by Paul Street (reposted from The Paul Street Report)
It’s easy to dismiss the fascist menace stalking the United States by focusing on the outrageous wackiness and buffoonery of national-level Republi-fascist politicos like the Republicans’ leading 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump, his US House of Representatives friends Marjorie Taylor-Greene (MTG), Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert, and national Trump allies like “My Pillow” CEO Mike Lindell, the bizarre Nixonite putschist Roger Stone, and the raving former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn
Don’t do it. Bear in mind that Adolph Hitler was widely dismissed as a bloviating clown as he rose to power and marched humanity towards a global war that killed at least 50 million people.
There are at least three critical errors in the reflexive dismissal response that remains all common among many US liberal and left sorts – this even after the fascist Trump wreaked havoc as a literal fascist (if you don’t believe me read the third and fourth chapters of my most recent book This Happened Here: Neoliberals, Amerikaners, and the Trumping of America) in the world’s most dangerous office for four years.
“We’re Now in a Marxism State of Mind, a Communism State of Mind”
The first blunder is to miss the fascist content of what the national-level “clowns” are saying. Trump often sounds and looks like an evil and stupid villain out of a bad James Bond movie, but folks should pay attention to the serious politico-ideological content of what he says. Don’t believe me? Look at this passage from Trump’s darkly sinister speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) delivered last March 3rd, as rumors swirled of his coming first indictments for the least of his crimes:
“…The greatest in our history…[the] most important battle in our lives is taking place right now as we speak. For seven years, you and I have been engaged in an epic struggle to rescue our country from the people who hate it and want to absolutely destroy it…The sinister forces trying to kill America have done everything they can to stop me, to silence you, and to turn this nation into a socialist dumping ground for criminals, junkies, Marxists, thugs, radicals, and dangerous refugees that no other country wants. No other country wants them. If those opposing us succeed, our once beautiful USA will be a failed country that no one will even recognize. A lawless, open borders, crime-ridden, filthy, communist nightmare. That’s what it’s going and that’s where it’s going. I used to say that we will never be a socialist country. I said it oftentimes. I said it once at the State of the Union address and people didn’t understand what I was saying. But I’d shout it out loud and I was right because that train has passed the station long ago of socialism. It never even came close to stopping, frankly.”
“We’re now in a Marxism state of mind, a communism state of mind, which is far worse. We’re a nation in decline. Our enemies are desperate to stop us because they know that we are the only ones who can stop them. They know that this room is so important, the people in this room. They know that we can defeat them. They know that we will defeat them. But they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you and I’m just standing in their way. That’s all I’m doing. I’m standing in their way. And that’s why I’m here today. That’s why I’m standing before you because we are going to finish what we started. We started something that was America. We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory. We’re going to make America great again. With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state…. We will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the communists. We will throw off the political class that hates our country. They actually hate our country. No walls, no borders, bad elections, no voter ID. We will beat the Democrats. We will route the fake news media. We will expose and appropriately deal with the rhinos. We will evict Joe Biden from the White House. And we will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all. When we started this journey, a journey like there has never been before, there’s never been anything like this. We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons, globalists, open border zealots, and fools. But we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”
“From the beginning, we have been attacked by a sick and sinister opposition, the radical left communists, the bureaucrats, the fake news media, the big money special interests, the corrupt Democrat prosecutors. Oh, they’re after me for so many things. Oh, those prosecutors. Some are racists. Some hate our country. They all hate me. They’ll get me for anything, anything. You put a comma in this paragraph. Why did you do that? I don’t really know. The partisan and often corrupt intelligence agencies, the George Soros money machine that spends a lot of money on the prosecutors, by the way. The Antifa thugs who are allowed to roam the streets while we have people that in many cases are great patriots, great, great patriots, sing prayers every night, playing our national anthem every day. And they’re sitting in a jail nearby, rotting away, and being treated so unfairly like nobody’s probably ever been treated in this country before, except maybe me.”
Sorry, not sorry for pasting in that long quote. It merits attention. Wacky as it all sounds, that right there is 646 words of nicely distilled fascist ideology, replete with paranoid-style anti-Marxism intimately linked to anti-globalism, fanatical nativism, fantastic unreality (the United States as currently in transition from “socialism” to “communism”), aggrieved palingenetic nationalism, political eliminationism, them and us Othering, white victimhood, the claim of reverse racism, the antisemitism (Trump and Trumpists’ by now ritual Soros-mongering is an obvious dog-whistle of Jew-hate), authoritarian law-and-order-ism, demonization of competing parties, personality cultism (“I [alone] am standing in their way”), hatred of the merely bourgeois media, the absurd false conflation of the non-fascist major party (the corporate and imperialist Democrats) with the alleged Marxist menace, the determination to purge insufficiently loyal politicos within his own maximalist party, the ridiculous inflation of supposed Left power (“Antifa thugs” who “roam the streets”?), and defense of putschist political violence (the “great, great patriots” who are said to be “rotting” in jail are January 6 “insurrectionists” who physically attacked the US Capitol to try to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory).
