After Barack Obama's convincing win over John McCain, it was clear the Republican Party was at a crossroads. The Grand Old Party had to decide what ideology was going to guide it in the post-Bush era: a philosophy rooted in conservative ideas or a credo based upon fear and anger. Unfortunately for America, Republicans turned to the dark side and chose the road to fascism.
By "fascism" I mean a national political movement that rejects democracy, embraces nativism and racism, and promotes violence. The Ku Klux Klan is an American fascist movement. The German Nazis were another example.
The Republican dance with fascism dates to the Nixon era when the GOP recruited Southern Democrats alienated by passage of the Civil Rights Act. When George W. Bush first ran for President, rabidly racist and sexist groups became major campaign players. The Bush White House encouraged nativism with its imagery of America the Christian nation leading a worldwide crusade against infidels. And, Bush fed distrust of reason - another hallmark of fascism - with his fear-based propaganda and anti-science agenda.
Since Obama's election, we've seen the Republican Party tighten its embrace of fascism. First, they made the decision to oppose whatever Obama proposed without offering contrasting ideas; their hope was that the President would fail and this would work to their advantage. Republican leaders rooted for a collapse of the American financial system, wanted the current recession to be as severe as the Great Depression, so their Party could take advantage of the chaos.
Second, in the absence of strong internal leadership, the GOP looked to demagogues - Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity - to represent the Party. Republicans adopted Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels' "big lie" tactic, where Party spokespeople could say anything so long as it advanced their cause. Limbaugh denied there is a healthcare crisis, called Obama a racist and compared him to Hitler. Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly took the same path as Limbaugh and claimed the Democrats' healthcare bill supports euthanasia.
Third, the GOP embraced nativism and racism by supporting border vigilantes, opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Sonja Sotomayor, and spreading lies about Obama's birth. In effect, the Republican Party rebranded itself as the White People's Party.
And finally, in their advocacy of disruptions at Congressional town hall meetings, Republicans have explicitly supported violence. Beginning with the lie that the Obama Administration wants to suspend the second amendment and deny Americans the right to bear arms,Glen Beck has promoted armed resistance. Falsely claiming Obama has "surrounded himself by Marxists his whole life," Beck proclaimed the Obama era is reminiscent of ""the early days of Adolf Hitler" and suggested America is rapidly becoming " a totalitarian state." The Republican Party and closely allied lobbyists promoted thuggery that disrupted town hall meetings. Now the Republican Party teeters on the edge of the signature tactic of fascist movements: sponsoring paramilitary groups.
It's time for Americans to call the Republican tactics for what they really are and launch a counter-attack against fascism.
(1) Encourage Democratic members of Congress to vote for the Obama healthcare plan when they return from their August recess. Republican leaders understand that healthcare reform is vital for the American people and the economy and its passage will further diminish GOP influence and credibility. So long as they are united, Democrats don't need Republican votes to pass healthcare reform.
(2) Show up at town hall meetings, support healthcare reform, and object to the mob violence espoused by the Republican Party. Ask GOP leaders to denounce thuggery. Send letters to your local newspaper supporting healthcare reform and condemning Republican fascism.
(3) Donate to progressive groups that pledge to combat fascism; for example, Organizing for America, Democracy for America, and Move On.
(4) Support Democratic Representatives from swing Congressional districts; those holding seats that might be jeopardized by a vote supporting the Obama healthcare initiative. The Cook Report lists 18 Democratic incumbents at risk.
(5) Demonstrate against hatemongers - Beck, Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, Malkin, O'Reilly, Savage and others - and the Republican leadership that supports them - Boehner, McConnell, Palin, and Steele. Send them disapproving emails and show up at their public appearances.
(6) Boycott sponsors that advertise on the shows of hatemongers. Fox News Boycott has a complete list of Fox sponsors.
(7) Demand that the FCC or Congress reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to limit the power of Fox News and hate radio. In 1987, the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission suspended the fairness doctrine, which required holders of broadcast licenses to report on controversial issues in an honest, equitable, and balanced manner. This action opened the door for Fox News, the Rush Limbaugh show, and other conservative outlets to spew Republican propaganda without having to offer the opposing perspective.
This is a critical moment for healthcare reform, the Obama presidency, and American democracy. In their ill-considered scramble for power, the Republican leadership is feeding the fires of fascism. It's time for all of us to do what we can to ensure meaningful healthcare reform legislation is enacted and the GOP tactics are rebuked.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.