(Today is “Defining the Problem.” Later this week is “What to Do About It.”)
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This is commentary by Steve Marsh. Nobody else is responsible for it. You may leave moderated comments here or look me up on facebook.
The Oxford Dictionaries define fascism as “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”
This is a little misnomer in terms of current American politics. It says “right wing” and automatically Americans say “Republican.” Sadly, that is no longer historically accurate. Bill Clinton broke the traditional concept of right/left last century with his “triangulation” of the middle. That was after Reagan broke the traditional concept of “Right” in the ‘80s with his Reagan Democrats and hard turn toward conservatism.
Famously, Jimmy Carter pronounced the American system of politics to be “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery…” Rolling Stone Magazine quoted him as saying, “The same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
Many of us who have been around in both centuries were heard to say, “Well, duh.”
But, as much as I’d like to bask in Carter’s courage to say so, and my beautiful, prescient mind for perceiving it, I’m stuck with acknowledging that this observation alone is not enough. In my estimation, the confluence of oligarchy in America with the populist wave that put Donald Trump in the most dangerous chair in the world means we have now passed on to full Fascism. I do not blame Trump alone. And not even those who voted for him, although any number of them would be happy to put on jackboots. What is left of Democratic voters have been as guilty. I hear my liberal friends recoiling in horror and denial. So let’s take this kind of slow.
It seems that you can find a definition of fascism that will say almost anything you want it to say. Or you can confound a definition with a lot of political language designed to obfuscate. So, how do I know we are in a Fascist Oligarchy instead of just a regular old oligarchy? I found a website that identifies what fascist states do: http://www.fascismusa.com/ The thing this website attempts to do is to define what has been undefinable and implies that we should define the cheetah by her spots.
What does a fascist state do? This site identifies fourteen Cheetah Spots. Here we go.
1. Is America currently affected by Powerful and Continuing nationalism? Well, of course she is and before you get all excited about how we are now going to bash the Trumpsters (and we should) think back to summer 2016 and the images, especially on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention. Do you remember the multi-screen projections of HRC, dressed in stark white, parading in front of dozens of American flags, calling on neo-con General John Allen to assure “our enemies” that “we will pursue you as only Americans can.” Later that night she was joined on stage by Bill in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie and her VP candidate (what was his name again) in a blue suit, white shirt and a red tie and Chelsea in a red dress of the exact same hue as Bill’s and VP Whatsisname’s ties? Mrs. Whatshisname was dressed in blue, same as the suits, same as the balloons. And down came seemingly millions of balloons, all red, white or blue or big blue ones with white stars. And some big white ones and big red ones too. That is not a party issue. Republicans were weeping that night, discovering aghast that the Democratic party had staked out the patriotism corner for itself in this voting cycle. There was, apparently, enough American Exceptionalism for us all. Nationalism? Check.
2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights. That has been true of America since President W decided that it was appropriate for us to engage in prophylactic warfare and fed us all the false data necessary to whip America into a blood lust unimaginable even ten years before when his daddy was the boss. Gone were the restraints against torture, preemptive assassination, striking families and neighborhoods with the most amazingly destructive weapons possible. Back home, the stroke of a pen was all it took after Congress capitulated on the frighteningly Nazi-sounding creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Trumpsters say bring back torture. Trump himself is quoted by CNN on December 3, 2015 as saying: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” But further, did Obama prosecute anyone for water-boarding, even as he stopped its use? No. Did we ever get out of Guantanamo? Lack of human rights? Check.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and bad hombres. 9/11, Iraqi attacks (even though the vast majority of participants were Saudi), add Afghanistan to get Osama, add Pakistan because they were hiding Osama, add Syria, Lebanon, Yemen. Immigrants = Mexicans but Immigrants also = Refugees from the wars on Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And then….and then… home-grown terrorists. Self-radicalized individuals. Now the enemies are everywhere and they are brown. Muslims are proudly hated by at least a large plurality of Americans. And now Mexicans, and it spills out to Sikhs and…just Google “mistaken for terrorists in US.” Enemies named and pointed at? Check.
4. Supremacy of the military. Let me parse this one out a little. It says supremacy of the military. It does not say support for military families. It does not say health care for wounded veterans. It’s all about active military and missions. Look at T’s proposed budget. Military +$54 billion, Department of Homeland Security +6.8%, Department of Veterans Affairs +5.9%, National Nuclear Security Administration +11.3%. And literally, just about everything else is cut, including the chief tool for diplomacy, the Department of State -28%. Yup, that is an intentional hard-power budget. Supremacy of the military? Check.
5. Rampant sexism. Beyond normalizing the word “pussy” and demonizing all of women’s health care on the back of “abortion,” the number of women in the cabinet is self-evident. Even his supporters can find a quote or two they are happy to chant denigrating women. Every day, every newspaper in America carries this story or worse, exhibits this story. Rampant sexism? Check.
6. Controlled mass media. How many supporters of T are now firmly convinced that CNN stands for “Clinton’s News Network?” How many say “fake news” about any article with a headline that even obliquely challenges their world view. All sources of news are false, except the two or three sources the central personality deems to be “not fake.” This has been underway since Roger Ailes (ahem, speaking of rampant sexism) opened Fox News for business but now we have reached a new vista in media denial. The Executive Branch Press Secretary has taken to isolating the news source they approve of to hold conferences and to go on lengthy defensive rants if anyone asks a question perceived as offensive. Control the mass media? Check. (at least well on the way.)
