So throw everything out the window and start over.  We no longer are talking about wannabe fascists, fascist-lite, or fly-by -night fascists.  The real fascists showed up dragging the cult of leadership with them.  Granted, they did not wear brownshirts, but were dressed like they were going to a high school football game, albeit slightly better armed. 

These combination hooligan/militia partisans are not quite the equivalent of the Storm troopers in Nazi Germany or the Arditti in Italy, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  Trump gave very explicit directions on January 6 and the Proud Boys and other like-minded groups obediently besieged the Capital building imprudently chanting Trump’s name. However awful the scene was, the participants were not a tightly organized private party army.  The SA and other similar organizations had consistent uniforms, a clear hierarchy of command, and a presence in every community. Every effort should be made to prevent that from developing. 

None of this has fully materialized. Yet. 

January 6 marked the ascension of Trump from a narcissistic incompetent buffoon into a serious contender for the future of the Republican party.  He still lacks a direction, which apparently suits his followers just fine because then they don’t have to defend anything. The previously chaotic radical right now has a leader and, for the first time in recent memory in this country, a faint glimmer of coordination. Cue in the Cult Leader. 

The coalition of what Timothy Snyder calls gamers and bashers got Trump to the presidency.  If the Republican Party manages to bridge the immense gap between the roughneck and ironed white collar types with Trump as its head, it would bear some similarity to the mass parties that formed around Hitler and Mussolini.  Fear of actual communists, the health of the economy, and the immediate legacies from World War I drove many richer folk to support fascism.  Many hoped for a return to order which, of course, meant the retention of existing hierarchies under new names. They were often surprised when that did not happen.  But those surprises tend to happen to blind supporters of a cult leader. Such conditions are not fully formed here.  At some point, someone might let slip that communism has been dead for thirty years. 

The Republicans may have bridged the gap before January 6, with the moderate political veterans thinking they could control the wilder instincts of their base, but Trump ripped the curtain away and It will now be more difficult for the more moderate factions to pretend they are in control, or even wanted. 

This nascent movement still lacks something important, namely a strong unifying liberating idea.  Although we focus on the things fascists didn’t like, depicting it as mostly an anti-movement, they usually had a liberating, positive vision of the future.  They claimed that the current world was irredeemably decadent, and the fascists were going to facilitate its decline in order to build a new world.  This utopia incorporated an imaginary past when things were good, men were men and women knew their place with a substantial dose of modern innovations appropriately bent to the will of the purged and perfected community. 

White Supremacy is almost a liberating idea, but it lacks appeal when it comes blinking out into the light.  Potential supporters might passively accept it, but would prefer to not be confronted with it. It goes without saying it wouldn’t do much for people of color, whose demographic strength is growing steadily.  Keep in mind, Jews were a tiny minority of less than one percent of Germany’s total population.  It was relatively easy to target them, which may be why antisemitism is on the rise today. No matter how much gerrymanding and whipping up new Jim Crow measures the Republicans do, the Black vote seriously limits the chances of taking power legitimately.  Catching us by surprise was their one chance.  At this point, White Supremacy, while certainly dangerous and poisonous, lacks the ability to create a utopian vision that could attract anything like a majority of Americans. White Supremacy could only work if it is perceived as a non-issue, or a more hidden motivation, drafting behind a more acceptable common grievance. That leaves the old-fashioned violent seizure of power.   

The second amendment, anti-abortion sentiment, and immigration fail to add up to a presentable case for recasting society.  They create a movement of negatives, and will undoubtedly attract many supporters simply on the basis of single-issue politics.  Such is already the case. It could be a serviceable coalition for short-term mobilization against a non-functioning government, but would fall apart quickly unless there is a stronger linking idea.  MAGA might, if anybody knew what it really entails, be that vision, but currently doesn’t offer a clear vision.  

In the short term, the radical right has momentum.  Americans need to keep the right from turning these breakthroughs into more lasting structures.  Prevent the formation of any kind of organized national private or party army.  Keep White Supremacy from spreading and present a positive vision of the future before the Right does.  Keep the Republican Party fragmented.  Make government work. 

