I am not a fan of “isms.” I think words like Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism and Racism are convenient labels that politicians use to package complex ideas for simple minded voters. But to understand the dangerous upheaval underway in America today, I find the terms “Fascism” and “Racism” irresistible.
By “Fascism” I mean the intent to dominate society by force rather than by persuasion; and by “Racism” I mean tribal loyalty to a particular ethnic group accompanied by suspicion, contempt and hatred of other ethnic groups.
Both “isms” sprang to mind as I watched recent telecasts of violent protests at town hall meetings held to discuss health care reform. Why were the protesters invariably white, I wondered. Why were they so vitriolically anti-Obama? The answers emerged as I read letters to the local newspaper and articles on the web, and listened to revelations by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
I found it enlightening that letter writers assumed “Obamacare” would reduce benefits to the 80 percent of Americans who have health insurance in order to extend coverage to “welfare queens” and “illegal immigrants.” Of course! The 80 percent who are insured are mainly white; the 20 percent uninsured are mostly Black and Hispanic. And you know what color “welfare queens” are presumed to be, don’t you?
When Rachel exposed the fact that the town hall protest movement was organized by right-wing groups like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity, the other pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.
I realized that I was watching the emergence of a fascist/racist strategy deliberately adopted by Republican Party leaders and supported by propagandists like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. This conclusion was reinforced when I read an article on the web today by Sara Robinson of Campaign for America’s Future.
Robinson carefully documented the ways in which a society turns to fascism and warned that America is well on its way to that frightening destination. Here’s a passage that caught my eye:
Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can’t even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can’t win elections or policy fights, they’re more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.
(For Robinson’s article, click:
But despite the appeals for armed rebellion and mob violence coming from conservative commentators and politicians, I suspect the Republicans may not be ready to take over the country by force just yet. I believe they plan to regain power at the ballot box – by stirring up racial resentment. White voters outnumber blacks and Hispanics by about three-to-one in America. Even with 95 percent of the black vote and 67 percent among Hispanics, Obama could not have won the Presidency without white support. He got 43 percent of the white vote, while John McCain got 55 percent. If the Republicans can turn enough white voters against the Democrats by stoking racism, they could possibly score surprising victories in 2010 and 2012.
Republican strategists are surely aware that the black vote will never be theirs and the Hispanic vote was alienated by the party’s extreme positions on immigration. That’s why they indulged their race baiting tendencies and vilified Justice Sonia Sotomayer. They figured they had nothing to lose even with the recent growth in the Latin population. Let the Hispanics vote Democrat; Republicans are going after the white vote. White voters still make up more than 75 percent of the U.S. electorate.
It’s a drastic strategy with troubling implications. To turn the white base against an “alien” President and his “ethnic” supporters, the conservative agitators are using tactics that can only be described as Fascist. And history has shown that such tactics can have horrible consequences. The mindless thugs who are riled up by demagogues and propagandists have run amok before and could do it again. And if that happens, America could, indeed, fall victim to the kind of Fascism that swept Germany and Italy some 70 years ago.