7. Obsession with national security. ISIS and illegal immigrants. These stories continue to cycle at the top of lists. They get conflated and mixed up too. Don’t let in any refugees fleeing the chaos created by our enemy ISIS because those people could be ISIS disguised as refugees. Don’t let Mexican (rapists and murderers) come in because they are “bad hombres” and ISIS is probably coming into the country by smuggling themselves into Mexico too. Let’s look at Iran next month and N. Korea this week. National security, keeping you safe from all the danger, danger, danger. Obsession with National Security? Check.
8. Religion and government are intertwined. Fascists use the most common religion to manipulate opinions. If there were more Catholics in the USA, we would see a slightly different version of what is going on. This movement has come and gone over the course of our history but got its biggest burst of power under Reagan. The emergence of the religious right under the moniker of “Moral Majority” has now twisted itself into something far more insidious. What is the advantage to them? LOTS. Normalizing home schooling and getting federal education dollars for religious schools via vouchers and similar programs. That insures the concepts are self-perpetuating through another generation. It makes it easy to demonize the political opponent. Obama, for example was both non-American and non-Christian. Those are long tentacles. And remember it was the religious right who impeached Clinton. Not for a blowjob but for a lie. Religion and government intertwined? Check.
9. Corporate power is protected. Citizens United (what a great lie right in the title), “Corporations are people, my friend.” Gut the EPA, deregulate Wall Street, roll back 40 years of auto emissions regulations, states deferring taxes on corporate owned property, and restrictions on labor is outlined below. But this is the most dangerous trend in my lifetime. There used to be a time when corporations had natural restraints too. To get access to the American market, corporations had to use American labor. Well, just like those two big oceans don’t protect us militarily any longer, they also don’t protect us economically. Many corporations are larger than many countries. That is not hyperbole any longer. Add to the power to do what they want to the power to avoid taxes on the profits they secure in our markets and you have a pretty perfect storm. Corporate power? Check.
10. Labor power is suppressed. Right to Work (another great title lie), opposition of raising the minimum wage, demonize public servants (except cops and firemen…you need them for the riots), permitting two tiered hiring practices, gutting union shop laws, and importantly, long term economic downturns to erode stability and expectations in the work force. Depress the markets for young people generally and black young people specifically and you now have a ready market for people to be recruited into the military. Labor power suppression? Check.
11. Disdain for intellectuals and artists. Gut the NEA, gut PBS, pass laws forcing teaching creationism as alternative to evolution (see #8 above), the culture wars of 20 years ago has “leveled up.” Schools are now deficient if they don’t teach “marketable skills in the work marketplace.” Let’s add some more catch phrases: “I know more than the generals.” Active scrubbing of federal websites in regard to climate change and other scientific research. Fox News says global warming research is a con to get federal dollars for false research. Tweet: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.” Schwarzenegger. Disdain for intellectuals and artists? Check.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. First, think of what he, the T, wants to do with “leakers.” Second, as the states move to legalize the use of medical and recreational cannabis, the new Attorney General says, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Trump notoriously says the murder rate is the highest in 48 years while in fact it is less than ½ of what it was 48 years ago. Crime, both violent and non-violent are actually down in the nation, but the administration is fundamentally invested in scaring people to make them think they are not safe, that they can blame some other kind of people and that we should lock those “others” up in for-profit prisons. Crime and punishment? Check.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Why are so many former executives of Goldman Sachs in the cabinet? It is hard to keep track of that number. Connections to Russia and the political oligarchy there? Plenty. Only took days to start booting folks out of the cabinet for obvious cons involving receiving huge sums of money from Russia and Turkey. How many? Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court? Sure, his mom was the EPA head from ’81-’83 under Reagan. What did she try to do? Slashed its budget 22%, rolled back clean air and clean water standards, prevented the EPA from bringing protection suits to the DOJ. Then she resigned. Why? Mismanagement (you put your own word in here, what does “mismanagement” mean, anyway?) of the Superfund program. This is not a new thing. More on that later. Or this from yesterday: Kellyanne Conway’s husband will be tapped to lead the Justice Department’s civil division. Another import from the Wall Street law firms. Cronyism and corruption? Check.
14. Fraudulent elections. This one scares me deeply. I think it has been going on for a long time. Both political parties are claiming it is ongoing. I think Republican redistricting efforts at the state level have effectively eliminated the democratic concept of “one man–one vote.” The number of federal elections and state elections affected has skyrocketed. And now Trump is blowing smoke over his trail by claiming that millions of illegal aliens voted against him and cost him the popular vote. I have never seen the winner of an election claim it was fraudulent before! The institution of the Electoral College has played into this strategy by the Fascists too. Smear campaigns, armed “poll watchers,” the list goes on. Courts are supposed to be the check here. HEY, COURTS! HELP. We are hanging by a fine thread. Fraudulent elections? Not 100% certain yet but something smells very bad about Russia and the unconscionable voter restrictions going on in communities of color. I’m not willing to put a check here yet, but reconnect with me next week.
So, that’s all fourteen functions, or at least 13 and a half. Do you think we are a Fascist Oligarchy? Well, look at that thing waddling and quacking down the road. I do believe it some kind of waterfowl.