What kind of government might we have if the Republicans win control of both Houses of Congress this Fall, and then win the Presidency in 2024?
This is an important question, and a worrisome one for Democrats, and even for Independents and non-Trump Republicans.
We hear the word “Fascist” used frequently today to describe the dictatorship that many Democrats fear will be the result of another victory by the “Trump Movement.” Some folks use this as a general all-purpose propaganda slur, as when Putin refers to the Ukrainian leaders as Fascists.
As a teacher of German history, I lectured on the characteristics of Fascism in two of my courses, “Modern Germany” and a shorter course on “Hitler and Nazi Germany.” Those of us who taught World Civilizations also discussed this topic.
It is important that we understand just what Fascism was, and was not, (or is and is not) before we use this label to condemn anyone whose political views we don’t like.
Fascism is not like pre-modern dictatorships found throughout human history. Traditional dictatorships are marked by a small group of leaders (oligarchy) or by one-person rule (autocracy). They rely on a strong military and on a small army of bureaucrats to collect taxes, often from a conquered population of lower-class peasants.
Those who served the ruler(s), including religious leaders, were rewarded with wealth and limited freedom which they used to enrich themselves while supporting and glorifying the ruler. Traditional dictators exploited the land and people of the areas they ruled.
Fascism, however, is a twentieth-century form of dictatorship. The term was first used to describe the government of Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1922-1945. It was later also used to describe the National Socialist government of Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933-1945.
While Fascist governments have many of the same features as traditional dictatorships (strong military control, go-along bureaucrats or party members), they have some important qualities only possible during the past century.
The first, and perhaps most important, is the Fascist use and exploitation of modern technology and communications. Hitler was the first politician to campaign by airplane (“Hitler Over Germany”) in 1932, and used Joseph Goebbels to masterfully spread propaganda and lies in the press and radio.
The second thing that makes Fascism modern is the concept of the Leader (Il Duce in Italy or Der Fuehrer in Germany). Traditional empires and countries were ruled by royalty (king/queen) whose right to rule was sanctioned by God and/or inheritance.
In Fascist governments, people are asked to give their allegiance to a Leader or Party, not to the state, nation, king, or constitution. Even before gaining power, Fascist leaders had their own private armies – squadristi in Italy and Sturmabteilung (brown shirts) in Germany. German civilians were required to take an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler in 1935.
The Trump Movement
We see similar Fascist practices in the Trump Movement, itself the culmination of the movement to the far right by many former conservatives in America over the past thirty years.
Republicans, aided by right-wing think-tanks or foundations, spent decades raising millions to convince Americans that only Republicans were the true patriots, and that all others, especially Democrats, immigrants, and other minorities, were destroying America.
Many Republicans, including Senators McConnell and Paul, pledged allegiance to Trump as their new Leader five years ago, and have not challenged his Big Lie about the 2020 election, just as wealthy industrialists and conservatives in Germany in 1933 joined Hitler in spreading his Big Lie about the Jews as “vermin” that had to be eliminated.
Like German conservatives allied with Hitler in 1932, Republican leaders believe they can use Trump’s popularity to keep themselves in power without dangerous consequences. It didn’t happen in 1933 and it won’t in 2024. Trump unleashed his private “armies” of “Proud Boys” and other extremists on January 6, 2021. He ignored responsible members of his administration and party who asked him to call off the mob.
Do Republicans really think the Trump Movement will become a law-abiding, democracy-loving party if they take over the entire Federal Government in 2024?
If they don’t abandon Trump now, Republicans could bring Fascism to America. And they won’t like it after it arrives.
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