"Either this country shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this country." S. Jonas, Aug., 2018
Golden Dawn demonstration of the Greek Fascists. What? You think it can't happen here? Except they will be called .Republicans..
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Steve Jurvetson) Details Source DMCA
Steve Schmidt is a well-known former Republican who became a former Republican when the Party changed its identity to that of the Trumpublican Party. However, in my view that is just an interim moniker for it. The Party, as I have noted previously, is now on its way to becoming an outright fascist party*, as in this column's title. An increasing number of observers, from Charles Blow to Michele Goldberg to Paul Krugman to Jamelle Bouie have been noting and documenting this progression. Mr. Schmidt argues that Trump is the leader of the movement, and that he is essential to it. In my view Trump is simply a headlight for it. He has for sure been guiding the Party down the track to fascism in the current era. But there are proto-fascist forces within and allied with the Party that in the long run are much more powerful than he is, and they go way back in time. And these are the ones with which we really need to be concerned.
"'Trump is the leader of an authoritarian movement made up of an eclectic mix of extremists including Proud Boy fascists, Neo Nazis, white nationalists, religious fanatics and conspiracy theorists. The Republican Party is the vessel of this movement and the membership of that party is overwhelmingly united around the cause of Trump. . . .
"We are in the early years of a great struggle in this country that will last a long time provided the pro-democracy side can win elections because we are one away from seeing the autocratic side take power. They will not relinquish it again when they do.
"The GOP was not chastened by January 6th. It has grown more extreme and it is on track to take back control of the House in 22. The pro-democracy coalition won a great victory when Joe Biden became President. That victory has brought us some time but all the time in the world can't cure a willful and delusional blindness to the great danger, resilience, ambition and authoritarianism of Trump's movement."
Yes, it is "Trump's movement" --- but just for now. Indeed --- which is the point of this column --- it has been under development since well before Trump made his very convenient racist/fascist appearance for it. And it will be here, unless it is stopped and stopped very soon, long after Trump disappears from the scene. (How might that happen? Natural causes --- he is 74, over-weight, and lives a high-stress very unhealthy life-style. Legal causes, civil and criminal. He goes "nuts" in public [that is really "nuts" or politically nuts] one time too many. On the other hand, as I have speculated previously, he comes to his senses and gets himself and as much of his money he can manage to accumulate out-of-the country. Actually I thought that he would do this well before now, and I was wrong there. The man has nerve. But it could still happen.) Indeed, for the Republican Right he has been a Useful Idiot, just as he was (and maybe still is) for Russia's Pres. Putin.
The Voter Suppression Movement
The Voter Suppression movement started at least as far back as 1989 with an organization called "The Christian Coalition" which designed a strategy to permanently win elections for the far-right, which they called "The 15% solution." Back in 1996 I first published a book based on what might happen were the strategy to be implemented, which strategy I summarized in a column earlier this year.
The Republican right, Religious and other, has been working on this strategy, which focuses on voter suppression (sound familiar) ever since the far-right leader Paul Weyrich famously said (Freedom Writer, Nov., 1994): "We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down." Now of course in a very disorganized way this has been Trump's strategy since before the 2016 election. Trump, of course, does "galvanize his base." And the thought that he is in the process of taking over the Republican Party and that he is driving it further to the right using the primary strategy of voter suppression certainly has much going for it (as I have documented numerous times over the past 6 years).
But in a document recently revealed by Mother Jones and others, which The Guardian headline summarized as " 'It can't be that easy': US conservative group brags about role in making voting harder," it has now, all of a sudden become quite obvious that this movement towards fascism does not depend on Trump. It is just using him for now, as a disposable headlight. What is really driving the movement at this time is such organizations as the Heritage Foundation and important forces, elected and otherwise, within the Republican Party. (Coincidently a co-founder was Paulk Weyrich, and noticeably for years it has had a Deputy Director married to a Supreme Court Justice [who could that be other than Silent Sam Clarence Thomas]. Can you just imagine what the continuous uproar --- for years - would be from Hannity et al if there were a liberal justice married to a high official of say, the ACLU? But that's another matter.) The specific voter-suppression off-spring is called "Heritage Action." As the Mother Jones article says:
"The leaked video reveals the extent to which Heritage is leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. It's no coincidence that so many GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass similar pieces of legislation in such a short period of time."