I think the country needs to be reminded what is wrong with fascism and Nazism.  It isn’t simply the Shoah, although that should be sufficient cause for alarm.  

2 thoughts on “Forecast

  1. Thank you, Sam, for this post. What happened on January 6 is every bit as important as any day in US history since the Civil War. Its implications far overshadow what happened on 9/11 and need to be treated for what it was: an attempt to overthrow the republic. Your concision and the informed perspective you bring from your decades in the study of fascism make this a powerful cautionary appeal to vigilance. It is important to keep in mind that it took about two years for the March on Rome to result in the dictatorship of Mussolini. In other words, it took two years for spineless politicians, unprincipled members of the judiciary, militarists, and corrupting business leaders to destroy democracy in Italy. How we respond to January 6 will determine whether our institutions continue into the descent that brought the Trump presidency to us.

    You properly identify the military as a key institution that needs scrutiny but that also shows a distinct variance from the armed militias that emerged from the war experiences of the German and Italian armies. It is profoundly disturbing how many military and police veterans participated in the effort to overthrow the US government. These elements need to be systematically removed from those public service institutions. Membership in such organizations in the Proud Boys, QAnon, the Oath Keepers, and the other successor agencies to the Ku Klux Klan need to be designated as inherently antithetical to the vow to uphold the constitution. People have a right to be racist. They do not have a right to serve in the military or on the police force. Special attention needs to be directed at the top. Eric Prince and Michael Flynn are the true traitors here. They should be treated as such.

    There also needs to be continued investigations into the role played by the Republican members of Congress who voted to reject the electoral college certification. All of these members of Congress also violated their oath to uphold the Constitution and need to make amends if they want to continue to represent the constituents that voted them into office. Any member of Congress involved in planning any aspect of the attack on Washington as part of a coordinated effort to undermine the 2020 presidential vote should be immediately expelled from Congress and tried for sedition. Clarence Thomas should also be held to account in relation to his wife’s active support for the efforts to overthrow the government. Mike Pence, whose very life was threatened by the insurrectionists because he refused to challenge the results of the election, now claims that the election was fraudulent. These are all part of the Big Lie of voter fraud. Pence seems willing to revive it. Anyone unwilling to renounce the Big Lie should be held to account for the seditionists they are. There should be no wiggle room on the integrity of our elections.

    Finally, the corporations who fund the campaigns of the Big Lie advocates should be held to account. The problem, though, is that there is so much dark money in politics that it is difficult to determine who is behind the seditionists. If the obituary of the US experiment in democracy is to be written, the fatal blow to it will surely be the Citizens’ United decision, which asserted the dual heresies that corporations are people, and that money is speech. Shouldn’t we have a right to know whose money is speaking?

    The brilliant article by Timothy Snyder you referenced provides the concluding thought: “When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place.” This is a moment for truth. And accountability.


  2. Thanks! Good stuff!
    All of these behaviors ate based on fear! Something bad is going to happen, and we should be afraid!
    It’s difficult to fight fear. People have fearful thoughts and then identify with those thoughts. They find others who have the same fearful thoughts, and with agreement on what thoughts are fearful, the fear grows like a cancer.
    So how to fight the fear? Education seems to be a good start. I’m grateful I went to schools with diverse populations, and I interacted with all kinds of people. Fear of others who are different just doesn’t arise. Also, our consciousness remains largely the same as it has been for hundreds of thousands of years, based mostly on survival- while our technologies are evolving at warp speed. The gap between the two leads to a life of immense struggle for many- and is currently having a dramatic negative impact on our young people. Again, this gap could and should be addressed in our classrooms. Finally, we need to focus on teaching people how to filter for the truth in the vast amount of potential “truths” that are out there. Skepticism should be taught. Just because somebody says the world is flat, or that whites are superior, or that democrats abduct children, doesn’t mean that it is true. The only thing we have to fear……

    Liked by 1 person

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