New York Daily News, you’re on notice. There’s a new contender for the "most provocative" front page of the 2016 campaign.
The Philadelphia Daily News evoked Nazi imagery on its front page Tuesday with a tight profile shot of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, right arm extended up and out at a 45-degree angle. The photo caption might as well say, "Heil Trump," but the Philly tabloid went with "The New Furor" instead. (See what they did there?)
On the shock-o-meter, this ranks right up there with the two New York Daily News front pages last week.
The Philadelphia Daily News's cover received a round of applause from the paper's New York counterpart, with columnist Shaun King writing that "Donald Trump has gone full-blown Nazi on us."
Just what you'd expect from a couple tabloids, right? But the tabs are far from alone in making the Trump-Hitler analogy. Trump's controversial rhetoric on immigration, religion and race has drawn comparisons to history's most famous fascist since the early days of his campaign.
In July, barely a month into the real estate mogul's candidacy, a Newsweek opinion piece asked in the headline, "Is Donald Trump a Fascist?"
"I've never before witnessed such a brazen display of nativistic jingoism, along with a complete disregard for economic reality," Jeffrey A. Tucker wrote. He continued, sharing his reaction to a Trump stump speech in New Hampshire:
His speech was like an interwar séance of once-powerful dictators who inspired multitudes, drove countries into the ground and died grim deaths. I kept thinking of books like John T. Flynn’s "As We Go Marching," especially Chapter Ten that so brilliantly chronicles a form of statism that swept Europe in the 1930s. It grew up in the firmament of failed economies, cultural upheaval and social instability, and it lives by stoking the fires of bourgeois resentment.
Since World War II, the ideology he represents has usually lived in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it anymore. The right name, the correct name, the historically accurate name, is fascism. I don’t use that word as an insult only. It is accurate.
A week later, the liberal online publication Salon answered Newsweek's question with a headline that asserted: "Donald Trump is an actual fascist."
More recently (last week), New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat raised the fascism question under a headline that was identical to the one Newsweek ran over the summer. Douthat ultimately concluded that Trump is merely "a little fascistic" (an absolute gem of a moniker) and that comparisons to the likes of Hitler are too strong.
That sinister resemblance is just one part of his reality-television meets WWE-heel-turn campaign style. He isn’t actually building a fascist mass movement (he hasn’t won a primary yet!) or rallying a movement of far-right intellectuals (Ann Coulter notwithstanding). His suggestion that a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies might have deserved to be roughed up was pretty ugly, but still several degrees of ugly away from the actual fascist move, which would require organizing a paramilitary force to take to the streets to brawl with the decadent supporters of our rotten legislative government.
Some of Trump's rhetoric does invoke the tyrannical speeches of fascist leaders of the past. Asked about his plans to track American Muslims, Trump ominously told Yahoo News last month, "Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country."
But the key aspects of fascism are at odds with Trump's persona and his message. For all his bluster, a President Trump wouldn't pursue the authoritarian, collectivist agenda that characterized Germany's Nazi Party and Italy's Benito Mussolini, at least not according to what he's said so far about his political views. Calling Trump a fascist risks misleading voters about his agenda, which is not that much different from that of his rivals for the GOP presidential nod.
Douthat put it best. Trump is "a little fascistic"; he's not "The New Furor." Still, it's alarming to think that this is a legitimate question worthy of real debate when it comes to the leading candidate for a major party's presidential nomination. In the year 2016.