Fascist America: Have We Finally Turned The Corner?
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More ominously: a political movement that's willing to take power through terrorist violence -- which the far right threatens constantly, and delivers on often enough for us to take that threat seriously -- doesn't need anything remotely like a majority to take over a country. When you're willing to use force, democracy becomes irrelevant.
In the dark hours of 2010, it was hard to even imagine that the second scenario was possible. Americans were apathetic, disengaged and resigned. Everybody saw where things were going, but it was like watching a train wreck -- that slow-motion horror in your head, the disbelief, the sense that nobody can hear you screaming, and the sickening knowledge that there's nothing you can do to stop what you know is coming.
Now, from the vantage point of 2012, it's surprising how quickly the view changed. It's way too soon to call a winner in the race, but as it stands now, the second scenario has pulled into the more likely position, and the possibility of a fascist America is starting to fade back.
The difference is the same simple signal I was hoping to see back when I started tracking this in 2006. Finally, after years of impotence, average Americans have done the one thing that will make all the difference: they woke up and got pissed. Wisconsin was the first sign. Then came Occupy. Now, this spring, it's sprouting up everywhere, to the point where our would-be fascists can't take a step anywhere without getting their feet tangled up by protestors determined to hold them to account.
Mind you: our country's future still looks like that slow-motion train wreck. But, even though the train is still moving and the horror is still filling our heads, you can finally hear your own voice screaming. And so can everybody else. There's a gathering sense that even though there's still nothing we can do, we must do something. Standing on the sidelines and watching is no longer an option. We know the time has come to fight for our country's future -- and our own futures as well.
This uprising of American decency and vision is the critical difference that switches tracks, and puts us onto an entirely new future. As long as this pushback continues, the fascist future that loomed so large in the front window through the years of Peak Wingnut will continue to belong to the receding past.
It won't happen quickly. It could be another decade before we can fully shove the would-be fascists in our midst back into their box. Wrestling them in there will still be a long, ugly fight.
A lot of the damage will come by attrition. They'll lose power with every election, as their base and funders (most of whom are quite old now) die off. They'll lose relevance as their talking heads retire, lose audiences and get canceled, or discredit themselves by saying outrageous things that are increasingly less tolerable to most Americans (and their own corporate sponsors). The fact that the most radical-right candidates in the GOP primary -- Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, and ultimately Santorum -- all flamed out in favor of Romney speaks volumes about the limits to the far right's ultimate power within the Republican party, even now. They may pack the state houses and stall Congress, but at the end of the day, they can't elect a president.
The Tea Party proto-fascists will probably hold onto some legislatures and congressional seats over the long haul in their home regions -- but they don't have anything like the momentum in 2012 that they did in 2010, and surveys of both voter attitudes and expected demographic shifts suggest that this decline is probably a long-term trend. They're on the wane.