Especially when conservatives are saying it about themselves. Via Jack Whelan at After The Future
I read that The American Conservative magazine is worried about the strains of fascism it sees on the right. In an article chillingly entitled "Hungry for Dictatorship,"
Scott McConnell writes that "there are foreshadowings well worth noting." As he goes on to say:
Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of “fascism with a democratic face.
His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called “The Reality of Red State Fascism,” which claimed that “the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.”
In his usual brilliant fashion, Whelan breaks it down for the rest of us:
Fascism is best understood as a primitivistic, anti-modern movement that attracted people with its romanticism of a return to the purity of its warrior tribal origins. Fascism was a celebration of the bold, audacious will to power--an adolescent preoccupation, perhaps, but no less dangerous for that...
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool bourgeois, it’s extremely difficult to understand the appeal of the National Rifle Association exactly for this reason. Owning a gun, like piercing one’s tongue, is an effective way to say I’m not one of those empty corporate or bureaucratic suits who has no real idea who he is or what he stands for except to measure his life by his climb in the hierarchy or by the amount of money he has made. “I own a gun,” says the NRA redneck. “I am a hunter warrior--don’t mess with me. Just try taking my gun away, you gutless bureaucrat. Make my day.”...
It’s all regressive and nostalgic, especially now since real warfare in the twentieth century has offered little possibility for gallantry from the mindless mechanical slaughter in the trenches during WWI to the bureaucratic futility of Vietnam to the high-tech risklessness of the airwars in Serbia or Afghanistan. The warrior has evolved into the technician, and the technician is a classic bourgeois. Perhaps that's another reason we went into Iraq--Americans needed to prove to themselves they still had the guts to fight on the ground.
But these are all ways that are in the mode of rebelling without a cause. There can be no cause if there is no vision of future possibility.
Whelan's farther on the left than I am, but the "vision of future possibility" is as good a way of explaining what our job is as Democrats as I've heard yet. It is also a way to start to theorize how to frame the debate. During the campaign and even today, I hear the Dems call the right "extremists" and "radicals." But I don't think those words have the sting some of us think they do. If the election is any indication some Americans seem to like radicals, while others probably believe that in a fire-with-fire world, it may take extremist actions to defeat extremist enemies. It's the old bring a gun to a knife fight approach, and we Dems can seem weak opposing it.
I'm sort of feeling my way through all of this at the moment, so I don't have any real answers. But I think we can unpack words like fascist and start using it against the right. For one thing, we should stop calling it radical and start calling it corrupt. To my ears, hammering home the idea that the right is almost totally corrupted by all those big corporate dollars already rings true, and as we all know "corporatism" is a fundamental concept of fascism. See how it works, boys and girls?
But as we have all lamented time and again on these pages, beyond framing the right as wrong and opposing its corrupt agenda, we also have to offer our own optimistic "vision of future possibility." Looking back--and for as much as I learned to admire him--Kerry just couldn't pull it off. Clinton did, Obama might, and dare I say it, we have a new leader at the DNC who might be able to as well.