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Debate over American fascism heats up, as Biden invokes the term

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Last week, President Biden dropped the f-word. He warned during a stump speech in Maryland that the country’s right-wing movement, which remains dominated by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, has embraced “political violence” and no longer believes in democracy.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the end of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the whole philosophy behind the – I’m going to say something – it’s like semi-fascism.”

Biden was nodding to various ongoing Republican initiatives to restrict access to voting as well as a slate of midterm Republican candidates who, to date, deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election. There is also the tacit support from some Republicans to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the violent rhetoric that has emerged in some right-wing corners following a high-profile FBI investigation into classified documents Trump kept in his private Florida. golf club residence.

The mere invocation of “fascism” sparked howls of outrage among Republicans and sparked a weekend of political chatter. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee called the president’s remarks “despicable.” Governor Chris Sununu (RN.H.) said on CNN that it was “horribly inappropriate” to label a segment of the American population as “semi-fascist” and called on Biden to apologize.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tweeted that “Communists have always called their enemies ‘fascists’.” A Latin American Historian replied to Cruz, noting that, while communists had other names for their opponents before the rise of fascist parties in the 1920s, fascists have always used anti-communist hysteria to “stir up violence” and “increase their power”. (Never mind the relative absurdity of presenting a figure with such a centrist record as Biden as a “Communist.”)

For his part, Trump posted on his personal social media website on Monday another compositioncomplained about the 2020 election having been robbed from him and an unconstitutional demand that he be declared the winner, two years later. Over the weekend, top Republican lawmakers warned of violence on the streets if the Justice Department decides to press ahead as a number of investigations into its activities progress.

In fiery midterm speech, Biden says GOP has turned to ‘semi-fascism’

Biden and his allies did not back down from the message. “You look at the definition of fascism and you think about what they’re doing attacking our democracy, what they’re doing and taking away our freedoms, wanting to take away our rights, our voting rights – I mean, c is what that is,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. “It’s very clear.”

There is no consensus in the American political conversation about what “fascism” even is, let alone which set of political actors should earn its ignominious attribution. On the left, there is growing belief that a Republican party still captured by Trump is hostile to fair elections, determined to dismantle liberal democracy and is taking inspiration from so-called clearer authoritarians like Hungarian illiberal Prime Minister Viktor Orban. .

On the right, there is a parallel, albeit more theatrical, insistence that the Democrats and the liberal establishment constitute a sort of tyrannical front. This grievance has amplified their long-running culture war and underpins recent moves by Republican state governments to ban certain books and censor what schools can teach about race, history and sexuality.

Many historians and political scientists have looked into the uses and misuses of forging analogies with the 1930s, when fascism took root in Europe. Comparative politics experts have described how the modern Republican Party has drifted towards the extremes of western politicseven as Democrats still occupy what can be widely seen in Western democratic terms as center.

Fascist scholars see Trump’s political ideology and style not as a redux of the past, but as a far-right, pseudo-authoritarian brand for the present. Regular readers of Today’s WorldView for half a decade will know that we did not shy away from invoking “fascism” in the American context as we analyzed the tumult of the Trump years, the ultranationalism and nativism animating his supporters and his own conspiratorial demagoguery.

The Cult of Trump’s Personality and the Erosion of American Democracy

Biden’s decision to roll out the warrant may reflect a more aggressive stance ahead of a deadly midterm election cycle. This could be a tactic to wow Democratic voters. “They thought they didn’t see the strong fighter, the person they elected, and they put it down to age and weakness,” Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster from long time. “Hopefully we can anticipate this more. People were craving it.”

But the substantive assertion made by Biden is also important. The “semi-” in “semi-fascism” did a lot of rhetorical work for the US president, who did not compare Trump and his movement to the genocidal monstrosity of the Third Reich. But his detractors nonetheless seemed to suggest that was the subtext of his remarks and dismissed the accusation out of hand.

So what can be a useful lens through which to view Biden’s invocation of fascism? Writer Jonathan Katz highlighted in-depth analysis over the weekendciting the work of Robert Paxton, a respected Vichy France historian and author of the 2004 book, “The Anatomy of Fascism.”

Katz quoted Paxton at length: “Ruling fascism is a compound, a potent amalgamation of different but marryable conservative, National Socialist and radical right ingredients, bound together by common enemies and common passions for a nation regenerated, energized and purified, whatever the situation. cost to free institutions and the rule of law.

All of this perfectly captures the rhetoric and atmosphere of modern republicanism, as Katz himself explains in his essay.

“The danger is not that American fascism will necessarily or even probably transform like Italian fascism – or German, Syrian, Argentinian or whatever. We are not going to experience a shot-for-shot remake of the Holocaust or the Second World War “, Katz wrote. On the contrary, he continued, “the danger would be the triumph of an exclusive, violent and undemocratic cult of personality, which, by definition, will not be dislodged by elections, politics or civil debate”.