Recently, an old friend of mine asked the following
How much of this is hyperbole? From an outsiders perspective much of the USA (news, politics, entertainment, ..) is loaded with hyperbole. Facts & intellectual discussion seem to be obscured by emotions and extremes.
in response to a post linking American Democracy Will Die in 150 Days and having the following lead:
There is only one issue in this US election: Fascism vs not Fascism. Literally nothing else matters. When you’re on the gallows, the hanging is the part you need to focus on, not the color of the rope.
Theoretically, if the election is “postponed” then Nancy takes over as president on 2021-01-20. However, we know that neither Trump nor McConnell care about anything so base as actually following the law and have already stated that they’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep Trump in power.
The song is not written yet, but have no doubts that if you can vote in the US election this is the most important election you have ever had the opportunity to participate in. Voting for 3rd parties who happen to scratch a specific itch or are more in line with your preferences than the Democratic option has a very real chance of being the vote that allows Trump to have sufficient backing to take over. First past the post is a bug, but we are stuck with working with what we have not fixing the electoral system before we kick Trump out.
Everyone needs to vote and we need to overwhelmingly vote for whomever is most popular the challenger to the Republican candidate in this election. They won’t always be the Democratic candidate, but like it or not, they will mostly be Democratic due to the nature of the electoral system. The primaries is where you vote your heart, the main election is where you vote strategically for whomever is the most popular non-Fascist (or non-Fascist enabler).
So why do I, personally, believe that the linked article is not hyperbole?
Let’s start with asking: what is fascism?
According to Merriam-Webster:
often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
Fascist regimes vary somewhat due to their willingness to opportunistically embrace whatever means will bring them to power. Thus, we see some considerable difference between fascistic regimes. However, as Britannica points out, fascist regimes have the following common characteristics (abridged):
- Opposition to parliamentary democracy
- Opposition to political and cultural liberalism
- Totalitarian ambitions
- Conservative economic programs
- Military values
- The leadership principle
- Extreme nationalism
- Sexism and misogyny
And Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco came up with the following in Ur Fascism:
- The cult of tradition.
- The rejection of modernism.
- The cult of action for action’s sake.
- Disagreement is treason.
- Fear of difference.
- Appeal to social frustration.
- The obsession with a plot.
- The humiliation by the wealth and force of their enemies.
- Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy.
- Contempt for the weak.
- Everybody is educated to become a hero.
- Machismo and weaponry.
- Selective populism.
- Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.
In both of these lists we see a real hauntingly familiar view of the Trump administration. Certainly, if not currently fascist, the administration and their Republican sycophants lean heavily towards it. I could go through and tick off the boxes, but I’m going to assume you’ve been paying enough attention that you can link many of these to real life examples over the last few years.
However, fascist leaning is not fascist and also does not necessarily denote a push towards an authoritarian regime. So, back to the question about why I’m personally concerned that what we have right now is our last chance to avoid a fascist takeover of the USA.
Firstly, there’s the Russian interference in the election campaign and Trumps attempts to interfere in the investigation thereof. If you haven’t read the Mueller Report I would highly recommend doing so. If reading it is beyond the time you have, consider the podcast version.
I also recommend reading the Senate Intelligence Committee reports (NB: run by Republicans and also showing Russian interference):
Then, there’s the Republican response to all of this, which can be summarised as “we prevented the special counsel from indicting the president through some political maneuvering and the fact that he didn’t indict the president is proof that the president didn’t do anything wrong”.
So we definitely know that the Russians were helping Trump in the 2016 election and that Trump broke the law trying to suppress the investigation. While these acts didn’t seem to be sufficient to garner an impeachment (even though Mueller heavily implies that that’s what should happen), the attempt to strong arm Ukraine did. However, when it came down to impeaching him for those acts, Senator McConnell (the head of the Senate) declared:
And everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel.
There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this. There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office.
This shows a Republican leadership which is not interested in truth or justice, merely holding onto power. They conspired with the accused to ensure that he would not be removed from office and then waived off their duties to hold a full trial, not even bothering to hear witness testimony. In what world does the judge and jury conspire with the defendant before the trial and then vote to close the trial without hearing any evidence?
Next, we have Trump working to replace public servants with loyalists, including many who are theoretically meant to oversee their own activities. This includes, most importantly, the head of the justice department, William Barr. It has been obvious since he mischaracterised the Mueller report that he is nothing but a stooge for Trump. The degradation of the rule of law has continued apace, with those assisting Trump in his malfeasance, such as Roger Stone, getting special treatment.
During the recent protests, we have also seen the deployment of force against the citizenry. While Trump doesn’t have a lot of power here, despite his threats he’s certainly used what he has, deploying unidentified military personnel in Washington D.C. and forcefully clearing peaceful protestors so that he could have a photo opportunity at a nearby church. While it doesn’t seem to be a turning point, it was at least pill too hard for even some Republicans to swallow.
Also in play is the stacking the judiciary and encouraging armed insurrection by rightwing hate groups. There are also external actors Russians, Iranians and Chinese, the latter joining in because they saw that there were no repercussions after 2016, continuing to interfere in the country with the primary goal of sowing chaos and internal fighting. If you haven’t read the Mueller and Senate reports, they also detail the goals of these groups. However, all these extra bits and pieces seem redundant at this point.
In summary, the president:
- Ignores and actively undermines the rule of law
- Uses military force against the populace for political gain
- Surrounds himself with enablers
- Has enablers in the institutions whose responsibilities are to oversee his actions
- Encourages armed insurrection against other politics leaders
- Threatens opponents with incarceration (remember “lock her up”)
- Attempts to strong arm other countries in order to fabricate dirt on political opponents
- Shows many other fascistic tendencies
- Has political support from the Republican party for anything he does, no matter how immoral or illegal
- Has armed supporters who are not afraid to publicly defy local laws while waving swastika flags
- Has foreign powers stoking hate and resentment between groups within the country
- Exploits the divisions driven by the Russians, Iranians and Chinese with divisive rhetoric
Combine all of this with rampant Republican gerrymandering, a total absence of morals around conflicts of interest, rampant disenfranchisement through the elimination of voting options and the probability that the USA is already an oligarchy and the steps from where we are to fascism are very few and not particularly far between.
I haven’t linked or even listed all the factors that come into my belief that the article that brought up this question wasn’t particularly hyperbolic. I hope there is enough here to help you understand why I believe that it is not a particularly unfounded fear that the USA will become a fascist authoritarian state if Trump gets a second term and may even decay into civil war whether he does or doesn’t.