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A slide toward fascism? It could happen here

President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Having no patience with a free press, President Donald Trump had his (now former) spokeswoman cease the daily White House press briefings that had been a staple for accountability for decades.

It was 80 years ago, on Sept. 1, that Nazi Germany invaded Poland and launched World War II in Europe. The poet W.H. Auden called the period leading up to this disastrous conflict, in which more than 60 million people would die, a “low, dishonest decade.”

We may not like to admit it, but the term applies all too well to our times and our own country. We, too, are seeing relentless attacks on democratic institutions – the press, the courts, the civil service – and insidious efforts to turn us against each other.

But our democracy is strong; a fascist takeover here is impossible, right? In the mid 1930s, Nobel laureate Sinclair Lewis — our fellow Minnesotan — wrote a novel on that very theme; in it, a president becomes a dictator to save the country from welfare cheats, sexual promiscuity, crime and a liberal press. Sound familiar? Maybe it’s time to go back and read or reread “It Can’t Happen Here.”

Because it COULD. In fact, in many ways the process has already started; if current trends are allowed to continue, our democracy, too, could wind up in shambles.

Majority was complacent, ineffectual and splintered

Hitler’s Nazi party rose to power in Germany without ever winning majority support in the polls. It was enough that his minority was determined, ruthless and unscrupulous while the majority was complacent, ineffectual and splintered. Once in power, Hitler seized control of the media and the courts, steamrolled opposition, and began a vendetta against Jews that we know as the Holocaust.

Of course, parallels with the Trump administration are inexact, but they are scary just the same. Witness President Donald Trump’s assault on the “mainstream media.” He calls media that don’t support him “the enemy of the people; “ news reports that do not flatter him or conform with his version of events are “fake news.” Having no patience with a free press, he had his (now former) spokeswoman cease the daily White House press briefings that had been a staple for accountability for decades.

The story is similar with the courts. Trump speaks of “Republican judges” and “Democrat judges,” displaying as little respect for an independent judiciary as he does for a free press, though both are enshrined in our Constitution. Aided by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he is packing federal courts with judges who promise to go along, not only with his right-wing agenda but also his moves against individuals or institutions who dare to challenge any of his diktats.

A nonpartisan civil service is another pillar of our political system, yet Trump treats career officials as part of a “deep state” set on undermining him. The Justice Department, Robert Mueller, the intelligence community and the State Department are favorite targets, but scientists in the Environmental Protection Agency and economists at the Federal Reserve have found themselves in the crosshairs of his tweet storms.

An office demeaned

Trump’s authoritarian impulses run contrary to the system of shared power, of checks and balances, that our Founding Fathers created and that has served us well for more than two centuries. His often-vicious personal attacks against groups and individuals violate the inspiring ideals of our founding documents; they also demean an office Americans long revered.

Trump will not change. He will only get more emboldened if given a second mandate. This is who he is. The question is: Who are we? Will we, like ordinary Germans in the ’30s, explain away each incremental step as freedom after freedom is lost and restraints on executive power loosened? Some of the conduct we see at Trump campaign rallies is far from encouraging. The chants, “lock her up” or “send them back” are disturbing echoes of the “sieg heils” and “Jews perish” of Hitler’s Germany.

To preserve our democratic soul, all of us will have to fight for it: judges to honor the rule of law, not personal whim, and politicians to put country — not party — first. Media to report fairly, objectively, and call out lies, even – especially – when they come from the highest office in the land. Civil servants to remain loyal to the interests of the nation, not an individual or party. Religious leaders to speak out firmly for morality in our public life — and to walk the walk, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America did recently in announcing it would offer sanctuary to immigrants.

We ordinary citizens must reaffirm our respect for people of different religions, political parties, ethnic groups, or sexual orientation. It is our commitment to this ideal that makes us a special nation; living up to this standard would truly make ours a more perfect union.

Finally, we need to participate in our public discourse – and vote. Only by doing so, and by choosing candidates who will uphold our values with conviction and courage, will we save our democracy. It’s up to us.

Dick Virden is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer. He lives in Plymouth.


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Comments (39)

  1. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 08/29/2019 - 09:28 am.

    This article speaks of only the right. The same language comes from the left. To parallel quotes from Trump rallies with Hitler’s Germany is just another example of extreme language used in our media. America stopped the Nazis; we didn’t join them.

    The author talks about words and tweets being detrimental to our democracy, but his concrete examples, such as the Lutheran Evangelicals show that our union and its freedoms remain strong.