MTG, Gosar, and Gaetz et al might play the role of destructive clowns within and beyond Congress but they and numerous other Republikaners share all these fascist playbook narratives with Herr Donald.
“I am Your Retribution”
Not long after his fascist speech at CPAC, as his first indictments drew closer, Trump went to his first official 2024 campaign/hate rally in Waco, Texas, site of an infamous confrontation between the federal government and a far-right religious cult thirty years ago, to tell his gunned-up supporters “I am your retribution.” He invoked Armageddon imagery to fuel his fundamentalist base by proclaiming that the 2024 presidential election would be “The Final Battle.”
As if all that wasn’t fascist enough, the former president and fan of the blood-libel QAnon cult, opened up his rally with an eerie version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” crooned by inmates incarcerated for their role in the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol. Celebratory footage of the putschist Capitol Riot was put up on a giant telescreen during this fascist “Justice for All” ballad.
Dead Serious National-Level Handmaids of Trumpism-Fascism
The second big mistake in the liberal dismissal reflex I criticized at the outset of this essay is that an over-focus on the bizarre antics of Donald and his most visible national level allies (MTG et al) obscures the critical role played by other dead serious fascist elements within the national political, business, and media classes. Here I am referring to people like the dedicated national and international fascist strategist Steve Bannon, the leading Fatherland News propagandist Tucker Carlson, the Christian white nationalist American Conservative Union leader Matt Schapp, and the various big and dark money far-right plutocrats who fund Trump and the Trump movement and who will bankroll the arguably more dangerous and fascist Ron DeSantis movement and presidential candidacy if Trump falters. Also requiring mention here are the “serious as a heart attack” neofascists who proliferate across the powerful federal judicial branch, from the Trump- and McConnell-made/Handmaid Supremes on down.
As I neared completion of this essay, Mathew Kacsmaryk, the far-right federal judge who was handpicked by women-hating Christian fascist anti-abortionists to ban the abortion drug mifepristone nationwide, did so. His GoodFriday ruling, which cancels Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the nation’s top and highly effective and safe medical abortion pill, is an outrageous violation of women’s fundamental reproductive rights. Kacsmaryk has arrogantly trumped established scientific opinion on mifepristone with anti-scientific bigotry. He has attacked women’s freedom and their very humanity by significantly strengthening the state’s power to force women to bear children against their will.
The women-hating Christian right was never satisfied with the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson’s decision to disastrously return abortion policy “to the states.” It has always sought a nationwide abortion ban. Kacsmaryk’s ruling is meant to apply across the entire United States of America. It moves us ever closer to the sexist, racist, and fascist dystopia depicted in Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel The Handmaid’s Tale. We have federal judges acting to create a society where – in the words of Rise Up for Abortion Rights co-founder Merle Hoffman – “ the physicians and medical practice are turned into an arm of a misogynist state, denying patients the medications and services they need…. a society where women will be prosecuted for homicide for miscarriages and denied emergency medical care when the carry a fetus that could kill them.”
The State Level: “Committed Ideologues Fully Determined to Impose Their Reactionary Vision”
The third big mistake is inattention to the dead-serious fascist politics and policy being conducted at the important and powerful state level, where Republi-fascists are quite effectively and – in their own sick way – intelligently doing some very real and horrifying things in broad jurisdictions under their often badly gerrymandered control:
* re-imposing the female enslavement of forced motherhood by criminalizing abortion.
* enacting fascist laws against the accurate teaching of past and present US history with racism, sexism, genocide, homophobia, imperialism and nativism properly included.
* banning books that challenge white Christian racist, sexist, and anti-gay norms and practices.
* undermining public protections against current and future pandemics.
* fueling the nation’s insane gun violence epidemic by rolling back firearms controls.
* denying basic human and civil rights to gay and transgender people.
* suppressing the voting rights of racial minorities and others likely to oppose the Christian white nationalist agenda.
* attacking public schools and slashing social services and environmental regulations.
* outlawing liberal, progressive, and left protest.
*strengthening and expanding the nation’s giant racist police and prison states.
