Now that the debt ceiling fight is over, the newspaper scribes in the Washington press corps and the pundits on television (“the dunderpates”, as my wife calls them) prattle on about the winners and losers in this sorry showdown.
President Obama is the loser because he caved to the Tea Party minority. Obama’s the winner because he showed Americans that the GOP is ruled by its radical Tea Party minority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the winner because he sidestepped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the final negotiations with The White House. Speaker John Boehner is the loser because he couldn’t control his caucus in the House. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Lost in all this claptrap is the biggest loser: the American people. It’s a sad commentary on our news media that the reporters and talking heads who dominate the public discourse are so insulated from normal working lives, so infatuated with politics-as-sport, that they cannot see outside their own sandbox.
However, if the media ever managed to crane their craven heads above the Beltway, they might be forced to tell a story too complicated and nuanced for front-page headlines and television sound bites. The American people, it appears, can actually sort through GOP bullshit – even if smug, self-satisfied hacks like David Gregory (Meet the Press) and paid flacks like Chris Wallace (Fox News Sunday) can’t or won’t. According to the latest CNN poll, a large plurality of the American electorate were not swayed by the GOP-Tea Party’s no-taxes, cuts-only Siren song.
Yet, somehow, despite the fact that 60% of Americans agree with President Obama about his oft-stated “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, the bullhorns in the mainstream media keep blaring the Big Story of Tea Party success. (We’ll keep FOX out of the discussion. It’s not a news organization: it’s a propaganda arm of the GOP.)
The more nuanced story is that, while the Tea Party fanatics may have won a political victory by moving the debt ceiling deal far off to the right – it looks like they’ve lost the larger battle for American hearts and minds. And that could cost them dearly in the 2012 elections. Not to mention the wrench these Tea Party bomb-throwers and their enablers in the Republican Congressional leadership just threw into the works of the GOP’s normally cozy relationship with Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce. Something tells me you won’t see too many Tea Partiers backed by the Chamber in 2012.
Looking ahead to 2012, the Conventional Wisdom is that President Obama has been grievously wounded in the debt ceiling fight. And it’s clear that he took a hit to his approval rating and his reputation for political cool. Yet, according to the latest CNN poll, the American people have judged that Obama came out of the debt ceiling debacle well ahead of Congress – and far ahead of GOP Congressional leaders. In fact, nearly 70% of those polled disapprove of how GOP leaders behaved during the rancorous debt ceiling negotiations — a scathing indictment of Sen. McConnell, whom the Beltway intelligentsia has declared the winner in this fight.
Now, if you (like me) are a regular reader of left wing-Democratic-progressive websites like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post (which isn’t all that progressive anymore) – you’d think that every Liberal is frustrated and angry — and that all Democrats are up in arms, feeling betrayed by Obama’s capitulation to Tea Party brinkmanship. Calls for a Democratic primary challenge to the President have gone out – and a general alarum has been sounded. However, the latest Gallup poll provides a very different perspective on how left-of-center folks feel about the debt ceiling agreement.
Shocking, huh? A plurality of Democrats and Liberals approve of the debt ceiling agreement — and Republicans and Conservatives (those the mainstream media claim were the victors in this battle royal) don’t like the deal at all.
Of course, this poll reflects something most of us already know: liberals and Democrats have a more positive and realistic attitude toward American government. (At least we don’t hate it.) But these poll results also signal peril for the Tea Baggers. Usually, when political leaders make a big deal their constituents don’t like, it’s a bad sign for them in the next election cycle.
We don’t hear much in the media about how this debt ceiling debacle has damaged the right-wingers. The Beltway Wise Men say it’s all doom and gloom for Obama and the Democrats. But at least at this moment, the American people aren’t buying that bullshit narrative.
Now, please forgive me. I’m going to use the F-word.
I suggest that there’s a larger political narrative in America that we (and the national media) should be focused on right now — something that David Gregory and Chris Wallace wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. I know it’s not nice to use the F-word in polite political discourse — but since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, The United States has been creeping towards fascism. The post-9-11 environment and the cynical exploitation of misguided Tea Party populism has accelerated our fascist drift.
I know that intelligent, dignified and reasonable people shouldn’t throw the term “fascist” around lightly — and the “fascist” label has been seriously misused, mischaracterized and misunderstood.
