In an op-ed published Sunday on NJ.com, Alan J. Steinberg, an Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator during former president George W. Bush’s administration, had some harsh criticism for President Donald Trump, whom he blamed for his decision to leave the Republican Party and vote Democrat, and referred to as the antithesis of what Ronald Reagan stood for during his two terms as president.
Starting out his piece by describing the “Nuremberg-like atmosphere” of Trump rallies and mentioning the president’s perceived “abuses of power,” Steinberg opined that Trump cannot be considered conservative despite his GOP affiliation, as he is Reagan’s “direct adversary” in terms of core beliefs. The former Bush official wrote that Trump, being the “anti-Ronald Reagan,” opposes free trade and shows no respect for institutions such as the FBI, Justice Department, and EPA. Steinberg also pointed out how Reagan and Trump differ in terms of their views on press freedom.
“Reagan was a strong advocate of freedom of the press and civil liberty in the marketplace of ideas, as advocated by John Locke and John Stuart Mill. Trump does everything possible to hinder freedom of the press, chiefly by encouraging and condoning violent attacks against journalists and labeling them as an ‘enemy of the people.'”
Talking about why he believes Donald Trump is a fascist leader, Steinberg listed a number of books on fascism as references, including one that was co-written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as National Security Advisor during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Based on these references, Steinberg posited that Trump is someone who “aspires to be an authoritarian leader” while trying to build a communications monopoly by “intimidating” journalists who don’t agree with his policies and statements.
“American institutions have thus far resisted Trump’s attempts to gain authoritarian power. Yet in his attempt to do so, Trump is implementing the major political strategic and tactical practices of fascism.”
Given that Donald Trump has faced allegations of bigotry before and during his presidency, Steinberg accused the president of employing an “us and them” strategy consistent with how fascism is defined, stressing that the “us” in Trump’s point of view refers to white Americans, while the “them” refers to African-Americans, Hispanics, and other nonwhite groups. He also pointed out several examples of Trump’s “blatant bigotry” against minorities, including his past claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. According to CNN, it was only in September 2016, or two months before the presidential elections, when Trump acknowledged that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii, and not in Kenya as previously alleged.
While Steinberg said that he believes Trump is not anti-Semitic, he called out the president for staying silent when it comes to white nationalist groups who discriminate against Jews. He also wrote that Trump uses his support of Israel as a smokescreen to protect him from “criticism of his inaction” against the traditionally anti-Semitic white nationalist movement.
Earlier in the week, Yale University professor Timothy Snyder wrote a similar op-ed for the Guardian that also accused Trump of basing his ideologies on the “us and them” concept of fascism. While he raised many points that were included in Steinberg’s op-ed, Snyder differed by saying Trump had most recently pushed the “antisemitic” idea that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, allegedly funded a “migrant caravan” by paying refugees to illegally cross the U.S. border.
In conclusion, Steinberg explained that he chose to leave the Republican Party and vote Democrat in the midterm elections because he believes the only thing controlling Trump’s perceived desire for authoritarian power is the United States’ “system of checks and balances and separation of powers.”