I have gotten bored with all the "Benito Trump" talk. Yeah, sure, he actually looks like Il Duce at the right angle, and he certainly has the bombast and ego and nationalism, as well as the curious mixture of right and left economic appeals all muddled up so that who like the bombast and the nationalism can find something they like (he is a socialist like me! he loves big business like me!), with ultimately the message to be on economics that both business and labor should subordinate themselves to the great leader for purposes of moving The Nation forward. Yes, that is fascism, but the term has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, and indeed because it is tied to full out genocide in Hitler, it has become a general swear word, with leftists declaring it right wing and rightists declaring it left wing, and so on.
So I want to point out what it replaced, what is its origin, what the same basic political impulse was called before Benito came along with his party in the 1920s and dredged up this old Roman term for a bunch of sticks tied together to name his party. That older term is Bonapartism, after, yes, Napoleon Bonaparte. So we have most of the elements there. He came out of the French revolutionary left just as Mussolini came out of the Italian Socialist Party (and the Nazis were the National Socialists) and Donald Trump used to support Dems like Hillary. But then he went right in asserting a strong nationalism, maintaining certain nods to the left but also strongly supporting the bourgeois and big business right in asserting the superiority of France and its power. This peculiar combination was Bonapartism, and whenever a "Man on the Horse" would appear, especially in France, but also elsewhere in Europe, making these kinds of mixed appeals that the class conflict would be subsumed into nationalism under the leadership of the Man on the Horse, this was Bonapartism, with Napoleon's nephew, Napoleon III, a perfect practitioner. Some would say that this continued in France on down through Charles de Gaulle even.
Now I will accept that Bonaparte may not have been bad as the fascists or even as modern day Donald Trump. He did support liberation of some minorities, especially the Jews from old feudal restrictions. But he also clearly believed in the superiority of the French over all other people and their right to rule them.
Now one area where Trump might look better than old Bonaparte or the later fascists is in the parts of his foreign policy where he seems to want to avoid too many entanglements abroad. Of course he has been lying that he opposed the Iraq War when it started; he supported it. But on some foreign policy subjects, he almost looks reasonable, but there are two important caveats. One is simply his label for this, "America First," which for any student of US history was the label of the pro-Nazi and fascist sympathizers who did not want the US to get into WW II. Oooops!
Bit the more serious is when we get to the most important policy issue of them all, even more important than global warming, and far more important than any domestic economic issue: nuclear weapons and nuclear war. Part of his staying out of the rest of the world has been his call for letting Japan and South Korea get nuclear weapons. I shall simply note that trying to halt nuclear proliferation has been one of the highest goals of nearly every US president since WW II and for good reason. But here is the Donald just fine with it. Let them have nukes!
Then, even more seriously we have him talking loosely about using tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS. No presidents or presidential candidates have talked about using nuclear weapons. It is not done. Even Barry Goldwater did not do so, and since the retirement of the late Curtis E. LeMay, no significant figure in the US government has done so. This silence was matched globally after awhile, and I would give Thomas Schelling back door credit on this for helping to establish as a global focal point norm that nobody would be the first to use nuclear weapons, and nobody would even talk about doing so.'
But now this norm has broken down, and neo-Bonapartist Trump is part of it. I shall note that he did not start it, however. The credit for that goes to people around Trump's pal, fellow neo-Bonapartist Vladimir Putin, who at the time the Russians grabbed Crimea and sanctions were put on Russia for doing so, started yapping about how they could destroy New York City with their nuclear weapons. The cat was let out of the bag at that point,and Putin indeed fits the neo-Bonapartist scenario, appealing to resentments about national failure and leaning both left and right on economic policy while assuming more and more dictatorial power. So, yes, here in the nuclear age, we have neo-Bonapartists recklessly bringing us closer to nuclear war with their irresponsible and loose talk.