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The Mainstreaming of Fascism


Paul already posted about Trump’s latest foray into contemporary crypto-fascism, but I want to underscore a few things. A little over a year ago, I warned about “the repackaging of old-school anti-Semitism under the rubric of ‘globalism’ and attacks on George Soros.” I concluded that “this is just one of many fronts that nominally responsible GOP officials and figures need to fight back on if they want to turn back the tide of Fascism Lite™ that’s swallowing their party—and the country.”

Needless to say, the story of the last year has gone in the wrong direction. Republican officials have, at best, expressed various forms of concern while doing nothing that might interfere with their agenda or their reelection. FOX News, along with the even more unhinged corners of the right-wing media ecosystem, have pushed whatever demagogic and conspiratorial lines they judge will help the cause. Base Republicans are currently convinced that George Soros is funding a massive invasion of the United States by Central Americans; yesterday an “explosive device” was “found in a mailbox at the home of George Soros” and detonated by a bomb squad.

When Republicans claim that an evil, rich, cosmopolitan Jew is funding the movement of brown people into the United States, they are mainlining contemporary fascist fantasies of white genocide. The GOP is now the party of Steve King, whose September interview with a far-right Austrian newspaper was the subject of a recent Huffington Post story:

“This interview reveals a whole new level of reality underneath this guy’s politics,” said Roger Griffin, an expert on fascism and modern history at Oxford Brookes University.

King never would have opened up that way with mainstream reporters, since they wouldn’t understand what he was talking about, Griffin said. He added, “But with her, who is obviously steeped in this stuff, he just opens up because he knows he’s going to be understood.”

The congressman’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The interview took place on Aug. 14 at the Vienna Marriott Hotel and was conducted in English, according to Unzensuriert.

King’s conversation with Sommerfeld largely revolves around the paranoid idea of the Great Replacement — the belief that mass migration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, is an extinction-level event for white European culture and identity. Or as he put it in the interview, a “slow-motion cultural suicide.”

And, shockingly enough, guess who King fingers as a villain?

The idea of the Great Replacement is imagined most vividly in The Camp of the Saints, a stunningly racist 1973 novel by Jean Raspail that “reframes everything as the fight to death between races,” said Cécile Alduy, a professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on France’s far right. It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that “wash ashore like the plague.” In the interview, King said that he read the book and that it was “completely logical to me that this could come to pass.” He went on to describe how he believes George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and bogeyman of the far right, might be footing the bill for the Great Replacement.

Paul mocks Politico for dancing around the obvious, but my sense is that it’s very difficult for even dedicated liberals and leftists to process the wages of Trumpism. Just the other day, prominent left-wing journalists were incredulous about the “caravan conspiracy” since the development would seem to help Republicans—a view that makes sense only if you lose track of the crypto-fascist turn in the GOP. I often find myself forgetting just how far gone the conservative base is, only to be smacked back into awareness when Republican friends or family start talking about the Rothschilds, saying nice things about unequivocally fascist politicians, or parroting back racist and xenophobic lines from Tucker Carlson.

There is a non-zero chance that, in three weeks, we will be confronted with the reality of another two years of undivided Republican government. The federal courts are increasingly looking set to eviscerate the entire foundation of postwar civil rights legislation, immunize the executive branch, and shift from facilitating democratic backsliding to actively promoting it. There are very good odds that, subject to the timing of the next recession, either Trump will be re-elected or some standard-bearer of Trumpism will return to power in 2024. Indeed, if current trends continue, there won’t be a crisis or some obvious “red line.” Most Americans won’t even notice how far we’ve gone down the road of minority rule and selective authoritarianism, because it won’t weigh on their lives.

As long as the Republican party stays the course, the possible outcome of every election will be governance by Fascism Lite™️.  In 2016, the left proved unable to rise to the challenge. I wish I could say that it’s learned its lesson, but I know too many people on the left who still think the real enemies are corporatist, neoliberal Democrats.

I hope that events prove my pessimism wrong, that the left gets its act together, that the many appalled Republicans I know take their party back or decide that they can live with Democratic governance for a while, and that Trumpism is remembered as a short-lived dead end. Because the stakes are very high.

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