    We live in the most polarized time in history. Democrats hate Republicans and Republicans hate Democrats. The last time our country was (almost) as polarized was in the late 1800s. We came out of that with a stronger union. It is a phase. Yes, that seems to minimize it, but when we are ready, the yelling and extreme language will subside, and we will talk to those across the aisle with respectful language.

    Writing another article in this us-verses-them tone does not solve the problem. Having a public discourse involves having a civil public discourse.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/29/2019 - 09:34 am.

      “Both sides do it?” Oh, please.

      Who is in the White House now? Isn’t he the same fellow who used rhetoric demonizing his opponents to come to power? Doesn’t he continue to use that rhetoric?

      How about the Tea Party – remember them? Was there a group on the left with a comparable influence that used comparable tactics and language (and if you are going to cite antifa, that just shows you’re reaching)?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/05/2019 - 12:34 pm.

      Way too many people today are more than happy to join the fascists. Rather than fight the rhetoric and policies of the right, they’re happy to join in and cheer them on, telling us it’s about time the U.S. adopted these policies.

      This isn’t a matter of “both sides have a valid position”, but rather one side wants to adopt all the policies of the Nazis that we’ve come to abhor as their horrors came to light in 1945.

      The objective here is not not wring our hands as they gain traction, but to recognize their power grab for what it is and stop it before it’s too late. Be on the right side of history for once and lend your shoulder to the stone.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/29/2019 - 09:33 am.

    Dick, looks more like a fall than a slide! The problem, seems lots of folks like dictators, look at the polling numbers!

  3. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 08/29/2019 - 10:32 am.

    As is alluded in another source, maybe it is time for this ‘great’ Country to separate into 5 or 6 countries of similar philosophical and

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/05/2019 - 12:39 pm.

      You can divide up the country into like-minded areas, but keep in mind that it’s not like these states are homogeneous. Take Texas for example. You would think it’s a heavily red state, but it only polls 55% Republican.

      Dividing up America would lead to a huge disruption as each area would need to negotiate trade and protection treaties with the others, not to mention mass migrations as people leave en masse. Just take a look at the bloodshed when Bangladesh split off from India and the Muslims and Hindus were forced out.

      Sorry, man, but I’ll fight for a whole America before I seriously consider a proposal like this.

  4. Submitted by David Markle on 08/29/2019 - 10:43 am.

    When fascism first began, in Italy, it was a left-wing movement. Our National Endowment for the Arts operates on a quasi-fascist model, similar to those original fascist principles of governance.

    The Nazi movement originally had a populist basis, before Hitler got rid of the Strasser brothers and the Brown Shirts. It remained broadly popular even after Hitler allied with the industrialists.

    Communism was a left-wing movement, but look at what it became in the Soviet Union. Susan Sontag was correct in saying that communism is fascism with a human face. How does North Korea look today?

    Huey Long’s populism became quasi-fascist.

    The political extremes, left and right, tend to resemble one another and lead to similar results.

    • Submitted by Bruce Hope on 08/29/2019 - 01:44 pm.

      “National Endowment for the Arts operates on a quasi-fascist model”. Tell us more.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 09/03/2019 - 01:39 pm.

      They used to call this the horseshoe theory, where, at the extremes, the continuum loops around, so that far left and far right resemble each other. It’s nonsense, of course. The left-right schema is only one dimension, and politics has never worked like that.

      We have practically no organized, extreme leftists in the U.S. today.The same is not true on the right, which (surprise!) is where all the big money is. Conservative minds find the idea of symmetry appealing, but it doesn’t exist in real life politics.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 09/03/2019 - 09:40 pm.

        “We have practically no organized, extreme leftists in the U.S. today”

        And what are the 2nd tier Presidential candidates and Freshman House members?

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 09/05/2019 - 09:57 am.

          Left-leaning moderates in the rest of the developed world.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/05/2019 - 12:43 pm.

          “And what are the 2nd tier Presidential candidates and Freshman House members?”

          You’re looking at four House members, half a dozen presidential candidates, and a couple of senators out of hundreds of Congresspeople. That’s like saying the groupies for your local garage band are equivalent to the Beatle’s fan club.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/29/2019 - 11:34 am.

    We often forget that the Nazi regime was really a one-man-rule regime, a dictatorship by Adolf Hitler, by 1934 or 1935. Hitler did whatever he wanted to do, and eliminated any contradiction.

