The essence of Trumpism is vitalism, the belief that energy is the key political virtue. Don’t worry about my specific plans, he says, just believe that I will shake things up, even smash things up. Hillary ‘lacks energy’ he keeps saying.
This should worry us. For this approach to politics was the seed of European fascism, almost exactly a century ago. The movement initially overlapped with the avant garde art movement, Futurism. Its founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti announced a punk-like attack on the arts and politics in his manifesto of 1909. Liberal democracy was sapping Italy of manly energy, he said: ‘We wish to glorify war – the sole cleanser of the world.’
Such talk seemed like harmless posturing at first, closer to performance-art than politics – but soon it was clear that such slogans were helping to fuel an angry new Italian nationalism, bitterly hostile to the liberal political establishment. During the First World War the movement gained coherence, then found its figurehead in Mussolini.
Trump’s policy proposals are so thin that it feels excessive to accuse him of any ‘ism’ including fascism. And he seems more ridiculous than dangerous. But his rhetoric of energy and action, and perhaps also his comment ‘I love war’, clearly echo the preliminary phase of fascism, which also seemed pretty ridiculous.
After the American people have voted, what next for the US and the rest of the world? Join panellists including Sir Christopher Meyer, KCMG, former British ambassador to the US, for a discussion chaired by Andrew Neil on 30 November at RIBA, London. Tickets include a drinks reception. In association with Seven Investment Management. Book now.
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