For years, anyone with a modicum of political and historical knowledge recognized the disturbing fascist strains coursing through the American body politic. Yet, one particular irritation of mine was frequent invocation of something that is known as “Godwin’s Law” – the ridiculous assertion that Nazi comparisons should never be discussed. Of course, this “law” assumes the death cult that spread countless atrocities all over the globe just a few generations ago is somehow too unimaginable to be compared and contrasted to any of today’s human beings. Just looking at the antidemocratic antics of today’s Republican Party is evidence that the misguided part of the human condition that allowed the Nazi death cult to take hold still exists inside some currently waving the flag and purporting to be acting in the interests of “We, The People.”
I’m not the only one who noticed the disturbing fascist characteristics of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and now his (so called) Presidency.
Now, World War II-era historian Christopher Browning warns that the signs of our current state of government slipping into full-on fascism are abundant.
In his new piece for the New York Review of Books Browning argues that the same trends that swept fascism throughout Europe in the early part of the 20th Century are recurring with the help of enablers with historical parallels.
1930’s Germany had President Paul von Hindenburg while United States of 2018 has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whom Browning calls “the gravedigger of American democracy.”
“If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the “steal” of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.”
Browning argued that, thanks to McConnell’s nefarious tactics, the country will be unable to function unless the its run by the same party – a recipe for government dysfunction and breakdown.
“Whatever secret reservations McConnell and other traditional Republican leaders have about Trump’s character, governing style, and possible criminality, they openly rejoice in the payoff they have received from their alliance with him and his base: huge tax cuts for the wealthy, financial and environmental deregulation, the nominations of two conservative Supreme Court justices (so far) and a host of other conservative judicial appointments, and a significant reduction in government-sponsored health care (though not yet the total abolition of Obamacare they hope for). Like Hitler’s conservative allies, McConnell and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump. The combination of Trump’s abasement before Putin in Helsinki, the shameful separation of families at the border in complete disregard of US asylum law (to say nothing of basic humanitarian principles and the GOP’s relentless claim to be the defender of “family values”), and most recently Michael Cohen’s implication of Trump in criminal violations of campaign finance laws has not shaken the fealty of the Republican old guard, so there is little indication that even an explosive and incriminating report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller will rupture the alliance.”
Browning also warns that the damage inflicted by McConnell and Trump will linger for generations.
Sadly humans haven’t evolved past the weaknesses that prompt some to pine for a bombastic, authoritarian daddy to restore “order” from the “chaos” of diversity and democracy – as today’s Republican Party and their “President Trump” can attest.
Then, get politically active in the resistance. Nothing less than the future of American democracy is at stake.
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