I’m figuring this out quite slowly, so apologies if this is all obvious to you. I haven’t lived through something like this before, and it’s a bit startling when it happens. But I have just reached the following conclusions.
After the first few hectic days when Trump took power, and started doing everything he could by executive order, things seem to have settled down to a more stable pattern. Trump’s Muslim ban is on hold, by order of a court. Trump is facing a legal challenge that he is in breach of the constitution.
What is at stake here is this: can the US constitution’s checks and balances actually be enforced? The US model of separation of the powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary is well-known. What Trump has done is clearly in breach of conventions and laws designed to put checks on the President’s power. What Trump (or Bannon) are trying to do is find out whether those checks hold.
What is at stake is nothing less than whether the US does actually have rule of law.
As a quick reminder, Bannon’s a pretty unpleasant guy. He’s also linked with the international far-right (neo-Nazis), who he has helped to rebrand as the alt-right. These are the typical racist thugs that in the UK we know as the BNP, historically.
Bannon and his ilk see the checks and balances on power as things that stand in their way. The idea that there are legal restrictions protecting other people’s rights are simply blocks to be overcome. This is a concerted effort to overcome them. It seems long-planned and co-ordinated. The fact that Trump’s first executive orders were illegal is not impetuousness or incompetence, it’s essential. Because the first thing that Trump needs to do is manage to break the rule of law, to defy the courts and win.
And that is what he is trying to do now. He will not be bothered that a court case is being brought against him; that’s part of the plan. He probably expects to lose. The decisive question is, when the courts rule against him, can they enforce that?
If not, then the rule of law is broken and Trump can do what he likes.
The answer to the question in the title is: Is Trump fascist? He’s trying to be. Let’s hope he fails.