to the point there was inexcusable violence against the “unwanted.”
That’s why there was so much opposition to the Trump administration. That is why people were worried about the obscene amount of power Trump was attempting to gain. People compared him with infamous leaders of the past and present and hoped that would not be America’s future. The people who stood against him were not standing against America, we were standing for a balance of power and a truly free America.