Fear of Fascism

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  hallux  •  4 weeks ago  •  18 comments

By:   Tom Nichols - The Atlantic

Fear of Fascism

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



I’ve long resisted using the word  fascism  to describe Donald Trump and his Republican followers, but we have to overcome our reluctance to use strong language and admit that America is now beset by a dangerous antidemocratic movement masquerading as a party.

A Pre-fascist Interlude

President Joe Biden has been getting a lot of static   for referring   to the ideology of Donald Trump and his followers as “semi-fascism.” It isn’t surprising that right-wing pundits, such as the Fox News contributor   Mollie Hemingway , are practically having to take out loans to buy extra strings of pearls to clutch. But even   John Avlon   at CNN and   Matt Lewis   at   The Daily Beast   are trying to warn Biden off from insulting millions of voters.

It’s risky politics for the president to use words like   semi-fascism , much as it was a needless fumble back in 2016 for Hillary Clinton to call people “deplorables.” For the rest of us, even to consider the word   fascism   feels like failure. It is a Rubicon we fear to cross, because it makes our fellow Americans into our civic enemies and implies that there is no road back for them, or for us.

We cannot, however, let our understandable fear of words such as   fascism   scare us out of talking about the reality staring us in the face. The GOP itself might not meet the full definition of a “fascist” party—not   yet , anyway—but it’s not a normal party, and its base is not an ordinary political movement. It is, instead, a melding of the remnants of a once-great party with an authoritarian, violent,   seditionist   personality cult bent on capturing and exercising power solely to benefit its own members and punish its imagined enemies among other Americans.

Is that fascism? For most people, it’s close enough. A would-be strongman and a party of followers enveloped in racism, seized with nostalgia for an imagined glorious past, and drunk on mindless blood-and-soil nationalism all stinks of fascism. There’s a reason, however, that I still counsel against rushing toward the F-word: Things are poised to get worse, and we need to know what to watch for.

Fascism   is more than a romance with a forceful right-wing leader. (And let’s remember: Trump is not a “strongman” in any way—he is one of the   weakest and most cowardly men   ever to serve as president.) A fascist takeover relies on a disciplined and organized mass party led by dedicated people who, once they gain the levers of government, will zero in on destroying the mechanisms—laws, courts, competing parties—that could dislodge them from power.

Violent, tiki-torch-wielding nincompoops are dangerous, but a rabble is not a disciplined party.   Ivy League Republicans   stumbling around and losing to Democrats in a 50–50 Senate are not the iron ladies and men of steel who can build a fascist state. Faux intellectuals such as Steve Bannon   blathering about Leninism   are not capable of inspiring the masses. And real fascist street fighters do not start   blubbering and shedding tears   when they’re arrested. (To paraphrase   Jimmy Dugan , there’s no crying in fascism.)

This is why it’s a mistake to assume that every group of howling weirdos wearing “Trump 2024” capes and carrying bear spray is composed of  “fascists.” Some of these people are deluded, some are bored, and some are just idiots. If we build them into something more, we’re not only missing the chance to pull some of those people back into American democracy; we’re going to fail to spot the real fascists hiding among them. Glaring drivers jacked up on Fox News and talk radio flying “Fuck Joe Biden” flags on their cars aren’t fascists; they’re the  raw material   of fascism, the battering rams that actual fascists—cleverer and nimbler than the hapless overgrown adolescents who will end up in front of a judge—will use to knock down our institutions by goading them into violence.

This might seem like a distinction without a difference. And I suppose, like so many people, I am prone to “normalcy bias”—a kind of innate denial that life could ever change dramatically. For those of us who remember the Cold War, it is a special humiliation to think that we defeated the Soviet Union only to find Americans in Budapest   cheering on   the likes of   Viktor Orbán .

But something   has   changed in American life. Trumpism, which has captured the base of the Republican Party, is authoritarian, antidemocratic, anti-constitutional, and anti-American. For now, Trump and the GOP activists are capable only of igniting scramble-brained jacqueries. But Trump’s most faithful followers are headed for fascism, and they will use the GOP as the vehicle to get there unless the rest of us remain true to a pro-democracy coalition.

