Will the 2010 Election Determine Whether the US is a Fascist Nation?

You might recall this essay by fascism scholar and futurist Sara Robinson from last year. Robinson has just published a rather dismal follow-up examining how the Tea Party is shaping up to be a legitimately scary fascist party.

Here is the part I found rather unsettling (emphasis mine):

The successful fascisms, on the other hand, were the ones that held together and to gained enough political leverage that capturing their governments became inevitable. And once that happened, there was no turning back, because they now had the political power and street muscle to silence any opposition. (Fascist parties almost never enjoy majority support at any stage — but being a minority faction is only a problem in a functioning democracy. It’s no problem at all if you’re willing to use force to get your way.)

I had taken some comfort in the fact that the Tea Party isn’t representative of the United States. However, that’s seeming like much less of a comfort lately. Consider the following, from Business Week:

Americans who support the Tea Party brim with contradiction. An October Bloomberg National Poll found that while 83 percent of Tea Party supporters favor repeal of the health-care reform bill, majorities would keep key provisions of it. Fifty-seven percent would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with preexisting conditions, 52 percent would add more prescription drug benefits for Medicare users, and 53 percent would require states to set up plans for people with major health problems. “The ideas that find nearly universal agreement among Tea Party supporters are rather vague,” says pollster J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the survey. “You would think any idea that involves more government action would be anathema, and that is just not the case.”

Tea Party candidates show no such ambivalence. When it comes to government, they don’t want to trim fat, they want to amputate limbs. Angle says she would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Buck says he would get rid of the Energy and Education Depts. And candidates across the country say they aim to eliminate the web of special tax breaks, earmarks, and subsidies that benefit industries from golf cart manufacturers to the largest automakers.

In other words: The Tea Party rank-and-file support politicians they don’t even agree with. Why? Based on the data from the NYT/CBS poll and the Bloomberg poll: Because they don’t know what’s in the health care bill they’re so afraid of. They don’t realize their taxes have actually gone down since Obama was elected. They don’t know how their tax money is spent. And they don’t even seem to know what the politicians they support actually plan on doing.

Here’s what I wrote last year on our chances of getting out of this one:

I don’t share Robinson’s faith that we can pull out of this. I don’t have her faith in the Democratic Party, which I think plays the role of “good cop” in what’s actually a one party system. I think the entire establishment media, not just Fox News, is a party of that system and can never be made to “get the story right.” I don’t think we can rely on the police to do the “heavy lifting.”

I haven’t seen much to change my mind in the past year, except possibly that the non-News Corps owned mainstream media has been getting somewhat better.

Robinson proposes three different possible scenarios, this one being the “worst case”:

A solid majority of the Tea Party candidates win their races, cementing the movement’s lock on the GOP and turning it into a genuine political power in this country. They’ve already promised us that if they take either house of Congress, the next two years will be a lurid nightmare of hearings, trials, impeachments, and character assassinations against progressives. (Which could, in the end, backfire on the GOP as badly as the Clinton impeachment did. We can hope.) Similar scorched-earth harassment awaits officials at every other level of government, too. And casual violence against immigrants, gays, and progressives may escalate as the Tea Party brownshirts become bolder, confident that at least some authorities will either back them up or look the other way.

Unfortunately, the only alternative to the Tea Party seems to be the Democratic Party. And what happens if we do vote down the Tea Party and keep the Dems in power? I must admit to being surprised at how fickle the American public is. After only two years, we’re suddenly ready to give control back to the Republicans just because the Democrats haven’t been able to reverse the damage that the GOP spent eight years creating? But, even with a near super majority, the Democrats haven’t enacted anything even approaching progressive reform. No wonder people are getting impatient. Even with a majority in the House and Congress, it still feels like the GOP is still running things.

Like so many others, I’ll probably be voting blue again this year – if for no other reason than millions of dollars are being spent to try to get me not to.

And yet I know this is exactly what perpetuates the problems we have. Both the GOP and the Dems get people to vote for them out of fear of the other party. “Sure, we suck but are you really gonna let THEM take office?”

There’s a scenario that Robinson doesn’t mention: the Tea Party candidates get elected, and they get gobbled up by the Washington DC machine and nothing much changes. The Tea Party base are just as disappointed with their candidates as liberals have been with Obama and the various “netroots” candidates.


