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The election truthers and the future of American fascism

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This twitter thread from a previously obscure figure has made the American right wing, plus the entire I Don’t Support Trump But Brigade — at this point it should be unnecessary to point out that the latter are all crypto-fascists — very excited. (Tucker Carlson read the whole thing aloud the other night on the White Power Hour).

The gist of it was that even though the specific allegations that make up the claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen are not what you would call “true,” there’s a Deeper Truth here, which is that there really is a Deep State that, with the help of its allies in the mainstream media, did everything it could to undermine Trump and for all practical purposes steal the election, although maybe It/They did it legally, technically speaking.

It’s all paranoid ranting and transparent nonsense, but one of the features of our time is that if your particular brand of paranoid ranting nonsense isn’t quite as self-evidently crazy as that being offered up by Donald Trump, that makes you a serious social critic who should be taken seriously. This is yet another example of how right wingers in America have to be graded on the most extreme of curves, since otherwise there wouldn’t be Two Sides to the Story, or rather the story would be that the Republican party has gone fascist, which is obviously Not True. (Narrator voice: It is true).

Here’s Robert Paxton’s definition of fascism:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

David Frum, who has been perhaps the most insightful and consistent of the conservative anti-Trumpers, observes:

The post-election Trump movement is not tiny. It’s not anything like a national majority, but it’s a majority in some states—a plurality in more—and everywhere a significant minority, empowered by the inability of pro-legality Republicans to stand up to them. Once it might have been hoped that young Republicans with a future would somehow distance themselves from the violent lawlessness of the post-presidential Trump movement. But one by one, they are betting the other way. You might understand why those tainted by the January 6 attacks, such as Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, would find excuses for them. They have butts to cover. But Hawley is being outdone by other young politicians who weren’t in office and seemed to have every opportunity to build post-Trump identities—including even former Trump critics like the Ohio Senate aspirant J. D. Vance. Why do people sign up with the putschists after the putsch has failed? They’re betting that the failed putsch is not the past—it’s the future. . .

We’re past the point of pretending it was antifa that did January 6, past the point of pretending that Trump didn’t want what he fomented and what he got. In his interview on July 11—as in the ever more explicit talk of his followers—the new line about the attack on the Capitol is guilty but justified. The election of 2020 was a fraud, and so those who lost it are entitled to overturn it.

I do not consider myself guilty. I admit all the factual aspects of the charge. But I cannot plead that I am guilty of high treason; for there can be no high treason against that treason committed in 1918.

Maybe you recognize those words. They come from Adolf Hitler’s plea of self-defense at his trial for his 1923 Munich putsch. He argued: You are not entitled to the power you hold, so I committed no crime when I tried to grab it back. You blame me for what I did; I blame you for who you are.

Trump’s no Hitler, obviously. But they share some ways of thinking. The past never repeats itself. But it offers warnings. It’s time to start using the F-word again, not to defame—but to diagnose.

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