I know fascists. Donald Trump is no fascist.

Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, his demagoguery, and his populist appeals to citizens’ economic anxieties certainly borrow from the fascist playbook. Italy’s fascists capitalized on similar themes in a different era of global uncertainty; in their case, it was the unemployment, veterans’ resentments, unions’ strikes, and political violence that beset the country following World War I. But Trump is, fundamentally, a blustering political opportunist courting votes in a democratic system; he has not called for the violent overthrow of the system itself. And whereas it can be impossible to discern any logic or strategy in Trump’s campaign, the fascists who marched on Rome in 1922 were relentlessly, violently focused on a clear goal: to kill democracy and install a dictatorship…

Trump has no clear plan of any kind. He is not about to dissolve the Democratic Party and banish the Clintons, Obama, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Jimmy Fallon to exile on Randall’s Island. Americans will not goose-step down Broadway; no screaming squadraccia of middle-aged Trump fans will occupy Grand Central; Amazon will not be nationalized as a “strategic state asset.” Trump is simply an opportunist, perfectly willing to change course (from, for example, saying America has to accept refugees to insisting he would “send them back” within the span of a month) and say anything (Hillary Clinton, who in 2008 he said would make a “great” president, “got schlonged” in the end). During Thursday’s debate, Ted Cruz, who is battling Trump for voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, accused Trump of holding “New York values,” that “are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, [and] focus around money and the media.” Can you imagine Mussolini being accused of endorsing “New York values”?

Trump does however gutsily feel how people distrust the media, and so manages to blur the line between true and false; news organizations’ attempts to check Trump’s “facts” have so far been ineffectual. His campaign is a postmodernist masterpiece: a subjective surrogate for the real world, where truth and reality are irrelevant. It is this, and not the bloody ghost of fascism, that distorts the 2016 race.