PERSPECTIVE-In the first two years of the Trump Administration, millions of voters have been skillfully led to believe that the Democratic Party will become their bulwark against all manner of political evils, usually lumped together as fascism and linked to Donald Trump.
This includes white supremacy, misogyny, immigrant scapegoating, Islamophobia, dog whistle anti-Semitism, Medicare and Social Security cutbacks, and the morphing of the U.S. gun culture into regular massacres, mostly by disturbed people heavily influenced by white supremacist, neo-Confederate, and neo-Nazi ideology through their websites.
By skillful we mean a media portrayal of the Democratic Party as the antithesis of Trump and therefore, the antidote to his fascist tendencies. While the dangers of fascism in the United States are real, turning to the Democratic Party to become the leader of anti-fascism movement ignores the party’s history, its positions on most domestic policy issues, and their foreign policy leadership over the past century, especially since WWII.
With or without Donald Trump, based on its history and it current plight, a deep political, economic, and/or military crisis could escalate many fascist trends, either within living memory or already at play in the United States. For example, leading up to and during World War I, under President Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ), opposition to the war and to military conscription was a criminal offense. As a result, the U.S. government jailed many anti-war and anti-draft critics. Another dire example from the Wilson administration was the special screening of DW Griffith’s pro-KKK movie, Birth of a Nation, at the White House in 1915.
A more immediate episode of fascistic trends was in the immediate post-WWII era, when former FDR Vice-President Harry Truman became President. His administration quickly ushered in virulent anti-communism – implemented through domestic “witch hunts” and the anti-Soviet, anti-China Cold War. While two generations later we associate this with the Wisconsin’s Senator Joe McCarthy (i.e., McCarthyism) and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), this period of American history continued through to the 1960s. This is when blacklisted actors, such as Will Gear, could finally work in television as Grandpa Walton in 1972. Black listed singers, like Pete Seeger, never fully broke through the blacklist, even when Seeger briefly appeared on the Smothers Brother TV show in 1968, singing a satirical song about President Johnson.
The criticism of Lyndon Johnson was not simply a critique of his 1964 campaign lies to avoid war in Vietnam since he escalated that war shortly after his election, ultimately reaching 500,000 troops. It also addressed Johnson’s decision to employ the FBI and CIA to engage in domestic spying and intervention against the opposition to the Vietnam War.
Several decades later, liberal Democrat Tom Bradley imposed a three-day curfew and marshal law on Los Angeles after the 1992 multi-racial rebellion, also called the LA riots. At the same time, Mayor Bradley requested that other nearby police departments, the California National Guard, and Federal troops enter Los Angeles to assert control over the city. These were hardly the actions of a military dictator, but instead were a clear demonstration of how Democratic Party liberals have and will respond to spontaneous uprisings. When forced to make harsh and immediate choices,
This was confirmed two decades later, on November 29, 2011, when another liberal Los Angeles Democratic mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, ordered 1,350 LAPD riot cops to remove the remnants of the Occupy encampment from the lawns of LA’s City Hall. The LAPD first worked with the Mayor to limit press coverage and then quickly overwhelmed the occupiers, violently arresting 292 people.
Once the obligatory references to freedom of speech and association are made, mostly during campaigns and press conferences, the darker side of Democratic officials, and their Republican counterparts, asserts itself. These officials revere “order,” which means the complex system of structural political, economic, a social inequality that pervades all aspects of life in the United States. When order is threatened, whether by foreign wars or domestic upheavals, no holds are barred to regain control.
When this has happened or will happen in response to a deep crisis, it is not some much as an about face as it is actions to make implicit features, explicit. For example:
-- The authoritarian leader (der Fuhrer, il Duce) principle that Americans associate with German and Italian fascism is alive and well in all work places in the United States. Instead, we innocently use the term "boss" and fully accept that the Bill of Rights stops at the factory, store, and office door. Once we enter the world of work, such standard democratic practices as due process, right of privacy, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom of speech, expression, and association are missing.
We consider these to be the features of a fascist government, glossing over the obvious. They are already universal in the United States, especially from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but often longer because many employees welcome overtime hours or are forced to work a second job to make ends meet in an increasingly unequal society. What Americans take for granted at work can be quickly extended to other spheres of life; most Americans could clone the passivity and obedience they reflexively internalize for a paycheck and use that for times before and after the workday. Given enough good times to keep their attention, this change would not be so hard. In fact, many people are already there, ducking discussions and activities that strike other people as too “political.”
-- The security state is bi-partisan and is camouflaged as the war on terrorism.
-- The warfare state is also bi-partisan and has a larger budget than even the Vietnam War era.
Bernie's 10-point plan is important, but it omits a few key items.
1) There is no mention of U.S. foreign policy or military policy, such as the $1.2 trillion military budget, 800 bases, and 7 ongoing wars.
2) There is no mention of Russophobia and ending the new anti-Russian cold war.
3) There is no mention of Congressional proposals to enforce US laws regarding the export of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel: sanctions.
4) There is no mention that 70 percent of the world's dictatorships are supported by the U.S. government.
5) There is no mention of police and gun violence within the United States.
6) There is no mention of the security state, such as NSA monitoring of all domestic communications in the United States.
I can't say I am surprised because I have seen things like this again and again since I was a child, going back to the first Cold War and anti-Communist witch hunts that began under Truman, the Vietnam War under Kennedy and Johnson, bombing of Yugoslavia under Clinton and Libya under Obama, and escalation in Afghanistan under Obama. At least Obama warned those who cared to read the fine print in his Foreign Affairs article on what his foreign policy would be.
(Victor Rothman is a California-based policy analyst. He lives in Los Angeles and is an occasional CityWatch contributor.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.