    The United States is currently sliding into a dictatorship of one man, you know, the guy who last week added to his 2016 campaign’s claim that “I alone can fix it!” with a a solemn gaze into the sky with arms open and a statement that “I am The Chosen One!” Same with the fascist Mussolini, Il Duce, in Italy.

    Trump is breaking law after law, and no one seems willing or capable of stopping him. That’s pretty much a dictatorship of one man, with the constant excuse for lots of it: national security,”

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 08/29/2019 - 01:32 pm.

      Political purges have happened for centuries and continued well after the Nazis were removed from power at the end of WWII in Europe.

      To think we are on the same path as the Nazis (and these others) is ludicrous. You don’t have to like the current president, but to keep making such false comparisons just adds to the discourse and lends more sympathy to the man you hate. The current president doesn’t go out and have people main and kill others as what was done in the past with these despots. Even if our president wanted to do that, our country will not structurally allow someone to gain power that way and would be stopped in no time.

      These old regimes also had control of the media and education. When over 90% of the people involved in these areas are liberal in our country now, it just adds to how absurd this line of thinking is.

      This article is just another hit job from this write who has done it before. There is no intellectual honesty in it.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/29/2019 - 05:30 pm.

        You are taking a few selected examples from one or two fascist regimes to conclude that the US is not heading towards fascism. Fascism involves more than a series of incidents.

        In The Anatomy of Fascism (a recommended read, for those interested), the historian Robert Paxton says that fascism is

        A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

        I’ll just put that out there.

        • Submitted by Steve Timmer on 09/02/2019 - 10:05 am.

          Fascism is “[A] form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity . . . ”

          MAGA, in other words.

      • Submitted by Mike Hindin on 08/31/2019 - 07:30 am.

        Ludicrous unless you are a member of a minority group, anommigrant or have gay family, neighbors or friends. Or need science based health care. Easy to feel safe if you are white and have a typical western European name. Easy to be a bystander while constitutional and moral safeguards are denigrated and peeledvaway

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/29/2019 - 04:41 pm.

    Name another fascist movement that cut taxes, cut government regulations and control, fought for free speech in the classrooms, defended the Jewish state and encouraged the citizens to arm themselves against the threat of oppressive government.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/30/2019 - 03:40 pm.

      The Nazi regime in Germany loosened gun laws, at least for non-Jews. That regime also enacted tax cuts targeted at businesses, and also at individuals with large families.

      “[F]ought for free speech in the classrooms . . . .” We have a guest lecturer on that subject today. I am pleased to present Mr. Ismail Ajjawi.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/31/2019 - 07:06 am.

        Why did the German fascists disarm the Jews? Because armed people don’t load themselves into box cars.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/02/2019 - 08:41 pm.

          What would have happened if the Jews of Germany tried to resist with the firearms available to the populace at the time (basically hunting rifles and some handguns)? How well would that have gone against a modern, mechanized army?

          Yes, that would have changed history.

    • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 08/30/2019 - 09:48 pm.

      In one corner of Republican land…

    • Submitted by Mike Hindin on 08/31/2019 - 07:44 am.

      Trump and Netanyahu (and settlers), both minority leaders, both fuel dissention and hate in Israel and the Diaspora. Moving the embassy and having two extreme right wing evangelical firebrand preachers dedicate it was only good for fueling more violence. Trump campaign panders to white supremacy which is largely based on antisemitic conspiracy theories. Trump government and evangelicals have no concern for the People of Israel including Jews, Muslims, Druze, Copts etc. They want the Land for “Armageddon and rapture” in which millions will be killed and surviving Jews forced to convert. That sounds more like another “final solution” to me. NEVER AGAIN

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 08/29/2019 - 10:26 pm.

    With some of the posts so far it appears we have already. Unless there is reflection and acknowledgment of the danger of allowing a potus as much power as appears to be taken here today we are in trouble. Institutional protections are in place but quickly being worn away step by step. On the latest implementation of disallowing citizenship for children of government workers and military born out of the country what do we label that ? Just a policy statement ? I think not. That is cold hearted cruelty. That is exactly what fascism is.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2019 - 10:39 am.

    I has happened here. The problem with this analysis is that it duplicates errors that historians made back in 2016 when so many of them assured us that Trump was no Fascist. They missed the bloody obvious in a spectacular fashion.

    The facile assumption in play here is that an American Fascists will necessarily look like Hitler or Mussolini, and that “America” will have to look like Germany or Italy in the 1920’s and 30’s as if that’s a necessary condition for the emergence of Fascism in the US. While it’s true that Fascists wrap themselves in the flag and wave bibles there’s little reason to expect that American Fascism will be identical to the European Fascism that preceeded WWII. Fascism is a “thing”, not an era, identifying American Fascists isn’t a comparative exercise of looking for an American who looks like Hitler, American Fascists look like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Right now we have a Fascist president, we just don’t (yet) have a Fascist government.

