Dante Atkins has a front pager up on some troubling findings: The country doesn't like Republicans? Well, Republicans don't like the country either
While looking at the findings Atkins reports from an ABC News Poll on the bizarro-world alternate reality Republicans have created for themselves, it struck me that this isn't a surprising development. There are those who have seen this coming, David Neiwert for one. I've expanded my comment on Atkins post into this diary, since I think it's worth looking at for the background if nothing else.
Awhile back now it seems... David Neiwert over at Orcinus had a number of writings exploring the nature of fascism. One of the essential elements he proposed is that the core of fascism isn't organized around any rational system of beliefs; it turns on emotional underpinnings, convenient myths masquerading as eternal truths, and more than a little authoritarianism.
He's organized a set of writings from 2008 here. The impetus behind this was Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism, in which Goldberg attempted to 'prove' liberals are the real fascists. If nothing else, it demonstrates the lengths conservatives are willing to go to, to create their own reality - and that it's not a new phenomenon.
(It's worth noting that Neiwert wrote these before the corporate-funded rise of the Tea Party, or the Citizen's United decision. He wrote them before the ALEC agenda began to be enacted wherever Republicans had control of the states. He wrote this before the extreme use of the filibuster in the Senate by Republicans, the blanket opposition to any of the President's nominees, or the willingness of the House to shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States as a country. These are NOT the acts of a rational party.)
If the Republican Party seems to have lost its mind these days, it's because they have deliberately embraced the extreme right and brought them into the mainstream. As Neiwert warned:
[L]et's also be clear: mainstream conservatives are not fascists. While both are clearly creatures of the right, they are quite distinct, and it's essential to our understanding of fascism that we make that distinction. Moreover, it's my belief that right-wing extremists pose at least as great an existential threat to mainstream conservatives as they do to liberals, even though the latter are in fact their natural enemies. Maintaining the line between the far right and the mainstream is an essential project for all of us -- especially conservatives.emphasis added
As Neiwert goes on to explain in his introduction:
I have in fact written at length about the crosscurrents between American proto-fascists and mainstream movement conservatives, and have done so by insisting rigorously on people making the distinction between them. But at the same time, it's important to understand that the rise in ideological traffic between the far right and the mainstream actually means that the constellation of traits that constitute the fascist pathology gain traction, and the demon itself starts to take shape.emphasis added
This is why so many people outside the conservative movement look at its True Believers and see budding little fascists. If Jonah Goldberg is concerned about people mistaking conservatives for fascists, he'd do far more good calling on conservatives to stand back and take a look at where they're heading ideologically.
If conservatives like Jonah don't want to be mistaken for fascists, they won't embrace the racial politics of people like Buchanan or Brimelow or Malkin. They won't let a far-right extremist like Ron Paul, whose campaign is riddled with white supremacists, even into the Republican Party, let alone play a significant role in the GOP presidential campaign, and they won't embrace vigilante organizations like the Minutemen. Maybe they won't write books that manage to trivialize an utterly monstrous and destructive right-wing ideology, pretending that entities like the Klan really aren't right-wing in the process. But conservatives like Jonah have done all these things.
Most of all, perhaps, they could eschew the eliminationist rhetoric that has not only deeply infected the conservative discourse but has poisoned the larger public discourse as well. After all, as Robert Paxton observes:
The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism.
The Republican war on the poor, on women, on people of color, on democracy itself is symptomatic of the rot within. If there's a war within the conservative movement these days, it's more about how to get what they want rather than about what they want. They've made common cause with the darker elements in American politics - it's no surprise they've adopted their delusional world view as well.
The long-standing bias in the media and among the pundit class for bipartisanship and compromise above all, is reminiscent of Neville Chamberliain - well intentioned, but paving the road to perdition.
And if that seems like an extreme observation, too bad. We're talking about people who have never accepted the Presidency of Obama as legitimate, who have obstructed the operation of government at every level, even to the point of shutting it down, and are actively trying to subvert democracy wherever they hold sway. Restrictions on voting, extreme agendas rushed into law against popular opinion, ALEC, Citizens United, the rise of the Tea Party, attacks on science... Do I really need to say any more?
As Neiwert says in his series, if conservatives really hate being called fascists, they should stop talking and acting like them. His series starts with background posts linked here, and then carries on through parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.
