Any reasonable evaluation of Trump's rhetoric and actions since taking office can only conclude that the dial on McNeill's fascist meter has continued to move higher since his op-ed appeared nearly three years ago. McNeill says via email that he would give Trump a slightly higher score based on his actions since taking office.

He's also sounding a new warning. "A major test will come if he loses the 2020 election," he says.

"Will he denounce its legitimacy and urge his loyalists not to respect the outcome? I consider that a real possibility because he seems to care so much more about himself and his image than about society at large or the traditions, institutions, and culture of democracy." History shows authoritarians don't leave office easily, especially if criminal indictments are likely once they are out of power.

Following his election, the ugly anti-immigrant rhetoric of candidate Trump, who repeatedly described Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, murderers, and rapists, quickly transformed into an equally ugly agenda once he took office.

"The Trump administration continues to make changes both small and drastic to U.S. immigration policies ... that support a white nationalist agenda," according to a report posted on the website of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker-run nonprofit. "By keeping more people out, deporting people who are here, and creating an atmosphere of nativism and fear that affects everybody, Trump is attempting to dramatically reduce immigration to the United States, particularly of people of color."

Be it his multiple executive orders aimed at stopping immigration from Muslim-majority countries and the immense cruelty of separating children from parents seeking asylum, or the massive roundups by ICE agents in recent weeks, Trump is clearly using what McNeill called "self-definition by opposition" to continue motivating his base as he seeks re-election.

It's not just immigrants feeling the wrath generated by Trump. In effect, he's consistently sticking with a tactic that's so far worked to his advantage: exploiting the fears and bigotry of a base that is overwhelmingly white and solidly evangelical. He will occasionally give lip service to calls for unity, but his record has long told a different story.

The dehumanizing of those deemed "others" is among the most chilling of fascism's tenets. In this, President Trump excels.

"Trump has created controversy for years with incendiary rhetoric that is often directed at people of color -- from his branding of the Central Park Five as 'muggers and murderers' to his peddling of the false 'birther' conspiracy against then-President Barack Obama to his denigrating of a former African-American aide as a 'dog' to his attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color."

The paper chronicled more than a dozen such instances of divisiveness.

"The DOJ's reversal of positions signals to lawmakers that there is a degree of tolerance for voting discrimination. It runs the risk of being perceived as a wink-of-the-eye to those who would push the limits of discriminatory tactics, and a cold shoulder to those vulnerable populations who have counted on the federal government to have their backs."

The extent to which Trump is seen as a threat to African Americans is reflected in the NAACP's unanimously approved resolution supporting the president's impeachment. Taking such a drastic position is unusual for the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

"The group has been sharply critical of policies it disagrees with, such as President George W. Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina and decision to go to war in Iraq," the Washington Post reported, "but outside observers note that the vote to support Trump's impeachment is a significant step for a group typically inclined to work with elected officials."

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, Trump's rhetoric has generally lacked the vitriol spat at other marginalized groups. His administration's actions, though, are dangerously regressive. Two cases going to the U.S. Supreme Court starkly illustrate Team Trump's real stance regarding LGBTQ rights. One case (two lower-court cases that have been combined) centers on gay and lesbian employment protections. The other involves a person fired after coming out as a trans woman at the metro Detroit funeral home she worked at for years. In both cases, Trump's Department of Justice has weighed in on the side of the employers, arguing that civil rights laws prohibiting sex discrimination do not cover LGBTQ people. The administration has also put forward proposals and administrative rules that would permit discrimination against LGBTQ in the name of "religious freedom."

"His administration has steadily worked to expand protections for religious groups, while scaling back protections for LGBTQ people, women seeking abortions, and others," The Atlantic magazine reported in August. "The Department of Health and Human Services has led this charge, but across the administration, the mission is clear: Obama's legacy on discrimination needs to be reversed."

Along with creating real hardships, Trump's stoking of intolerance toward minorities and political opponents is, based on a growing body of evidence, also inspiring horrific violence. The fomenting of violence is, as McNeill and others have pointed out, is a fundamental aspect of fascism.

As Time magazine reported: "Mussolini and those who came after him had very specific ideas about who got to be part of the nation. It followed that those who did not fit the mold were seen as disruptive to that unity, and thus subject to violence."

At a Florida campaign rally in May, a Trump supporter enthusiastically shouted "shoot them" when the president asked how we should stop immigrants from crossing the border. The Hill reported that, instead of soundly condemning the threat of violence, a "seemingly pleased" Trump "smirked" and then quipped, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement."

Trump's stoking of intolerance and bigotry is clearly having an effect.

A recent investigation by ABC News found 29 criminal cases nationwide where the perpetrators echoed "presidential rhetoric."

"These included 10 cases where the perpetrators either cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others," the network reported. "On another 10 occasions, defendants justified their violent or threatening behavior in court by citing the president and his rhetoric. In nine other cases, Trump was hailed by perpetrators either during or after physically attacking innocent victims."

Along those same lines, the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., reports that "FBI data show that since Trump's election there has been an anomalous spike in hate crimes concentrated in counties where Trump won by larger margins. It was the second-largest uptick in hate crimes in the 25 years for which data are available, second only to the spike after September 11, 2001."

In that same dispatch, Brookings also pointed to an Anti-Defamation League study showing that "counties that hosted a Trump campaign rally in 2016 saw hate crime rates more than double compared to similar counties that did not host a rally."

Former national security adviser Susan Rice, a Black woman, told CNN that Trump "continues to divide us, most profoundly along racial lines. And to suggest those who come to this country as immigrants, those who have skin that looks like mine are somehow less than human. He has likened us to an invasion, an infestation. He uses terms that liken us to rodents."

It is a tactic pulled directly from the fascist playbook. There's a reason Hitler referred to Jews as "vermin": it is much easier to commit (and support) acts of violence against people stripped of their humanity.

At a Florida campaign rally in May, a Trump supporter enthusiastically shouted "shoot them" when the president asked how we should stop immigrants from crossing the border. The Hill reported that, instead of soundly condemning the threat of violence, a "seemingly pleased" Trump "smirked" and then quipped, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement."

All this dovetails with how Geoffrey Cain, a foreign correspondent and author, described fascism in a recent article for The New Republic:

"At its heart, fascism is an alliance of hardline and moderate conservatives seeking to repress left-wing sentiment. It's a campaign to convert the working classes to nationalism, to make them angry and violent, to convince them that they've been betrayed by their global-elite leaders. It's the resurrection of an illustrious past, an effort to propel the nation forward, to expand with industry, military weapons and technology."

The attacking of "others," a fostering of an "Us vs. Them" mentality, is intrinsic to fascism. In Hitler's Germany, it was glorification of what the Fuhrer called the "master race." In today's America, it is "white nationalism."

Jason Stanley, a Yale professor of political philosophy and author of the widely acclaimed book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, was asked if it's possible to be a fascist without being racist.

He answered without hesitation: "Not on my definition of fascism."

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