    It’s a actually quite important to recognize this fact that we have Fascist in the White House and Congress. We need to stop pretending this is an academic exercise for historians or political scientists, this isn’t “hypothetical”. While Fascism in the US faces a very very different climate than that of inter-war Europe, it’s still a very dangerous impulse that must be resisted. If they could, or even just though they could tear up the Constitution and rule by force and dictation Trump and McConnell would do it in a New York minute.

    We also need to recognize that fascism isn’t just another political ideology, nor are Republican Fascists just politicians like any other. These people represent a real and present threat to our way of life.

    In many ways Democrats like Biden who think they just have to replace Trump are the real danger because they end up accommodating and normalizing toxic and dangerous politics. Whenever we do talk about Hitler for instance, we also have to talk about the German’s and world leaders who thought he was just another Chancellor who would respect the rule of law once in power. This is not a threat to be toyed with or minimized.

    It’s not time to panic, but this facile speculation regarding the “possibility” of America Fascism needs to be replaced by the recognition that Fascism HAS arrived and is living the White House.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/02/2019 - 10:40 am.

      Thanks to general ignorance of world history among the American public, your average American thinks “Hitler” when the word “fascism” is mentioned. That is why I object to calling Trump a Nazi. It’s historically ignorant and reinforces the impression that if nobody is being herded into gas chambers, it’s not fascism.

      But there have been many fascist governments since the early twentieth century, and they several traits in common.

      They are highly militaristic and nationalistic. That trait has been fairly strong in American life for as long as I can remember, the idea that you’re “a patriot” if you join the military, that participating in whatever stupid war the government thinks up is “serving your country,” the idea that “America is the greatest country in the world” and that other countries are hardly worth living in, the idea that America has the right to boss other countries around, the long-outdated idea that “everyone wants to come here.” That kind of thinking, overtly taught during my elementary school years, is a great foundation for fascism.

      Close cooperation between business and governments is another trait of fascism. For all the right-wing nonsense about the Nazis being a left-wing movement because they had “socialist” in their name (about as valid as claiming that Cream of Wheat is a dairy product because it has “cream” in its name), one way that Hitler achieved power was by promising the industrial conglomerates that he would destroy the labor unions.

      Things aren’t quite that dire here, but for years, comedians have joked that members of Congress should wear the emblems of the companies that provide their financial backing, just like athletes wear the emblems of their sponsors. Name a needed reform that has not occurred, and you’ll find a group of legislators who are taking contributions from companies whose financial position would be weakened by said reform.

      Tame media establishments enable fascism. I could see this as long ago as the 1980s, when New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner reported on the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. The Reagan administration declared that the story was Communist propaganda and demanded that Bonner be pulled out of El Salvador. To their shame, the Times did just that and reassigned Bonner to the business section. Well, guess what, there really was a massacre at El Mozote.

      Or take the invasion of Grenada during that same era. Even that supposed bastion of leftist propaganda, NPR, merely reported government press releases and claimed that there was no other way to get information. Fortunately, I was listening to the Canadian news program “As It Happens” during that era, and was impressed to see that the Canadians phoned people who lived on Grenada, including the British ambassador and the president of the medical school, and gave a very different picture of the invasion, one that was later confirmed in “Endless Enemies,” a book by Jonathan Kwitny, a reporter for that notorious Marxist publication, The Wall Street Journal.

      That tendency has continued throughout America’s wars of choice. NPR repeats government press releases (billed as “Western sources”), and the Canadians–and sometimes the British– give you the rest of the story.

      Unfortunately, Americans who don’t look at foreign media or even know that such media are readily available on the internet tend to accept the notion that NPR is as left-wing as it gets. They do not know that NPR is cowed by threats from right-wing members of Congress and by its corporate underwriters.

      Fascists also pick up on the grievances of poorly informed people and direct their anger at precisely the targets that are NOT responsible for their woes. For forty years, it’s been AM talk radio, and for over twenty years, Fox News, and for nearly ten years, websites like Breitbart, telling poorly informed Americans that their troubles are due to immigrants, lazy and criminal dark-skinned people, feminists, labor unions, taxes, and environmentalists, not to skinflint employers, a tax system that spends more income tax revenue on the military than on anything else, privatization of essential resources, legislators who care more about their corporate contributors than about their constituents, the least generous social safety net of any Western country, or public school systems controlled by local interests that like having a population that is just smart enough to perform local jobs competently but not enough to question the status quo.

