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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/29/21

American Exceptionalism: Fascism Arrives in Slow Motion

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

Unfortunately, it's not.  It's just coming on differently.
Unfortunately, it's not. It's just coming on differently.
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Brief Introduction

An earlier version of this column was published just about a week before the pub. date of this one (see the end note). With the performance of the Republo-Fascists around the first House Select Committee hearing on the Insurrection of 1/6/21, ranging from calling the testimony of the Capitol Policemen present "performance art," to still denying that anything at all untoward happened, if anything things are getting worse. (By the way, if Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" can refer to the present Republican Party as fascist, which he does now with great frequency, well I can too.) But just remember, just as, I have been told, Trump-Rep. Elise Stefanik was one who referred to the testimony of the Capitol Police at that hearing as "performance art," she should know what she is talking about. For she, of course, is engaging in the performance art of "being pregnant."

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A longer Introduction, on "American Exceptionalism"

Many inhabitants of the United States of America like to refer to themselves as "Americans," as a distinctive citizenry, even though literally every inhabitant of each and every nation of the Western Hemisphere is one. Furthermore, despite this reality, many "Americans" (that is inhabitants of the U.S. of A.) especially those who inhabit the political Center on over to the Right, like to refer to "American Exceptionalism:" exceptionally strong, exceptionally free, exceptionally brave, exceptionally "democratic," exceptionally generous, and so forth. I must say that I am not one of those. In fact, I have written on the true nature of "American exceptionalism," on these pages, about ten years ago. There is indeed a list of "exceptional" characteristics for the U.S.A., and it is not exactly one that one would want to boast about (unless one if well over to the Right, of course).

And here it is:

1. The US simply ignores treaties to which it is a party, like the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, without so much as a by-your-leave.

2. In the US, Administrations can ignore its own Constitution, as in the case of its Article VI and the above-mentioned torture policy, without anyone in a position of authority saying boo to a goose. (Under Trump, of course, the list of Constitutional violations got rather longer, e.g., see what Trump thought his powers were under Article II in comparison with what they really are.)

3. The US is the only advanced capitalist country without a national health insurance system, to say nothing of a national health service.

4. The US has the largest military empire in the world, bar none.

5. Among the major Western democracies, it is the only one in which one major party runs in major part on right-wing religious bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, and climate change denial.

6. It is one of very few capitalist countries that has no civilian population with a personal recollection of war on its own soil, and its consequences.

7. Of the advanced capitalist countries it has the lowest proportion of workers who are unionized.

8. Of the advanced capitalist countries it is the one with the highest degree of corporate control of election outcomes, and the lowest level of citizen participation in elections.

9. Unlike every other advanced capitalist country, it has no high-speed rail system.

10. It has the highest proportion of government expenditures on the military of any nation in the world.

The Next Component for the List

But now, we may well be adding a major component to this list. For as the Republican Party and its major funders inexorably drive the nation towards the institution of a modern form of the fascist state, the U.S. is experiencing another form of historical exceptionalism: the advent of that form of State Structure in slow motion. As we shall see, this particular form of fascist development, at a rate of speed this slow, has not happened previously.

But first, as I am wont to do, let us review a useful, working definition of fascism:

"There is a single, all-powerful executive branch of government, in service of a capitalist ruling class that controls, for the most part, the functions of production, distribution, and exchange. There is no separation of governmental powers [one of James Madison's signal contributions to the then-unique form of government established by the Constitution]. Thus, there are no de facto independent judicial or legislative branches, at any level. There is no independent media. There is a single national ideology, based on some combination of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and authoritarianism, homophobia, and xenophobia. There is a state propaganda machine using the big and little lie techniques. There may be a full-blown dictatorship, a charismatic leader, engagement in foreign wars, and the use of the mob/private armies."

The major fascist nations of the 20th century were Hungary (1919-1945), Italy (1922-1945), Germany (1933-45), Japan (1935-45), and Spain (1939-75). In four of five, when fascism came, it came relatively quickly. In Hungary the fascist dictator Adm. Miklos Horthy was appointed by the Hungarian King following the defeat of Hungarian Revolution in 1919. (The Horthy dictatorship was the first of its kind in history, that is it had an absolute ruler who was not a royal of the country being ruled.) In Italy, the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini (who, of course, invented the term "fascist") was appointed by the Italian King in 1922. In Germany, once Hitler had been appointed Chancellor by the elected President Hindenburg in 1933, it took him less than two months to establish his dictatorship that lasted until 1945.

In Spain, while it took the fascist supporters of General Francisco Franco, Germany and Italy, over 2 ½ years to defeat the forces of the elected Republican government of that nation. But once that defeat was achieved, Franco instituted his form of fascism very quickly. In Japan it was a bit murkier, but the country was essentially ruled by a military junta from the time of the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, a junta which became only more repressive as the nation gradually engaged in a series of military operations that eventually led to its entry into World War II flowing the attack on Pearl Harbor. But any meaningful opposition to its rule ended in a short period of time, with the suppression of the Communist Party in 1935.

What is happening in the United Sates as the Republo-fascist Party drives the nation towards the eventual institution of a fascist state, as defined above, is a rather different, indeed historically unique process: it is happening in slow motion. To be sure, as in Germany, it is in the process of being installed through the mechanism of the Constitution. Remember, the Nazi Party was a major player in the German electoral process under the constitutional Weimar Republic from the mid- to-late 20s until Hitler's Dictatorship was established with the passage of the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933. As noted, President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor (the equivalent of Prime Minister) under the provisions of the Weimar Constitution. But as also noted, once appointed Hitler moved to the creation of a fascist state very quickly. As so on and so forth. But in the U.S., not-so-fast.

