King's College London

Research portal

Fascism-lite in America (or the social ideal of Donald Trump)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-315
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of American Legal Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018

King's Authors


What explains the election of the 45th President of the United States? Many commentators have said that Trump is a fascist. This builds on grave concerns, since Citizens United, that democracy is being corrupted. This article suggests the long term cause, and the shape of ideology is more complex. In 1971, an extraordinary memorandum of Lewis Powell for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged that '[b]usiness interests' should 'press vigorously in all political arenas for support'. Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court, and a few years later, despite powerful dissent, a majority in Buckley v. Valeo held that candidates may spend unlimited funds on their own political campaigns, a decision of which Donald Trump, and others, have taken full advantage. Citizens United compounded the problems, but Buckley v. Valeo was the 'Trump for President' case. This provided a platform from which Trump could propel himself into extensive media coverage. The 2016 election was inseparable from the social ideal pursued by a majority of the Supreme Court since 1976. No modern judiciary had engaged in a more sustained assault on democracy and human rights. Properly understood, 'fascism' is a contrasting, hybrid political ideology. It mixes liberalism's dislike of state intervention, social conservatism's embrace of welfare provision for insiders (not 'outsiders'), and collectivism's view that associations are key actors in a class conflict. Although out of control, Trump is closely linked to neo-conservative politics. It is too hostile to insider welfare to be called 'fascist'. Its political ideology is weaker. If we had to give it a name, the social ideal of Donald Trump is 'fascism-lite'.

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454