      The rise of in-your-face white supremacy has been carefully cultivated for forty years. Trump’s presidency has not caused the outbursts of white supremacy, but it has emboldened the white supremacist groups that have long existed underground.

      I wouldn’t say that we have full-blown fascism yet, but we certainly have politicians with fascist tendencies, and unless these politicians are decisively voted out of office, the slide into fascism will continue.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/03/2019 - 09:42 am.

        I pretty stopped listening to NPR and MPR during the run-up to the second Iraq War, and I’ve never gone back. They were all war all the time and made no serious attempt to analyze the pro-war propaganda. I remember distinctly one morning when Lanford (Midmorning) looked like she might actually take a crack at critical analysis by bring a guy from the Institute of Peace Studies or some such think on… the first thing the guy said was: “Well, it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we should attack Iraq”.

        I’d give NPR some credit for broadcasting the UN presentations by Powell, ElBaradei, and Blix, but their strong adherence to the practice of refusing to point out obvious conclusions prevented them from reporting the fact that Powell’s entire presentation was a fabricated mess… that would have been a significant story and something American’s should have known.

        Then Miller started her book club in the mornings and NPR adopted facile corporate jargon (“The Takeaway”} as a program title in the afternoon and I said: “Goodnight Gracie.” I look at their online reporting every now and then, but I can’t keep them tuned in the radio for more than ten minutes or so. Apparently they’re now broadcasting Ted Talks? Ugh.

        I don’t think there’s any doubt that we have Fascists in our government. I think we need to be very careful about denying that fact. There’s is a difference between having Fascists in government, and having a Fascist government, so when someone says something like:”We don’t have full blown Fascism” we need to be clear about the distinction we’re making. We HAVE full blown Fascists in our government, but we also still have our Constitution. If the Fascist tear up our Constitution we’ll be able to say we have “Full Blown” Fascism, but it will a moot point, so let’s not play rhetorical games with this.

        One similarity between the US and inter-war Europe could be “denial” and complacency. That was a fatal mistake, let’s not duplicate it.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2019 - 10:46 am.

    We could have a somewhat lengthy discussion defining “Fascism” if want, but in a nutshell a Fascist is pretty anyone who thinks Anti-Fascist should be classified as: “Terrorists”. The impulse to criminalize opposition to Fascism pretty much sums it up, you HAVE to be a Fascist to want to do that.

  10. Submitted by Henry Johnson on 08/31/2019 - 05:17 pm.

    What do you mean it “could” happen here, it IS happening here, wake the heck up author!

    It’s not complete yet, that’s true, but the senate is under the control of Trump via surrogate McConnell and the cowed republican senators who are terrified of saying anything they think might be objected to by the president.

    Those cowed senators/congressmen have no say and no power (because they sadly have given away their power due to fear of losing their next election).

    The DOJ and attorney general’s office and therefore much of the justice branch of government have lost their independence and are now under his control.

    The supreme court has a majority of justices who will probably vote with him.

    Daily, the president fights to try to beat down and suppress and destroy if possible the free press, even recently raging against what he views as his personal state-run media, namely Fox news, for not being 100% biased to only praise him constantly and to never criticize.

    We had better hope that there isn’t another 4 years of this, or we really will get almost all our news from some future Trump-TV network, or a fully tamed and hog-tied Fox news, same difference.

    The president over and over has praised violent totalitarian dictators all over the world, dictators who brutally suppress their citizens and do whatever they want.

    Why do we think he does that?

    I think it’s because that is what he wants for himself, the total control and power they have – he said he admired Putin because “he has great control over his county”. Great control – like Hitler and Stalin did.

    Washington and Franklin and Adams didn’t fight a war against the British because they wanted a new government that would have even “greater control over the people”, that’s what they were fighting against!

    He rails against any limits on his authority, he thinks everyone in the federal government works FOR him and should report to him, and do only what he approves of, and he has zero respect for the constitution.

    I’m just amazed that so much of the general public is so asleep as all of this has happened and they are complacent and seemingly un-alarmed as their democracy is being systematically trashed in front of them.

    Fox news and the president and republicans like to attack the democrats, but honestly, it’s TRUE conservatives, people like General Mattis, former heads of the CIA and FBI, Joe Scarborough, George Will, and a number of generals and war heroes who express their opposition to these attacks on the constitution the most powerfully IMO.