  1. I think your last paragraph sums up the most likely outcome. It’s how the system was designed, way back in 1789. We rail against it when it keeps us from passing so-called progressive reforms, but it’s also what protects us against the reactionary right. The two party system, not planned in 1789, has typically served the same centering and simmering-down function.

    The indicators of “fascism” are not rabid conservatives gaining power in government, but the connections between those in government and those involved in non-state violence. Keep an eye out for reports of political violence after the election- this is the key indicator I’ve been watching since the Clinton years. There was a spike after Obama’s election, but it was largely ineffective.

    I think the saving grace of the teabaggers is in their demographic. In order to engage in large scale violence, they’d have to get out of the motorized scooters and unplug the O2 from their nose tubes. Fascism is for the young- street fighting is too physically intensive for the old-timers.

  2. “Fascist parties almost never enjoy majority support at any stage — but being a minority faction is only a problem in a functioning democracy.”

    This wasn’t a problem in the past two ‘successful’, and democratically elected, fascist party governments: Italy and Germany. The National Socialist party in Germany was elected with 43.9% of the popular vote in a parlimentary system. In order to form a government, they just partnered with another party (The DNVP).

    Also, Hitler’s four post-1933 national plebiscites that retroactively combined the offices of Reich Chancellor and Reich President and transferred the joint authority of the combined office to Adolf Hitler, approved the Austrian Anschluss, undsoweiter, all passed with a 95.9% majority in direct democracy.

    Now, there was definitely a bit of propaganda going on to give the National Socialists these numbers, but to say that fascists never have majority support is overstating the case. It has happened before and will happen again. People simply need to be desperate enough. I don’t think the US is that desperate yet. I think the 2 party system will limp along for 20 years yet.

  3. No need to worry about the theatrical fascism of the Tea Party goons. Fascism is already here, but you don’t have to call it that if the term shocks you. According to the guy who more or less invented it:

    “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini

    Sounds familiar? Corporate lobbyists bribe our politicians to do their paymasters’s bidding, and it’s legal. Monsanto’s Vice President has been appointed Deputy Commissioner of FDA. The Senate Bill S510 will make it illegal to grow, share, trade or sell homegrown food. Police have already raided an organic food store in L.A. with guns drawn.

    The fascis… sorry, the corporatists are already in full swing.

  4. Brainwash – There was some violence at the town hall meetings year before last, but that largely died down. There’s some concern about Tea Party groups turning out to intimidate voters (http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/10/voter-fraud-tea-party), but that seems somewhat overblown at this point.

    However, I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss older people’s capacity for violence.

    Scott – Good point, though being elected doesn’t necessarily equate to having majority support – I don’t know much about the integrity of those German elections.

    E. – I took a look at the elements of various definitions of fascism and came to a depressing conclusion:


    Corporatism, however, has existed since, well, the beginning of capitalism, so Mussolini’s definition of fascism makes a pretty weak definition of fascism IMHO.

    I’ve written before about the blurring lines between military and civilian law enforcement and the mass incarceration of minorities, beginning under Reagan and accelerating during the Clinton years – but I think that’s more accurately called “police state” than “fascism.”


  5. “Unfortunately, the only alternative to the Tea Party seems to be the Democratic Party…” New Rule: Everyone who is eighteen-plus has to vote. You don’t vote, you get a big-ass fine…repeat offenders do jail time. But no need to threaten…instead, give some incentive: make it a holiday and give everyone the day off. Since everyone is voting, and every vote counts, there is no longer a need for the electoral college. Now that every vote counts, fuck the two-party system. There could be twelve or twenty or two-hundred parties. Don’t see a party that meets what you are looking for? Start your own! Fuck the dems and fuck the pubs…

  6. There’s no such thing as Left Wing fascism? You don’t have to be in Tea Party to recognize that Obama is a Mao wanna be? Anyone that’s lived around NYC can tell you this President is a compromised Maoist. This what the liberal do not understand is that Left Wing fascism such as under Socialist Communist regimes is FAR more deadly than the Libertarians who invented the Tea Party brand in 2007. I’ll admit the War Party has hijacked it.

  7. “Unfortunately, the only alternative to the Tea Party seems to be the Democratic Party…”

    You can also go live in another country, at least for now 😉

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