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In his classic 1944 work, Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, then living in exile in England, shocked readers with his diagnosis of Nazism. National socialism, he argued, was not the opposite of social democracy, but its evolutionary extension. All Hitler had done, said Hayek, was to grasp that racism is required for socialism, because to mobilize the passion necessary to achieve the full collectivist agenda, it is necessary to invoke the tribal instinct. Thus — contrary to Marx — the ultimate development of socialism is not stateless international brotherhood, but various forms of rabid tribal nationalism.
Donald Trump has confounded many analysts with his peculiar combination of political positions. While claiming to be a conservative, Trump has nevertheless advocated extreme statism. For example, Trump has — as recently as last December — supported nationalized single payer health care, a system that would put the lives of Americans in the hands of government bureaucrats. And just last month in a town hall with CNN, Trump said that he thought health care and education were two of the three primary responsibilities of the federal government. He is a practitioner and advocate of eminent domain, supporting a system that enriches insiders who can arrange for government action to dispossess ordinary Americans of their homes if that should be required to reap the oligarch’s profit. Trump is also radical trade protectionist, who would destroy the global economic foundation of American prosperity since World War II in order to impose a system that, again, enriches insiders who can arrange for government action to block foreign competition. If that were not enough, Trump has stated his intention to implement laws that would facilitate government officials suing critics, thereby chilling the freedom of the press that has been fundamental to American liberty since colonial times.
In addition, Trump openly embraces Nietzschean ethics, in direct opposition to the Judeo-Christian morality treasured by conservatives. He flaunts his practice of corruption of government through payoffs to elected officials, who, under the Constitution, are supposed to be representing some combination of their constituents and their conscience. He shows open contempt for such essential patriotic classical virtues as courage, building his own career through the promotion of greed and lust. He spews lies fluently and, when confronted with a request for facts to back up his assertions, brushes it off as if truth does not matter. His general methodology is that of a demagogue, a mobilizer of passion against reason, of the mob against the individual, an exemplar of liberty’s worst enemy.
Yet Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration might seem to make him a conservative, at least on that one issue. There is a conservative case against illegal immigration on the basis of support for rule of law. But Trump is not a supporter of rule of law. He is a supporter of abuse and corruption of the law, and through his casinos and related enterprises, has been a major player in an industry notorious for its links to organized crime. He has urged his supporters to commit acts of violence, and has threatened riots to disrupt the Republican National Convention if he is not given his way. He personally has scammed thousands of Americans out of their life savings, a practice that, under a more equitable legal system, would more likely make him a candidate for the penitentiary than the presidency. So, for Trump, the illegal immigration question can hardly be about the sacred rule the law.
The primary case advanced by most immigration restrictionists, labor protectionism, is anti-free enterprise, and thus not a conservative argument. Even so, the pragmatic side of immigration policy is an area in which reasonable people can differ. While adding more people with additional skills to the country is clearly a constructive act, there are practical limits to the rate at which such people can be assimilated, and what those levels are is a matter for rational debate. But it is apparent that, for Trump, the immigration issue is not about any practical policy. Rather, as demonstrated by his blood libel claiming that New Jersey’s Muslim Americans stood on rooftops cheering as their fellow citizens in the Twin Towers burned alive, it is fodder for xenophobic demagoguery.
So, is Trump an inconsistent combination of “left-wing” policies on most issues with “right-wing” racist politics? No. On the contrary, Trump is a completely consistent collectivist. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, racism – or tribalism, if you will – is not a conservative ideology; it is collectivist ideology. It is the oldest, most powerful, and most lethal collectivist ideology, because it is based on primeval animal instinct. By using xenophobic agitation to mobilize mob support for a program of socialist policy, unlimited government, and strongman rule, Trump has embraced a political methodology clearly identified seven decades ago in The Road to Serfdom.
In short, Trump is a national socialist. To be sure, he is not a Nazi, although he is attracting Nazis, “white nationalists,” and other Alt-Right “identarians” in considerable numbers to his banner. Nor is he a national socialist in the vein of the current North Korean tyranny, although he has offered praise for that regime. He is a different type of national socialist. Perhaps the closest foreign analogy would be that of the Putin regime, which uses extreme nationalism to secure mob support for an unlimited government that serves the interests of those who control it, or those who can pay enough to influence it.
In the Putinite world, there are no laws that effectively restrain the strong or protect the weak. The government is all powerful, and its bias is available for rent. It’s not about whether your case is just or unjust; it’s about who you can buy. It’s not that the system is corrupt. Corruption is the system, and everyone knows it.
In this context, the praise of Vladimir Putin and totalitarian ideologist Aleksandr Dugin for Trump, Trump’s open expression of admiration for Putin, his hiring of Kremlin-allied advisors, including Carter Page and Paul Manafort, and support for Moscow’s military moves globally, should come as no surprise.
However, the endorsement of Trump by Dugin is more significant than merely signaling the Kremlin’s appreciation of a useful idiot. Dugin is one of the principle philosophical theoreticians of the international Alt-Right, and his publications are regularly featured in such American identarian outlets as Radix. While he greatly admires Nazism, Dugin’s “Fourth Political Theory” seeks to transcend traditional Nordic racism’s self-limited market appeal by proposing multi-centered tribal fascism as a counter to the “liberal” (i.e. Western) ideas of individualism, intrinsic rights, and universal human dignity. It is the raising of “blood and soil” over “all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;” of animal instinct over human reason; of the id over the superego; of greed and lust over justice and love. This is the metaphysics of national socialism. It is also clearly recognizable as the metaphysics of Trump.
National socialism is not conservatism. It is the most extreme form of socialism, and thus the very opposite of conservatism. Trump is not a Republican, and he is certainly not a conservative. He has been able to impersonate a conservative only because some conservatives have sacrificed their own principles to go along with elements of his nativism themselves. This needs to end. Trump is a threat not just to the Republican Party, but to the republic. True patriots need to rally to defeat his cause, and all that it represents.