    This has very little to do with being a democrat or a republicans IMO, it’s do you believe and support and defend the constitution or NOT.

    I’m not a democrat, and am not at all a fan of “the squad” (a TINY part of the house democrat delegation BTW), but I currently am voting straight democratic because they at the moment are at least defending democracy, while the republican party has thrown it under the bus, to their great shame.

    They’ve thrown away a good deal of their own traditional values and watched passively as alliances with Europe are weakened, as our president puts more faith in denials by Putin that they didn’t interfere in our elections than the proof they did presented by our intelligence agencies, etc., etc.

    They are silent as McConnell refuse to bring to the floor several pieces of legislation needed to help guard our election system from further attack in 2020.

    That’s treason IMO, and not the first time for ‘Moscow Mitch’ – he refused to go along with a public announcement that the Russians had hacked the DNC and the election in general in 2016 as well.

    I think his take is, if the Russian can help us win seats or the presidency, I’m okay with that.

    Trump said the same if asked he would accept help in the future, on TV no less!

    They all took an oath to defend the constitution, AND THEY’RE NOT DOING IT.

    That is why so many true conservatives have flat-out openly and vocally left the party.

    The party has become degraded under the influence of someone who was a hedonistic, skirt-and-money chasing democrat most of his life, and who even contributed money to Hillary Clinton at one point.

    And I think that’s why so many republican congressmen and senators are voluntarily retiring suddenly now – they don’t have the courage to openly oppose the president, but they are sick of going along with the trashing of our democracy, and of being delegated to the role of being yes-men, and politburo-style puppets in what used to be a branch of government equal in power to the presidency.

    A power that is pathetically unequal now under Trump/McConnell.

    Sharing power equally between three branches as our founding fathers designed in the constitution is not what a dictator-wanna-be seeks, it’s what he seeks to get rid of – he views it as an obstacle.

    Whether you call that attempt to negate the constitution fascism or totalitarianism, it sure ain’t democracy as we’re used to, and as the founding fathers intended it to be!

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/01/2019 - 09:37 am.

      Yes Mr. Johnson, I can’t disagree with any of your observations.

      I think basically a succinct way of viewing this is to note the fact that both Parties adopted a program of serving the elite at everyone else’s expense. We’ve government of the elite, by the elite, for the elite ever since the “New Democrats” (i.e. “centrist/moderates) captured the Democratic Party back the 80’s.

      This informs the emergence of Fascism here in the US because one rarely discussed feature of Fascism in Germany and Italy in the 20’s and 30’s ( ( don’t the author mentions this in this article for instance) was that the Elite didn’t have a problem with Fascism. Fascism was perfectly compatible with priorities and interests of elite industrialists. Some may recall the fact that Henry Ford was a big supporter of Fascism for instance, as were most if not all of the industrialists in Germany and Italy. Elite support played no small role in the emergence of Fascism. German and Italian industrialist did quite well under Fascism until their factories started getting bombed… our farmers could maybe learns a lesson from that.

      We have a very similar situation here in the US where some of the elite (such as the Koch brothers) have actually supported Fascist impulses and agendas, while others have either been indifferent or tacitly approved. Consider for instance the membership and sponsorship of the American Legislative Affairs Council, authors and promoters of a wide array of anti-democratic legislation. The list of ALEC sponsors was a who’s who of American elite ranging from the Medtronic to Microsoft, and Google to Amazon.

      You can’t really understand the nature and emergence of Fascism without also examining the contours of class struggle, awareness, and elite privilege. Something that Western neoliberal historians typically fail to discuss. Again, the Biden mentality that politics is just about trading places with Republicans every so often is the core of elite privilege that has enabled the rise of Fascism in the US.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/01/2019 - 10:36 am.

    Just to finish a couple thoughts in my previous comment, while Fascism has arrived in the US, and resides in the White House and throughout the current Administration, it’s important to note that Fascists are having a rather difficult time consolidating power, and we should note the reasons for that.

    In no particular order of importance:

    1) Demographically the US isn’t nearly as homogeneous as Italy and Germany were in the 20’s and 30’s. The inherent racism, antisemitism, and bigotry at the core of Fascism are not nearly as prevalent and universal in the US. Our diverse population is also far less prone to assemble under a banner of “Nationalism”. Fascists are actually forced to argue about the very nature of Nationalism and Patriotism, it’s not an a priori principle.

