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Tuesday, 22 February 2011 11:44

Fascism in the U.S.: Are We there Yet?

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STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On February 21, 2011, Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman published on article on The Free Press entitled "Fighting the 5 fascisms in Wisconsin & Ohio" (http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/5036-fighting-the-5-fascisms-in-wisconsin-and-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 (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/206) and Islamophobia (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/203).

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.

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This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 169 for BuzzFlash, now at Truthout.

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