Over a decade ago I wrote in these pages at the beginning of the second George W. Bush administration a posting that I titled “Slouching Towards Fascism.” It was the ideological direction I thought at the time to which we we’re inclining. Then, along came Barack Obama and many of us were buoyed––too much by our own wishful thinking as it turned out––by the idea that we might be revisited by FDR. Alas, that was not to come to pass, in some measure because what the Obama administration did do was to force to the surface the ugly underbelly of unresolved racism of American society. At the risk of oversimplifying things, that reality, which expressed itself not only in the intentional legislative gridlock in Washington, and increasing racist attitudes and tactics of American law enforcement and jurisprudence, combined with a tepid economic recovery, widening economic disparities, and the emergence of the tea party, have taken us to where we are today. Today, we are faced with a presidential choice between two of the most unpopular candidates in history, one of which is a narcissistic reincarnation of Benito Mussolini who has a reasonable chance of being our next commander-in-chief. If so, the Obama administration will simply have been an interlude, and perhaps a final impetus, in a decades long slide towards a more autocratic society.
In my earlier essay I wrote: . . . nothing brings on Friendly Fascism like that old standby, “the evil enemy” at the gates. History has shown that all sorts of peoples are willing to surrender their democracies and much more if you really scare the beans out of them. A tyrant who will save their butts is preferable to someone perceived as a duly-elected weakling. And so America’s friendly fascism takes further form in the excesses of the Patriot Act II, detentions without charges, and a growing record of torture and other abuses of “suspects.”
In the intervening years, several alarming international political trends have emerged which may push America further toward a truly fascist state. Globalism has continued to expand the influence and autonomy of international corporate capitalism, which erodes the prospects for democracy everywhere. The Islamic countries of the Middle East, which the policies of the United States have had a major hand in destabilizing, exacerbating its sectarian divisions, and spreading its extremist insurgencies into Europe and North America, are now a predominant influence in the rise of countervailing right-wing political parties in democratic states, replacing communism as the bête noir du jour. In the states of the “Arab spring” only Tunisia has managed to achieve some sort of democracy, with Egypt sunk in authoritarianism, Libya spinning out of control, and Israel rooted in its own right wing authoritarian regime. Saudi Arabia, already an authoritarian state, has joined the fray in its peninsular war with Yemeni factions and, of course, who can predict what will be the results In Iraq, Afghanistan in Pakistan. Most recently, America’s ally Turkey, has taken a further lurch in the direction of an Islamic authoritarian state with its recent failed military coup d’état.
Then there are America’s main ideological and economic competitors, Russia and China. Putin’s Russia has been taking on a Stalinist feel for several years. Although nominally a democracy and not a Communist country, like Xi Jinping’s Communist China, the control of the press, intimidation of political opposition and even outright murder of journalists, elimination of privacy and censorship of internet media, along with control of the military and financial systems—in short, the centralization of key institutions under authoritarian political auspices—has created effective fascist governments. Control of information media has been a key element in maintaining single party domination in these countries, especially information flow to and among local populations and, as it was in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, a predominant theme of that information was to foment fear that their nations were under economic assault and military threat by competing nation states. Finally, there is the call for the strong, militaristic, nationalistic leader at the apex of centralized structure.
There should be little wonder then, about the emergence of a political monstrosity like Donald J. Trump. He is a product not only over the past several decades, but also the negatives of globalization, neo-liberalism, the political economy of austerity, and the failures and downright stupidity of American foreign policy. He is an adolescent asshole, the perfect poster boy for incipient American fascism.
There is nothing in my view that is arcane, complicated or otherwise obfuscated about this issue. And so the question becomes What it to be done” Not much, I am afraid, that will make a difference from the choice before us in the causes and trends that have brought us to this point. I am disgusted with the entire electoral system of United States and with the way in which both political parties operate, which is very much in the interests of the corporate capitalists who have already captured the system. But the rational political act is simple and obvious to me: Hillary Clinton is the nominee and voting for her is the only way to keep a megalomaniac bigot from becoming president. There are powerful political thinkers with whom I am in much agreement, such as Chris Hedges, who maintain that there is no choice, but from a practical point of view his recommendation of not voting for Clinton he is like a guy was ready to emasculate himself because he’s had an electoral disfunction. This applies as well to the delegates who are booing Bernie who are like children smearing the walls with their own excrement because things didn’t work out their way. Sarah Silverman told him to grow up, which is what they need to do or they are going to be living with a president and Supreme Court that is going to fuck up their world for decades. Hilary is not the answer to what we need in terms of structural reform, but at this moment she is the only stick we have to pick up to kill a snake.
Is there a good prospect for Sanders to carry the movement he instigated forward to put progressive pressure on the system at various pressure points coming years. If the tea party was able to do it on the other side we should be able to do it on the liberal progressive side. But a critical moment will come down to a day in November. If the first step in rabbit stew is to kill a rabbit, the first step toward de-fanging American fascism is to kill the snake.\
©2016, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 7.27.2016)