Take some time and take a look; the installments vary in length, but they contain material that looks remarkably prescient. (The first is short, but very much to the point.) Pity more people weren't paying attention at the time, but better late than never.
Having just finished a re-reading of historian Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism, I was shocked to realize how far this nation has moved toward toward actual support of fascist thought since I originally read it. Remembering that neither Mussolini's Fascist Party nor the NSDAP ever had a majority of legislative seats before being able to assert total control, should have us all bringing ourselves up-to-date on what a fascist movement is.Excerpt from the second:
It is now my view that the American Tea Party has morphed into a fascist movement. That they are using the Republican Party conservatives as a mule is a move right out of the classic fascist playbook.
For over thirty years I've lived and worked on the Gulf Coast of this country. I'm in close contact with a lot of men employed - one way or another - by the oil industry or companies supporting the oil industry. Most of these men are your basic working stiffs, trying to make it like everyone else. Nearly all of these men with whom I work are white. There are few minorities.Note: I have no way of verifying what travelerxxx claims to have observed, and anecdote is not the same as evidence. That being said however, it certainly seems in line with what's happening 'out there'. (The shooter at LAX seems to have gotten an agenda from somewhere for example.) Kevin Drum lays out how Obama Derangement Syndrome is feeding right into this. I strongly suggest reading in full both comments from travelerxxx to get the full context of what he relates.
The last five years have brought a change in the majority of these men. In the past, racist and anti-government thoughts would have remained just that - thoughts. If vocalized at all, it would have been in hushed whispers to others. Not now. Now, they are quite bold; statements are made in public which would have been considered taboo even here in the deep south.
The racism, you might expect; the radical politic of hate, I didn't expect. The most hated of all entities is "the liberal." It is the liberal who intends to take their guns, their women, their jobs, and their church. They don't just think this, they know this. They now believe this with heart, mind, and soul. The liberal is not just misguided, rather he is Satan personified -- beyond redemption and reprieve. They have now concluded that destruction is the only course of action regarding liberals and liberal thought.
And just for a little more context, it was not that long ago that a think tank based at West Point came out with a study which among other things, evaluated the possibility of terrorist acts within the United States coming from far right wing groups. It was immediately denounced as a "junk study" by an anonymous Republican congressional staffer. A similar reaction occurred in 2009 in response to a Department of Homeland Security report
...that white supremacy is the US’s biggest threat for domestic terror, it was met with harsh criticism. Conservatives blasted the department for defining terror threats too broadly, instead of focusing on potential Islamic terrorists.Further,
The report was titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” and it named white supremacists, radical anti-abortionists, and a few “disgruntled veterans” as most susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups, or to harboring resentment that may lead to domestic terrorism. DHS stressed that, during recessions, these threats go up, and law enforcement should be on the lookout for such extremism:It would be comforting to dismiss all this as tinfoil hat nonsense - but that would clearly be a lot easier to do if someone like John Boehner wasn't saying things like:
DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate from any formalized group—which hampers warning efforts..[...]
Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.
[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation. Everyone agrees that the Department should be focused on protecting America, but using such broad-based generalizations about the American people is simply outrageous.emphasis added
Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 3:52 AM PT: One More Thing: If you parse Boehner's statement carefully, you can see dog-whistling at work, the coded language that is heard very differently by the target audience. At first glance, it reads like a simple defense of the right wing against slurs, just normal partisanship at work.
Look again at what's implied: 1) Only muslims should be considered possible terrorists, because of course all muslims are potentially members of Al Qaeda. This reinforces the idea of a particular enemy to be on guard against. And, remember there is a persistent belief among certain Republicans that Obama is really a muslim. 2) Note the phrasing "American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation" which implies Democrats are a small group controlling the country from Washington against the wishes of a majority of real Americans. Again, a specific group is targeted as a threat to the country. 3) It also implies that acting against these groups should not be called terrorism - which tacitly tells the target audience they should be prepared to consider it.
If Boehner is not explicitly calling for rebellion against the government in Washington, he's certainly giving tacit permission for such attacks. When you see how this works, his actions during the shut down and his seeming helplessness take on a more sinister appearance.
Again, as Neiwert notes, if Conservatives don't want to be called Fascists, they should stop talking and acting like them.