Three months ago, Refuse Fascism (on whose editorial board I sit), interviewed the perceptive historian and political commentator Thomas Zimmer. Zimmer said something very important regarding the difference between the wild-eyed doings of the MTG-Gosar “wrecking crew” in the US Congress and the steely-eyed advance of the Christian white nationalist agenda in state capitals:
“…on the state level, we’re not seeing chaos. We’re seeing a very deliberate, very systematic, very successful counter offensive, reactionary offensive, against civil rights, against the post-1960s civil rights system… at the state level, they’re banning abortion and they want to control women by whatever reactionary measure they can come up with — even including passing dress codes, where now women lawmakers have to cover their arms for something. To criminalize LGBTQ people; install authoritarian, white nationalist education systems; ban dissent; restrict voting rights; purge election commissions; criminalize protest. That’s happening wherever Republicans are in charge, and all Republican led states. These are not disparate actions, it’s one political project…Once you look beyond the ‘chaos’ in Washington, what you see is the work not of nihilists, but committed ideologues fully determined to impose their reactionary vision of what America should be on as many people as possible and to punish those who dare to deviate from that vision or dissent…Ideally, in a better world, the Supreme Court would step in and say: No, wait a minute, you can do this, stop this. They would stop these escalating attempts to undermine democracy and rollback civil rights. But… the conservative reactionary majority on the court is doing the opposite. It’s acting as the spearhead of this reactionary counter-mobilization”
I diverge from Zimmer’s refusal to label the Republicans as fascists but think he is correct to two key things: the excessively neglected significance of the state level, where a vast swath of reactionary policy is made in bold defiance of majority national opinion; the close and mutually reinforcing relationship between what Republi-fascists are doing in the states and what they are doing in the federal courts.
Republi-fascists Throw Down in Nashville
Speaking of fascism at the state level, Tennessee’s absurdly gerrymandered far right House of Representatives last week expelled two democratically elected Black legislators – one from Nashville and the other from Memphis – for having offended the body’s “decorum.” The expelled representatives’ sin? Joining a mass protest in the Tennessee legislative chamber for gun reform after Nashville was hit by another one of the mass school shootings that have become so chillingly commonplace in the USA thanks to the sick lobbying power of the neofascist National Rifle Association (NRA).
Think about that. Yet another “lone wolf” lunatic equipped with military-style assault weapons courtesy of the fascist NRA murdered children in a school within walking distance of the Tennessee State Capitol. Hundreds if not thousands of Nashville residents marched to the State Capitol and started a protest for gun reform in the gallery above the legislative chamber. Two Black legislators from communities ravaged by the gun violence – bloodshed fueled by the rich white gun lobby that funds many of the now former state representatives’ white nationalist colleagues – had the audacity to help lead the protest. And for this their “republican” colleagues voted to politically eliminate them – to literally remove these democratically elected Black officials from the state’s legislature.
Channeling the Orwellian unreality and truth inversion that is a defining aspect of fascist politics, the RepubliNazi Speaker of the Tennessee House Cameron Sexton actually likened the peaceful gun rights protest in the Tennessee Capitol to January 6th, when a frothing horde of demented Trumpists violently stormed and trashed the US Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence” while trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory under the influence of the Big Hitlerian Lie that the “socialist” Democrats “stole” the 2020 presidential election.
That, my friends, is Amerikaner fascism, something that – sorry Joy Reid, Chris Hayes, Laurence O’Donnell, and Rachel Maddow et al – you are not just going to vote or adjudicate out of existence within the killing confines of a blatantly Minority Rule political and legal order so absurdly gerrymandered and otherwise tilted far to the right of the citizenry that the half-century right to abortion was liquidated despite being supported by two-thirds of the US populace.
Here’s a fun Nashville fact: Joe Biden won 65% of the vote in that city in 2020 but it is not represented by a single solitary Democrat in the US Congress. That isn’t about a fickle electorate. It’s about right-wing gerrymandering, which has sliced and diced the city’s Congressional districts in such a way as to make a Democratic majority impossible in even one district representing the country music capital. Such gerrymandering is protected by Republi-fascists in the federal courts all the way up to the Supremes. It promotes not merely Republicans over Democrats but the most far-right and neofascist elements within the nation’s rightmost major party.
Meanwhile, dedicated state-level Republi-fascism is breeding a new wave of wannabe national-level Republi-fascist leaders, including the no. 2 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who has turned his state into the world’s leading fascist laboratory this side of Hungary, and Iowa governor “Killer” Kim Reynolds, who is running to be Trump or DeSantis’s vice presidential candidate by turning her once half-way human state into “the Florida of the north.”