So, this is nothing new. It also goes back to the American Legislative Exchange Council, founded by the Kochs in 2007 with a primary goal of taking over state legislatures in advance of the 2010 census, to be in charge of re-districting, and in Republican terms "Gerrymandering," about which they are hardly shy. Although the Democrats had ten years to plan for and implement a countervailing strategy, they did not do much and as is well-known things are even worse this time around.
Which brings us to the present Congress and H.R. 1, the proposed "For the People Act" (a major, national voting rights reform bill) which would have, hopefully, at least partially reigned in the Heritage Action Strategy which is now well underway. But as is well-known, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have hamstrung the Democrats, who could only have made it law by eliminating the racist filibuster, at least for that piece of legislation. We shall see what we shall see about what the President, the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House and the other top Democratic Leadership can come up with to counter what Manchin and Sinema are doing, which will give control of the elections in many states right over to the Republicans, regardless of the true vote. Right now, hopes are not high.
The Nazi German Experience
There is an interesting historical parallel here. Of the five major fascist powers of the 20th century there was only one that came to it by more or less following a parliamentary process, in the beginning, that is. That was Germany. In Hungary, which had the first fascist dictator in history, Admiral Miklos Horthy, he was installed by the King who had succeeded to the throne following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War. In Italy, Mussolini was installed by the King as well. In Spain, the fascists came to power by overthrowing an elected government in a civil war. In Japan, a military dictatorship, fascist in content, was gradually established with a series of violent incidents and many arrests of opponents, during the 1930s.
But in Germany, as I said in a previous column, the fascists arrived in power by more-or-less parliamentary means. (The text from here onwards is taken mainly from that column.) Adolf Hitler, head of the German Nazi party was appointed Chancellor (Prime Minister) of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933. The Nazis, although powerful, were still not the dominant political party in Germany of the time. In fact, there was no dominant political party at that time. In elections to the Reichstag (the German Parliament), after they became an important national party in the late 1920s the Nazis regularly ran some somewhere between 32 and 37 percent of the vote (sound familiar?) But they were loud, and they had a large private army, the Sturmabteilung (SA), behind them. They also had significant ruling class support, from the likes of the steel baron Fritz Thyssen (who as readers of my columns know well raised money for the Nazis abroad from such folks as the US George Herbert Walker [sound familiar?]).
In 1933 Germany was in trouble, what with the Depression and the continuing reparations payments to the Western Powers which had been victorious in the First World War. It also had a powerful labor movement and two powerful left-wing political parties, the Communists (KPD) and the Socialists (SPD). They should have been allied against their common enemy, Hitler and the Nazis. But for historical reasons dating back to World War I they weren't. As well, the KPD was part of the Moscow-based Comintern (Communist International) whose policies were set from Moscow. Stalin described the SPD as "Social Fascists." And so, there was no alliance (which eventually proved fatal --- literally for many Communists and Socialists alike --- in the next dozen years). And so, facing increasing unrest from both the Right and the Left, Hindenburg was reluctantly prevailed upon to appoint Hitler --- already well-known as a "wild man" --- as Chancellor.
Two former right-wing Chancellors, Kurt von Schleicher and Franz von Papen, thought they could "keep Hitler under control." They influenced the decision of von Hindenburg ("von" indicated Prussian nobility), who had been the commander of the Prussian forces during World War I, who was very reluctant to appoint the Austrian "Little Corporal" to the post. But he did. And once in power, Hitler started using it with a vengeance, beginning with locking up Communists on the night of his accession to the post. Neither von Schleicher nor von Papen were successful in "controlling" Hitler. The former actively tried to limit his worst excesses, then get him deposed. He was killed on June 30, 1934, during "The Night of the Long Knives." Von Papen, simply marginalized by Hitler, survived the war, but escaped any meaningful judgment/punishment after it.
Is it a stretch to say that Manchin and Sinema are the von Schleicher and von Papen of the current era in the U.S.? As Manchin put it, in opposing the breaking of the filibuster in order to pass H.R. 1, the "For the People Act": "I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act." This is in the context of the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's vow to spend 100% of his energy stopping Pres. Biden's agenda. Now there's bipartisanship for you. Nevertheless, Manchin will likely be holding on to his position well into the advancement of the process by which the Republo-fascist party hopes to take over the country, Trump or no Trump. Let's just hope that the Senator doesn't end up the same way von Schleicher did.
*Traditionally, that is in terms of the principal 20th century fascist powers, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Hungary, fascism followed this model (or some reasonably similar version of it):
"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 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."
(Article changed on Jun 13, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT)