Professor Jason Stanley recently wrote an article, “America is now in fascism’s legal phase”, for The Guardian where he argues that rhetoric and policy are laying the legal platform for a fascist United States. Professor Stanley argues that the conservative portion of the American political spectrum is securing pathways to minority rule. Racism, for example, is a mechanism used by the Right for securing minority rule. By racializing democracy and creating a bogeyman from a volatile race environment, the Right can then hold up a figure like Donald Trump as the man who can save you from this environment.
Describing Donald Trump with such labels is nothing new, especially by those with political left leanings or who simply loathe his personality. I have seen on mainstream and social media references to Mr Trump as being a “fascist” or a “Nazi”. “Dictator” and “nationalist” are a couple other terms that have floated to the media surface.
My question is, why do we focus on these political prisms i.e., nationalism, fascism, Nazism, etc., versus where the energy itself is moving? Aren’t assertions of nationalism, fascism, socialism, Nazism, etc., used by political factions to divert political energy and behavior either away from the party making the assertions or toward a party’s opponents?
These prisms are used to shed negative light on political opponents in most cases with the high probability that the audience will not subject these prisms to a definition check, or worse, they will rely on another to provide the definitions.
Let’s take a look at some definitions and I will leave it up to you to determine how any politician, on the Left or on the Right, fits into these definitions.
Fascism– A form of government characterized by dictatorship, belligerent nationalism and racism, and militarism. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Racism-The practice of racial discrimination, segregation. Source: Webster’s New Dictionary.
Belligerent-at war, of war, warlike. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Government-An agency of the State. A mechanism by which sovereign power expresses its will. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.
Dictatorship-One in whom supreme authority in any line is invested. One who rules autocratically, and who prescribes for others authoritatively, and offers oppressively. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.
Autocracy-The name of an unlimited monarchical government. A government at the will of one man (called an “autocrat”), unchecked by constitutional restrictions or limitations. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.
Nationalism-Devotion to one’s nation. Patriotism. The advocacy of national independence. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Militarism-A policy of aggressive military preparedness. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Communism-A system of social organization. Any theory of social organization involving common ownership of agents of production of industry. A system by which the state controls the means of production and the distribution and consumption of industrial products. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.
Socialism-A theory or system of ownership of the means of production and distribution by society rather than by individuals. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Both the Right and the Left including their supportive media throw around these terms without defining them. Your exercise, should you choose to accept it, is to identify specific, documented actions by Mr Trump that would put him in the fascist box. Then, do the same thing for the current president, Joe Biden.
And I emphasize specific, documented action. Not what Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity claims that Trump or Biden did, but the regulation or executive order issued that makes either one fascist, communist, nationalist, etc.
If you exercise the necessary rigor in answering the above questions, your next questions should be, “Why did I hold these beliefs?” “How did my household benefit from holding these beliefs?” “How do I avoid falling into the narrative trap again?”
As for Professor Stanley’s assertion that America is in fascism’s legal phase, I would argue that it is not there yet. Before a fascist legal phase is arrived at, the United States government will have to spin and transmit a clear narrative that a sole figure, a dictator, is necessary to solve America’s domestic and global problems. Political support for a dictator will need to be rubber stamped by the national legislature and legislation published. This legislation would codify the new narrative; tell the story of how the fascist faction won the political day; and order executive and independent agencies to implement public policy supporting a new form of government.
Only then would American fascism be in a legal phase.
As long as the democratic institutions of an executive, national legislature, and federal court system exists, it will be hard to sell the majority of Americans that they are in fascism’s legal phase. If this is the case, then Americans should ask Nancy Pelosi why she and her fellow Democrats are wasting time with a January 6th witch hunt versus amending the Constitution and passing legislation ordering all federal agencies to clean their houses of any remnants of Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler.
3 July 2022
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