After all, the Tea Party-GOP crowd has alternately lambasted President Obama as both a left-wing Socialist and a right-wing Fascist: mutually exclusive condemnations.
But, I ask you to consider the definition of “fascism” found in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, and written by Sheldon Richman.
“As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.
The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.”
“Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture…The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export.”
“Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography…Corporatism was intended to avert unsettling divisions within the nation, such as lockouts and union strikes. The price of such forced “harmony” was the loss of the ability to bargain and move about freely.”
Here’s a simpler definition…
Fascism: “The merging of state and corporate interests.”
Modern American Fascism is more subtle than the Mussolini version in the mid 20th Century. Corporate interests exert their control over the U.S. government in less overt ways than they did in Italy in the 30’s and 40’s. In today’s American strain of fascism, it’s not the U.S. Government that’s in charge. Instead, through campaign donations, lobbying and revolving door cronyism, Corporate Oligarchs exert their control over a Government that increasingly serves corporate interests.
The problem is bad and getting worse. Since the Scalia-Roberts-Thomas-Alito axis on the U.S. Supreme Court established corporate personhood and opened the sluice gates for billions of corrupting corporate dollars to flow anonymously into our electoral system, the slide toward oligarchy by U.S. CEOs and their Congressional minions has advanced with scant resistance by what passes for an American left. (Though we saw vigorous resistance to the fascist agenda in Wisconsin earlier this year.)
And what of this union-bashing, union-busting agenda that a cabal of GOP governors are pushing? What about all these bipartisan “Free Trade” deals that have benefitted the bottom lines of multi-national corporations while hollowing out our U.S. manufacturing base and driving our wages lower? This agenda is clearly not in the best interest of the American People, so who does it serve? Corporate fat cats. That’s who.
Just this week, the paychecks of thousands of airline employees, FAA employees, and construction workers on airport improvement projects were held hostage when the GOP-led House, at the behest of Delta Airlines, tried to attach an anti-union provision in the bill authorizing funding for the FAA. Delta wants to bust their employees’ labor unions and Delta’s toadies in the GOP House stood ready to do their bidding — even at the risk of thousands of American jobs in an already-bad economy: not to mention threatening the safety of the traveling public. Again. Who are John Boehner and Eric Cantor serving with this dangerous game of political chicken? Corporate Big Money. That’s who.
Maybe it’s time to call these guys what their actions reveal them to be: American Fascists.
Author and radio host Thom Hartmann has been concerned about creeping American Fascism for quite a while. In his article, The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: “It Can Happen Here”, Hartmann writes about the warnings of Vice President Henry Wallace, who served with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early years of World War Two.
Here are some enlightening passages from Hartmann’s article. I urge you to read the whole thing:
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?” Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. ”The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”
In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist” – the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.) As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this.
“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings,” Vice President Wallace wrote in his 1944 Times article, “then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”
“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” Wallace added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information…”
“Still another danger,” Wallace continued, “is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.”
As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.” He added, “Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.”
Wallace continued: ”The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.”
“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
For another view of Vice President Wallace, you can check out this link and draw your own conclusion.
When you pause to consider it, the Fascist agenda that Wallace warned about — as championed by most of the Republican Party (and too many conservative Blue Dog Democrats) — is making frightening progress. Let’s evaluate where we stand today against these clear warning signs…
Are the Tea Party extremists fascists? Are today’s Congressional Republicans fascists? Are “Free Trade”-supporting Democrats fascists? Is President Obama a fascist? Do you think I’m completely off-the-wall for even raising the possibility of American Fascism? Can it really happen here? You decide. But, before you dismiss this article as the ravings of a Liberal loon – please do some research. You might be surprised by what you’ll learn.
One thing to consider: the President elected in 2012 will probably have the opportunity to appoint two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court — and it’s likely they’re be replacing old liberals who have stood as a bulwark against the Fascist Faction on the court. Whatever else you want to say about him, President Obama’s two picks (Sotomayor and Kagan) have been reliable votes in opposition to Scalia and his gang of black-robed corporate shills.
I hate to use the F word again — but if we don’t turn out the progressive vote for President Obama and the Democratic Party in 2012 — our democracy will be in F-ing trouble.