Donald Trump does not stand for fascism. Maybe he wants to, maybe he thinks he does. But what he actually stands for is nothing.
Contrast Trump with Vladimir Putin, whom he claims to admire. Putin is many things, but he is not ignorant. He understands very well how the world works. He has plans; evil plans, but plans nonetheless.
Trump has no plans. As his debate with Hillary Clinton made abundantly clear, he doesn't understand anything, and doesn't care to. Instead of plans, he has empty posturing. He puts forward a performance of fascism, and hopes we will mistake it for the real thing.
Trump's supporters have not simply given up on democracy. It's more than that. They've given up on government.
Trump is the bitter conclusion of Reagan's famous quip:
The nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."Trump doesn't offer iron-fisted tyranny on the Putin model. Voting for that would be a terrible thing, but it's not necessarily irrational. If you're poor and desperate enough, a tyrant might begin to sound pretty good.
Trump isn't just a would-be tyrant, he's an incompetent would-be tyrant. He has no realistic prospect of accomplishing anything. He will not use the authority of the American government to solve anyone's problems; he will not even make a serious attempt to do so. If the worst happens and Trump becomes President, he will treat the awesome power of the Oval Office as his personal plaything, a stick with which to beat those he dislikes.
Many of his supporters are themselves too ignorant to notice this. Others may have grasped it, at least subconsciously, but do not care.
The point of Trump is not to build a wall, or assert American dominance, or protect American industry, or anything else in the incoherent rants that serve him in place of policy. The point of Trump is to articulate hatred. It is to inflict fear and pain on those Other People whom his supporters blame for their unsatisfactory lives.
It is as close as a national politician can get to pure nihilism. Trump represents a howling void of undirected hate and anger.
We can hope his sheer ineptitude prevents him from winning office. I fear that even if this is so, he will make it easier for some more intelligent would-be tyrant to follow after him.