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A Political Party With an Armed Paramilitary Wing Is Not Consistent with Democracy

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The NRA used to say, "An armed society is a polite society." The truth is that an armed society is a fearful, dangerous, and "- eventually "- authoritarian society

Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun
Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun
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When I was a child there was a kid in our neighborhood who made my life hell. Dennis was a bully and delighted in chasing and beating up me and several others; we'd alter our route home from elementary school to avoid him.

Some of the kids he pounded on joined him as a way of protecting themselves from him "- the way Lindsay Graham sucks up to Donald Trump "- which only increased the terror level for the rest of us in our little lower-middle-class suburb as Dennis and his friends formed their own gang.

If there was an 8-year-old 1959 version of today's Republican street-fighting white supremacist groups, it was Dennis and his buddies. They reveled in intimidating people and could smell fear from a block away. I knew they were authoritarians before I even knew the word or its meaning.

As we graduated into middle school, I learned that Dennis grew up feeling powerless and frightened: his father would tie him to a pole in the basement and whip him with a belt for the slightest infraction.

Powerlessness and humiliation are the soil in which authoritarianism grows.

When German soldiers returned home from their crushing defeat in World War I, they formed armed civilian militia groups looking for a leader: Hitler provided them with one, organizing them into the volunteer paramilitary group we remember as the Brownshirts.

Over the past 42 years Reagan's neoliberalism has ripped apart the American working class, shipping over 60,000 factories and formerly good-paying union jobs to Mexico and China. As a result, tens of millions of formerly middle-class men have seen their fortunes crumble.

Unable to find the kinds of blue-collar jobs that were common forty years ago and unqualified for white-collar work, they find themselves unable to provide for their families in the way once available to union manufacturing workers.

Compounding the crisis, three major tranches of tax cuts for the morbidly rich (Reagan, Bush, Trump) have turned America into the most unequal society in the developed world. The morbidly rich pay almost no taxes and just get richer and richer, while the men at the bottom of society's economic pile simmer in a stew of resentment and rage.

Putting a match to this pile of tinder, Republicans since Richard Nixon have been telling their base that the real cause of their economic problems are "welfare queens" and affirmative action: barely disguised code for "Black and Hispanic people."

A functioning civil society requires trust. Trust in government and trust in each other.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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