Fascism in the U.S.: Are We there Yet? by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
crossposted on Buzzflash.com
February 23, 2011

On February 21, 2011, Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman published on article on The Free Press entitled “Fighting the 5 fascisms in Wisconsin & Ohio“.  They began the article by saying: “The escalating confrontations in Wisconsin and Ohio are ultimately about preventing the United States from becoming a full-on fascist state.  The stakes could not be higher—or more clear.”  At about the same time, a friend sent me a note in which he said: “[The] decline [of the United States] will be in the form of a ‘downward spiral.’ There may be push-backs at intervals, but in the long run our nation will succumb to fascism.”  So maybe now, maybe later, although if it’s later, we still have a fighting chance of preventing its onset.  Nevertheless, in considering the argument of Messrs Fitrakis and Wasserman, the question arises: are we there yet?  Borrowing from the Propaganda Channel (pardon me, but they [very] occasionally get something right): we report, you decide.

A commonly accepted definition of fascism (and there are many) goes as follows:

“Fascism is a politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology and mob actions to achieve political and economic ends; and total corporate determination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”

OK, so let’s see.  As of now, there is certainly not total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government.  However, one party, the GOP, has been able to provide the executive branch with very broad powers when it had control of that branch.  At the same time, with little real opposition from the present Administration, it has been able to severely limit what President Obama could do when it controlled the Senate, through the use of the filibuster.  That reality would be largely reversed were the GOP to regain the presidency on 2012.  Further, even under a Democrat, the executive branch has retained and used some very broad powers, in terms of the interference with personal liberty in a variety of arenas, especially spying on private communications. They also have been happy to have potential powers to do much worse than that, under the so-called “Patriot Act,” extended.

There is indeed a semi-independent Federal judiciary, although the GOP in the Senate has been able to prevent the Obama administration from filling many vacancies on the Federal bench.  However, at both the higher and lower Federal levels, the judiciary is becoming less and less independent.  A District Court judge with a direct financial interest in the operation of the private health insurance industry rules the present (very limited) reform of the US health care system unconstitutional.  Two Supreme Court Justices who will be voting on that constitutionality are darlings of the GOP front “Tea Party” and the wife of one of them works directly for such an organization.  One of the top GOP/Tea Party goals is to get the measure declared unconstitutional, that is if they cannot repeal it or thoroughly defund its implementation.

The previous GOP administration flouted many provisions of the Constitution, from Article VI, which makes treaties like the Geneva Conventions and UN Charter (which prohibits “preventive” war) part of the “supreme law of the land,” to the Fourth Amendment which guarantees the “probable cause” protection from arrest, to the Fourteenth, which guarantees equal protection of the law.  Some of the present GOP leadership, inside and outside of the legislative branch, are proposing repeal of the 14th either in whole or in part (that which specifies that persons born in the US are citizens of the US).  On the Right there is also strong interest in repealing the 16th (income tax) and 17th (direct election of Senators) amendments.  The more states the GOP gains control of, with redistricting, the more possible it is for such amendments to actually make it through the heretofore rather tedious process.  As for the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amednment, the GOP is pushing hard at various levels to criminalize the religious belief that life begins at the time of viability.

Moving right along, the media voices of the GOP certainly engage widely in demonizing its opponents, both individually and by group.  “Democrats must be squashed underfoot like cockroaches” says one GOP talk show host.  “Liberals must be gotten rid of” says another.  There is the wide and active political use of both homophobia and Islamophobia.

There are many threats of personal violence coming from the Right towards liberals and progressives, which have already led to several tragic murders and attempted murders.  The Big Lie technique is widely used on the Right.  Tune into any rightist on the media and you can usually hear one within two-three minutes.  I know.  I’ve done it many times.  And of course, the strength of the Corporate Power is very well known, in both the economic and political spheres.  On the economic side, the current events in Wisconsin show the Corporate Power’s next target, the trade unions, and not just those for public employees.  Once they get rid of them or most of them, should they regain full control of the Federal government, you can bet that one of their first aims will be to repeal the National Labor Relations Act, which legalizes collective bargaining in private industry.

