1. “Déjà Vu: Fascism on the Rise
In the United States, we have yet to see the rise of a mass movement that limns the historic themes and forms of fascism, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.
Anti-“foreigner” appeals in American politics are nothing new, but we see it increasingly in these times of economic uncertainty: indeed, both major parties have made China-bashing a consistent theme in this presidential election year, with Mitt Romney trying to blame our trade deficit on Chinese “currency manipulators” — an Asiatic version of the “Jewish bankers” invoked by Jobbik and Golden Dawn. One of the greatest ironies is that we have the first African-American President and his party going after the Republicans for supposedly shipping “our” jobs to China — feeding into the economically illiterate and outright racist idea that those strange little yellow people are the root cause of our economic problems.
The American right-wing is rife with these kinds of sentiments, which find expression in the “birther” movement, and the charge that the President isn’t really an American — he’s a secret Muslim imbued with a “Kenyan anti-colonialist” mindset. Taking their cues from their ideological blood brothers in Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, the neoconservative right targets Muslims as the scapegoat on which to blame all our problems, invoking the supposedly looming threat of “sharia law” (and the phony specter of Iranian nukes) to demonize a minority group. Although the actual “problem” of illegal immigration has recently been cut in half due to the economic downturn — the jobs these migrants are supposedly “stealing” from us having evaporated — it’s interesting that the rhetoric of the anti-immigrationists has only gotten louder and more extreme. In bad times, many look for a scapegoat — whether it’s immigrants, Jews, gays, or Gypsies is due to local circumstances and the relative powerlessness of such groups.
All the themes of incipient fascism are present, to some degree, in our present-day political culture: the fear of the Other, the need for a (powerless) scapegoat, including the theme of expansionism. Not that anyone is calling for a “Greater America,” but militarism and the idea of America’s “manifest destiny” as the guardian and instrument of “world order” suffuse ostensibly “conservative” pronouncements on foreign policy. Indeed, in the 1990s one of the prime proponents of today’s “sensible centrism,” David Brooks, co-authored a series of articles in the neoconservative Weekly Standard extolling the concept of “national greatness,” and during that era “national greatness conservatism” was a major conceit of the American right-wing. It’s no accident that the same decade — and the same magazine — saw explicit calls for an “American empire,” an oxymoronic concept if ever there was one.
It wouldn’t take much to mix and magnify these implicit themes into a much more explicit, consistent — and dangerous — toxic cocktail, one that an increasingly panicked American public would willingly quaff. Another economic “event,” such as the crash of ’08, another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11, or perhaps some combination of both — it isn’t alarmism but rather realism to observe these trends with trepidation.”
3. “War: It’s Just a Welfare Check Away
In America, the “welfare” and “warfare” aspects of the state have, over that period, achieved a near-perfect merger. Rather than representing one side of two mutually reinforcing but nominally separate sets of policies, U.S. “defense” spending has become the single largest, and by far most redistributive, welfare program in the federal budget.
There’s no easy way out of the situation. If we have a welfare-warfare state, we’re going to spend a lot of blood and treasure on wars. And if we have a state, it’s going to become, and do everything in its operators’ power to remain, a welfare-warfare state. You can have politics or you can have peace, but you can’t have both.