    2) The populations of Germany and Italy were primed for Fascist politics and ideology in a variety of ways. Hundreds of years of antisemitism, wars, and little or no experience with democratic forms of government just to mention a few, predisposed those populations to accept dictatorial government. Residual effects of WWI, economic failures, all within the context of an unresolved European Civil War created very a very different scenario than ours here in the US.

    3) For a variety of reasons there were no “anti-Fascists” to speak of. Fascism was by and large embraced by a majority of the population. Not the case currently in the US.

    4) Our legal system and the Constitutions (State and Federal) that it supports are far more robust than those that collapsed in the face of European Fascism back in the 20’s and 30’s.

    5) As previously mentioned, the Elite in Germany and Italy joined the Nazi and Fascist parties and prospered until the bombs started landing on their factories… and even then they came out it pretty much unscathed. The elite here in the US is actually split, Trump does not enjoy the universal support of the Nation’s elite. Our elite, much like our population in general, is far less homogeneous, and less prone to support or even ignore Trump’s Fascist impulses. In fact, the elite world wide ether ignored or supported Hitler and Mussolini whereas Trump is meeting derision and resistance. Trump rose to power because the US elite was complacent, not because they supported him. In fact, currently I get the impression that nations elite are primarily embarrassed by Trump rather than feeling threatened by him… this may reaction may persist until the bombs start falling again unfortunately, which is why we rely on the elite to save us.

    None of this represents an impervious wall that will prevent a Fascist president from converting our democracy into a Fascist State, these guys aren’t interested in our consent, they will force the matter if they think they see a chance. When we talking about the possibility of Trump refusing to leave office when he looses the election, that basically the scenario we’re discussing.

    I would recommend two books: “In The Garden Of Beasts” by Erik Larson, this is an account of the US Ambassador to Nazi Germany prior to the War. It really illustrates the nature and differences between prewar Germans and contemporary Americans. Another is: “Trading With The Enemy” by Charles Higham. This book explores the relationship between American Industrialists and the Nazis in the 30’s and 40’s. This book provides a nice window into the symbiotic relationship the worlds elite had with the Fascist regimes. Very few people know that Ford Motor Company continued to provide trucks and ball bearings to the Nazis pretty much throughout the war for instance. And of course the post war corporate sponsorship of fascist regimes in Latin America (like Pinochet) comes into context when seen in the light of Industrialist relationships with the Nazis.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 09/01/2019 - 10:27 pm.

      I believe I read somewhere that Mussolini described fascism as “government by corporation” which I think in many ways in inline with what your describing Paul, since it’s usually “the elite” that own and/or run most large corporations.

      And although yes he was an old colonialist, one of my biggest heroes is Winston Churchill, because as you’ve said, Henry Ford was a big Hitler fan, along with other industrialists I believe, and the US ambassador to Britain Joe Kennedy was also strongly urging that the US reach an ‘accommodation” with the Nazis (as were many I believe) – in other words, urging Roosevelt to befriend them or even partner with them.

      I don’t have much doubt that if Mr. Trump was in government at that time, that he would have been seeking accommodation and partnership as well, just as he has been the tyrants and dictators of today’s world.

      So thank God for the old bulldog Churchill who was having none of that, and who opposed Hitler 100% without a bit of hesitation, and then hit them and the whole world with his powerful, inspiring speeches.

      Without that, I think it’s very likely most of us here in the US would speak German fluently and perhaps the US would be a German vassal state, because only by inspiring the American public by the heroic British fight against the Nazis, and by winning the Battle of Britain and leading Hitler into the stupid mistake of attacking Russia, were the “allies” even formed, and then able to defeat the axis powers.

      I think maybe more than anyone I know of, Churchill showed the effect that a single man can have on the world. Quite amazing.

      He famously paid homage to the RAF fighter pilots who held off the Nazi aerial assault by saying “Never in the course of human events, has so much been owed, by so many, to so few”

      (God, the man had a way with words!!)

      And the same sentence could be tweaked a little to refer to his own heroic and mostly solitary unwillingness to never bend an inch to tyranny.

      Getting back to your theme of the elite or ‘government by corporation’, I just read an article this evening about the societal price being paid for next day delivery by Amazon, and it reminds me of the points your making actually.

      They’ve farmed out the delivery job to contracting firms, but pressure them so heavily to meet unbelievable delivery schedules for low compensation that as a result the drivers are pressured to work 12 or 14 hour days for low pay, to deliver a package every 2 minutes, etc, and this is causing traffic accidents and in some cases fatalities.

      When those accident and injuries or fatalities happen, Amazon, claims no responsibility, hey – they subcontracted the job.

