Fascism was not vanquished in the hideous struggle of WWII. For out of the ashes arose a new type of fascism (neofascism) that is not hungry for new territory or physically brutal, but it does, nonetheless, harbor vileness and has been working its way into democratic governments around the world.
Neofascism is defined as right-wing extremism entailing the merging of a society’s business and governmental leadership (i.e., crony capitalism) under one authoritarian governing body that is excessively nationalistic, militaristic, and anti-democratic. Neofascists tend to be disdainful of democratic institutions and they strive to belittle or control the media.
Racial superiority often is included in the neofascist worldview. They passionately believe in elite-dominated social hierarchy; thrive on populism; and always, neofascists, such as Marine Le Pen in France, single out scapegoats (now substituting immigrants for Jews) to whip up patriotic fever.
Fascists rise to power by exploiting nationalism, anger, fear, poor economic conditions, and religion. Once in office, they subvert constitutions by breaking norms, ignoring laws, and appointing corrupt cronies to important positions. Their authoritarian mentality and penchant for ideological storytelling make them disdainful of professional analyses and empirical data. Moreover, their assertions of ridiculous “truths” and chronic lying function to confuse the populace.
Often the neofascist and the narcissist are one and the same, as fascists paint self-portraits of being the one and only “savior” to society.
Viable democratic government (e.g., the effective, constitutional, collective-action of citizens) is one of neofascism’s main targets. Hence, as they rise to power, fascists destroy peoples’ faith in their own governing institutions.
In America, these antics have been employed by many far-right politicians, such as Newt Gingrich, for the last 25 years. Their anti-democracy efforts include suppressing votes of people who differ from themselves. They accomplish this by closing polls or making it more difficult to register to vote. They further rig the electoral process by extreme gerrymandering, appointing ideological judges, opening the door to unlimited corporate-campaign contributions, and now inviting foreign meddling in elections. The prevalence of regular elections doesn’t mean those elections are fair and representative, nor do they mean that neofascism isn’t creeping across the land.
While conducting these activities, there has been an attempt to tamper with census questions to distort the count of citizens, hence yielding a political advantage. And lo and behold here comes an unnecessary military parade, which in this context, is a promotion of excessive nationalism and militarism.
It’s now clear that President Trump’s behavioral overlap with neofascism is alarming. Notice how he has also appointed business leaders to important governmental posts. There is no longer even a pretense of not allowing corporate America to run our government.
The GOP is not the Republican Party of yesteryear. Ronald Reagan and Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump. Look at how elitist they are (while pretending to identify with the common person) and how devoid they have become of any type of intellectual or moral integrity.
Reality to them entails nothing more than simple assertion, for they and their media have learned that if they assert something often enough, e.g., “Global warming is a hoax,” many people will accept it as true. It’s like Orwellian “reality control.”
Before Barbara Bush died, she remarkably said she was no longer a Republican, for she could see how much the party had changed and how malicious it has become.
The longer Trump stays in power, the more he’ll appoint stooges to do his bidding that allow him to undermine the Constitution. By establishing new precedents of disregarding values and protocol, he has already done significant damage to our democracy.
It’s doubtful the “Republican Party” can snap back from this condition and a president who seems to idealize certain despots of the world. Trump’s words and behaviors are tantamount to violence against democracy. Often violence must increase in intensity to get the same affect among its participants and spectators. If allowed to continue, the results here will eventually be the same as the adverse outcomes of fascism at other times and places.
Tribal loyalty and propaganda are leading many good people to unknowingly stand idly by as this disaster unfolds. It’s time to draw the line. We’re experiencing an attack against America.
Mark Mansperger is an associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at WSU-Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, societal development and political economy.