Fascism is indeed Arriving in Slow Motion

The ideological basis of Republo-fascism is of course anti-Black racism which goes back well before the founding of the Republic in the late 18th century. As it happens, one form or another of racism has been part of Republican ideology since the party was founded partly on the backs of the "Know Nothings" in the 1850s. In our times, anti-black racism has gradually found its way to the center of the party's being since it was first pronounced as part of the Party's ideology by Goldwater in 1964. Trump, of course, has made it the center of the modern party's reason for being since he made his first foray into national politics riding on the back of the birtherism movement in 2011.

· Next, the center of the political program of the Republicans in as many states as they can manage it is voter suppression, first aimed at the Black vote (with gerrymandering coming in a close second in those states in which is it feasible and useful for them). The Republican hope to institute fascism here (see the components list below), and for them voter suppression provides a clear path, over which they are running in slow motion, to get there.

· In my view, Trump himself will not be the leader of a future fascist state. He is too stupid, too disorganized, and too "transactional" to be able to undertake that role. He couldn't even organize a coup d'etat, as much as he would liked to have had one. He is very useful to the fascists now as, as I have described him, the headlamp on the front of the locomotive of the Republo-fascist train as it comes roaring down the track. But when the Republo-fascist leadership doesn't need him anymore, that is when they have taken state power or a significant chunk of it, they will discard him.

· Major elements of fascism could be clearly seen in Trump's approach to the State, to governing, and to his own conception of his powers under the Constitution (which differed from those of any of his predecessors, with one or two possible exceptions). But for a variety of reasons (e.g., resistance of the top members of the military, poor staffing for the job, and total incompetence as an administrator, even a protofascist one) he was never able to achieve his desired end. And so, he is now reduced to whining about "The Steal," and etc. And understanding how Trump was in the process of taking apart Constitutional government --- on matters ranging from moving around monies in the Federal budget without Congressional approval, to his refusal to comply with lawful subpoenas, to dealing with the Russians as detailed in the Mueller Report --- illustrates clearly the path he was following, as I detailed further in a column published in April 2019. Indeed, Trump has been talking about this stuff for years. (See the "Fascism" section of "StevenJonasPolitics.com.")

· Of course, the continuing challenging of the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election consumes a significant chunk of the Republican Party, from its MAGA-mass to its elected Representatives. In fact, three of the House members that Minority Leader McCarthy has appointed to the House Special Committee have voted against certifying Joe Biden as President. But this is just another indicator that the prometon of the Big Lie, that the election was "stolen" from Trump and the Republicans, will increasingly come to the center of Republican electioneering? How is this fascist? Just as the "Stab in the Back" Big Lie was used by the Nazis for political purposes from the early 1920s well into the time of the Hitler Regime.

· What is going on now in Texas provides us with a good forward-vision of what the nation will be facing in re the definition of fascism above. Under Gov. Abbott (who is definitely running as a post-Trumper for the 2024 Republican nomination), with the gerrymandered State legislature and the voter suppression tactics and strategy which will prevent any alteration of that reality for the foreseeable future, more and more power is being placed in the hands of the Governor. The independent media, in Texas, is being squashed. Leading the way towards the establishment of fascism right now is the development of a single ideology, encapsulated by the approach to abortion rights. Texas is not content to base an abortion-ban on religious doctrine (in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment). And so:

· Texas is not content to base an abortion-ban on religious doctrine (in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment). Under the Governor's leadership the State Legislature has passed a law that says that "life begins at the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected." Why is that so, according to this law? "Because we sez it's so," they say. It doesn't, to repeat, even have anything to do with religious doctrine and resulting religious authoritarianism. Again, it's just because they say so. And that, my friends, us a central element of any version of fascist ideology. If that is not the first step towards establishing a state-wide ideology, supported by the law, I don't know what is. And of course, we see the similar development of state-imposed ideologies in the banning of the teaching about the twin roles of racism and slavery in the history of the United States.

· Another element is the use by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota of a unit of the National Guard for clearly political purposes, initially paid for with private funds from a wealthy Republican donor. THE question is: will she be dressing them in brown shirts or will it be more likely after Trump's favorite color, red?

· And then, for now, a series of short notes on what Republo-fascism would/will look like:

* The Executive Branch would be all-powerful (just as Trump told us he wanted it to be). They would be driving towards no separation of powers (see Barr's famous "19-page letter").

* Certainly, it would be in the service of certain sectors of the capitalist ruling class.

* Both the Legislative and Judicial branches would be puppets (just as they were in Nazi Germany, by the way. Hitler never shut down either the courts or the Reichstag [parliament]. He just made sure that each did exactly what he told them to do.)

* There would be no independent media (accomplished by law or by suit). Just imagine. Fox, OANN, QAnon, Alex Jones, and etc. on all and any of the available channels.

* As noted above, the new national ideology, based on racism and religious authoritarianism, is already in place within the Republican Party and is actually being emplaced in the law in state-after-Republican-ruled state.

Unless the Democrats in Congress can persuade Joe Manchin and his rightist allies to join in eliminating the filibuster, voter suppression will continue to spread like a cancer across the nation. And it will be followed, as noted, by the institution of further elements of fascism throughout many of the states. But that will not Happen through either the diktat of a monarch or a sudden fascist triumph, but rather slowly and gradually. Indeed, it will be the most important, and deadly, example of "American Exceptionalism."

Joe Manchin obviously wants to go down in history. But he has a choice to make. He can be thought of like President "Dred Scott" James Buchanan --- who was President just prior to the Civil War --- or he can be remembered as perhaps the most important of those centrist Senators whose actions in preserving democracy in the United States --- prevented the onset of the Second.

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An earlier version of this column was published at: click here

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior (more...)
 
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