      And they aggressively bust any employees or contracting firms that try to unionize.

      Kind of sounds like fascism to me honestly – near slave-labor.

      Makes me a bit uneasy about the fact that I’m a regular Amazon shopper myself.

      Sure it’s super-convenient and economical, but am I supporting the devil here, and when they’ve taken even more market share from any and all other competitors, are they going to start being as ruthless to customers as I’ve heard it described that they are to those who work for them (either directly or as contractors)?

      Sadly, and I think this goes along with what you’ve been saying; thru the course of human history, I think it’s been the norm rather than the exception that a relatively few powerful people and organizations, have run pretty much rough-shod over the average Joe and Jane.

      I feel pretty lucky to have lived in a country that has had more at least relatively fair and egalitarian systems in place than in most societies thru most of history, with more rights and priviieges than most, but I fear we take that for granted, and don’t realize how that could change, and aren’t on guard enough to see that we don’t let those things be taken from us and from our descendants.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/02/2019 - 10:51 am.

      Also “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” an oldie but goodie, by William L. Shirer, who was a reporter in Berlin and Vienna during the 1930s.

      I’m told that parts of it have been questioned, but it still provides details of just how Hitler managed to take over in Germany, and it is full of fascinating anecdotes

      Just as an aside, I used to wonder why the Russians were so determined to hang on to Chechnya, when they had given up other parts of the Soviet Union without a fight and when the largely Muslim and Turkic-speaking local population clearly did not want them. The repeated references in Shirer’s book to “the oil fields near Grozny” cleared up that mystery.

    • Submitted by alan green on 01/12/2020 - 07:47 pm.

      So far USA only fascist 3 years.
      Good chance recovery from fascism.
      Best hope Trump dies.
      Also 21st amendment should hold, no 3rd term.
      Future very uncertain.
      Maybe 20 years from now this period of Fascism will seem like an aberration.
      Maybe democracy will be gone and American fascism will be norm.
      Very uncertain.
      There has never been a thing like Trump in White House in 250 years.
      Maybe Americans will return to pull back from the abyss after Trump is gone.
      He is still not dictator for life.

  12. Submitted by Thom Roethke on 09/03/2019 - 03:03 pm.

    Where we are: people are claiming, fearlessly and with a straight face, that they live in a fascist state. On a public website. Using their own names.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/04/2019 - 08:04 am.

      Democracy and “freedom” require vigilance, that means people have to pay attention. No one here is claiming that we live in a Fascist State. On the contrary some of us are simply pointing to the fact that we have Fascists in our government who would create a Fascist State if we let them. Only in a Fascist State would we be afraid to make that observation publicly and in our own names Mr. Roethke. Clearly we live in a liberal democracy and we want to keep it that way.

      • Submitted by Thom Roethke on 09/04/2019 - 08:32 am.

        Fair enough “Mr Udstrand”, but there are fascists in every government. People who are drawn to power are drawn to government, and have been throughout history. But given that nobody actually seems to fear the onset of fascist or totalitarian government right now – it’s not only safe to criticize those currently in power it’s also quite fashionable – I have a hard time taking all of this “vigilance” too seriously. I think we would probably agree that Trump is a boorish, mean, and vindictive old man, but his actions as a President (sentencing reform, minimal use of the military, deregulation, inability to control his own inner circle) make it hard for me to see him as the next Mussolini.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/04/2019 - 09:33 am.

          Yes Mr. Roethke, clearly vigilance isn’t your priority. If you want to understand why Trump is a Fascist, I’m afraid you’ll have to start paying attention. Suffice to say it’s not about sentencing reform.

          “But given that nobody actually seems to fear the onset of fascist or totalitarian government right now – it’s not only safe to criticize those currently in power it’s also quite fashionable – ”

          Again, please pay attention. The whole reason we’re having this discussion is because we’re afraid that Fascist in our government will tear up our Constitution. It’s not about “fashion”, it’s about a clear and present danger. Trump will never be another Mussolini, he’s an American Fascist.

          I have to ask, would you rather we all be too afraid to speak up? And you are aware that Fascist/White Nationalists are killing people are you not? Speaking up isn’t really as risk free as you seem to think it is. You do realize that if and when it’s too dangerous to speak out… you will no longer live in a free country?

          By he way, we’ve never had a Fascist POTUS, Vice POTUS, Cabinet, or Senate Majority Leader before. While a few Fascists may lurk in the shadows of some governments at any given time, they’ve never controlled the White House.

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