It is also important not to be overly distracted by Trump himself. We are in a prefascist interlude, but Trump himself is too incompetent, too lazy and selfish, to lead an actual fascist movement. But avoiding the word won’t prevent it from happening. What should really scare us is realizing that smarter and tougher American fascist leaders are out there, waiting. Trump has paved the way for them by corroding the guardrails of the American system, normalizing the kinds of rhetoric and attacks on opponents used by actual fascists, and convincing ordinary American voters that   mass violence   is an alternative to the ballot box.

We can prove him wrong and stop this threat in its tracks. But time is growing short.


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Hallux
Junior Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    4 weeks ago

If there is one thing Deimos is good at, it is introducing you to Phobos and wedding you to Eris.

 
 
 
Revillug
Freshman Guide
1.1  Revillug  replied to  Hallux @1    4 weeks ago

I need a wiki for that one.

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Revillug @1.1    4 weeks ago

The Gods are a crazy bunch.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Revillug @1.1    4 weeks ago

republicans have been flirting with fascism for decades and are attempting to straddle it now...

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
1.1.3  Texan1211  replied to  devangelical @1.1.2    4 weeks ago
republicans have been flirting with fascism for decades and are attempting to straddle it now...

No, but Democrats have been pushing that lie for decades!

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
1.1.4  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Texan1211 @1.1.3    4 weeks ago
No, but Democrats have been pushing that lie for decades!

... and Republicans have been pushing what, their radicalized 'truthisms'?

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1.5  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1.1.4    4 weeks ago

republicans push rope.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
1.1.6  Texan1211  replied to  Hallux @1.1.4    4 weeks ago
... and Republicans have been pushing what, their radicalized 'truthisms'?

No.

 
 
 
Gsquared
Senior Expert
1.1.7  Gsquared  replied to  devangelical @1.1.2    4 weeks ago
republicans have been flirting with fascism for decades and are attempting to straddle it now

The Republican Party is now an anti-democratic authoritarian cult.  This is, of course, well-documented and has been the subject of numerous scholarly studies and commentaries by a large number of disaffected former Republicans.

There are certainly some vocal deniers, but their opinions are the product of gross ignorance, or an attempt, as true believers, to deflect from what they know is a disgraced and discredited political philosophy.

 
 
 
Gsquared
Senior Expert
1.1.8  Gsquared  replied to  Hallux @1.1.4    4 weeks ago
and Republicans have been pushing what, their radicalized "trutherisms?

Unfortunately, yes.

 
 
 
Revillug
Freshman Guide
2  Revillug    4 weeks ago

The smarter fascist the author should be worried about is Putin.

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
2.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Revillug @2    4 weeks ago

There's a smarter one in Tallahassee.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    4 weeks ago

On the whole, this article is right on point. 

 
 
 
Revillug
Freshman Guide
3.1  Revillug  replied to  JohnRussell @3    4 weeks ago

The problem with political labels is that you can’t step into the same river twice.

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
3.1.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Revillug @3.1    4 weeks ago

Maybe you can with Nike Jesus Shoes ...

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
4  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

 dedicated people who, once they gain the levers of government, will zero in on destroying the mechanisms—laws, courts, competing parties—that could dislodge them from power.

Like issuing executive orders with no legal basis, adding justices to the supreme court to ensure illegal actions are "legal" and  threatening to throw  opposition members of Congress out for voting the wrong way? 

Things like that? Those would be fascist, right?  

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
4.1  devangelical  replied to  Sean Treacy @4    4 weeks ago
Like issuing executive orders with no legal basis

trump

adding justices to the supreme court to ensure illegal actions are "legal"  

trump

threatening to throw opposition members of Congress out for voting the wrong way

trump

Things like that? Those would be fascist, right? 

yup

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
5  Greg Jones    4 weeks ago

Midterms can't come soon enough

 
 

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