The word fascism is undoubtedly overused in today’s political lexicon. It is used by figures from across the political spectrum as a shorthand for anything that one’s opponent does that is deemed sinister or disagreeable. This phenomenon has obscured the real meaning of the word, creating confusion and misunderstanding within the general public. One of the unfortunate corollaries of this has been a tendency to dismiss comparisons between today’s right-wing populists and early 20th Century fascism as facile and overblown. But this should not stand in the way of drawing parallels that ought to be drawn – those that do not fall into the category of this kind of lazy thinking. Historical comparisons should be evaluated on their own merits and not on whether the terminology surrounding them has been debased through overuse.
In the case of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the appropriateness of the word is now becoming self-evident through the emergence of one of fascism’s major distinguishing characteristics: the trampling over the judicial branch of the state.