On the political side, as is well known the power of the Corporate Power was significantly expanded by this century’s equivalent of the Dred Scott decision, which was intended to firmly ensconce the Slave Power across the nation not just in the South: Citizens United, which is intended to firmly ensconce Corporate Power control of the electoral process.

But – and this is a big but – it is not a unified right-wing system.  There is no dictator on the horizon (yet).  There is no one-party system on the horizon (yet), although the Democratic Party, largely through the machinations of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council has offered less and less resistance to the ever-rightward moving GOP.  The Constitution is still in place.  But aye, there’s the rub.  The GOP likes to talk about “American Exceptionalism.”  This country could conceivably become quite exceptional in the following way: the trappings of the Constitution are maintained and the parliamentary forms are as well.  But through the use of money and the fixing of elections which seems to be coming more and more widespread (see for example, http://www.electionintegrity.org/), the GOP controls more and more of the governments at the Federal, state and local levels, and institutes many fascist-like policies.  The US could become indeed the first fascist state to operate without a dictatorship and with the maintenance of parliamentary forms.  The sort of development was predicted in the 1996 book, The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022.

Will that happen?  We report; you decide.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.

see

Fighting the 5 fascisms in Wisconsin and Ohio by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Time to Topple Corporate Dictators by Ralph Nader

Chris Hedges: Democracy is on life support in the U.S.

Recognizing the Language of Tyranny by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges: The Road to Modern Feudalism

11 thoughts on “Fascism in the U.S.: Are We there Yet? by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

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  4. You make it sound as if it’s all the GOP. It couldn’t happen without the connivance of the Dumbcrats. A lot of good points are made in the comments. The strappings of our alleged rights has greatly gone down hill rapidly over the past ten years.

  5. take a real deep look at this country from day one of its birth&tell me honestly,from deep within your soul,if you don’t see that this country has always been a sham& the powers that really ran this country had no intention of following the constitution or the bill of rights/ever!!!!!! a few powerful men got very powerful&rich off the genocide of millions of natives while gaining a huge &vast treasure,their land!!next they kidnapped millions of africans to work as slaves&imported millions more to work the factories for slave wages!anyone who tried to stop these evil pigs were killed,including presidents,polititions etc!!!!!! so you don’t know if we have become a fascist,YAQ WE HAVE ALWAQYS BEEN A FASVIST COUNTRY& THAT INCLUDES BOTH OUR SORRYASS LYING DEMS&REPS&WE GOT THISWAY BECAUSE WE DIDN”T CARE ENOUGH TO STAND UP AS A PEOPLE &STOP THESE BUMS!!!!!

  6. steve , you are right about islamophobia and homophobia ..but you forgot about Christophobia . fear of musilms , gays , and christians . pre-judice cuts both ways .

  7. The Investors have figured out how to achieve their Nirvana: “Fuhrer-less” fascism. Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket, the Investors have invested in gauleiters* throughout the country, Wis Gov Scott Walker is merely one of several in the Midwest.

    *gauleiter–top regional NAZI Party official

  8. A better link to Wise’s article is at http://www.redroom.com/blog/tim-wise/this-how-fascism-comes-reflections-cost-silence

    And most relevant to Jones’ conclusion is Wise’s:
    “If fascism comes it will come because we did not see in their actions a sufficient threat, or because we allowed ourselves to believe that it couldn’t come, that our institutions were too strong, our people too good, for that to happen.

    “If it comes it will come because we allowed ourselves to believe the rosy and optimistic version of America spun by Obama, without tempering that optimism with a clear-headed appraisal of the way that (sadly) a still huge number of Americans actually think: because we allowed the vehicle of our hopes to outrun the headlights of truth; because we convinced ourselves that we actually lived in the country of our aspirations, rather than the nation we have at present.

    “And if fascism doesn’t come–if, rather, democracy does–it will come because good people said no. It will come because we saw in this moment the opportunity to demand the full measure of our humanity and to pour it forth upon the national soil.

    “It will be because we understood that democracy isn’t what you have, it’s what you do. But if we are to issue that demand, if we are to stand straight and fulfill the potential we possess to do justice, we had best exercise the option quickly, for the opponents of justice are on the move. They are preparing to enter on the winds of our silence and indifference, and complacency. Let them find no quarter here.”

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