| Photo from Washington DC Tours |
There seems to be a concerningly thriving trend within American political discourse to label any opposition as Fascist. As current generations have become farther and farther removed from the authentic Fascist regimes of the past, activists have become increasingly vocal in their classification of any politician, short of an anarchist, as a Fascist corrupting the soul of The United States as we know it. These designations are not only both historically misleading and objectively incorrect but also an unbelievably unproductive talking point that only serves to plunge America into a deeper political divide.
Fascism is defined by Merriam Webster as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” This definition correctly describes the rule of Axis powers during World War 2, the rise of Fascism in 1930s Poland, and the flourishing of Fascist parties in mid 20th century Portugal. These movements, however, are not comparable to the left and right wings of contemporary US politics, nor the founding doctrine of the Union itself.
The United States is a country built on Lockean Liberalism, a political philosophy that prioritizes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens in accordance with a system set up to protect the unalienable individual rights that precede government. These founding ideals run completely contrary to the definition of Fascism presented earlier: “Exalt[ing] nation and often race above the individual” is a key tenant of fascism present-day America not only rejects (with the exception of fringe movements) but also fought passionately to destroy (D-day). “Stand[ing] for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader” is what Federalism, a core principle of US political structural planning, naturally outlaws. “Severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” are unavailable to legislatures under The Bill of Rights, specifically articles one and six.
In rebuttal, some have contended that looking back on the actions of the US government can lead to the argument that at times The United States did allow Fascistic acts. However, the incompetence of the US government to allow the forced dehumanization of Blacks and Native peoples can be classified as fascist, it is widely determined today that these actions are not consistent with respect for individual liberty, a founding principle of The United States itself. Therefore, shedding the legislation that allowed for discrimination in the past has only brought The United States and its political parties further away from Fascism.
Obviously, alt-right and alt-left fringe movements, devoid of American values, have corrupted founding principles in order to push hateful messages. But to associate, any right-leaning or left-leaning political stance with those of the far sides of the political spectrum, as communists or fascists, is a lazy way of marginalizing and falsely delegitimizing any minority political position. Thus suppressing diversity of thought and driving people deeper into the echo chambers they prefer.
When looking at the present day, quelling rioters attempting to burn down federal courthouses is not Fascism. Raising concerns about mail-in voting, although debatable, is not Fascism. Holding media outlets accountable for misinformation, absent of legislation, is not Fascism. Collaborating with authoritarian leaders to ensure the safety of the American people, although bad optics, is not Fascism. Blocking funding to a post office agency that already has enough money to run well into April 2021 and removing post boxes that are down in usage 30% over the last few months is not an attempt to quell democracy, although again is admittedly bad optics, is an attempt to reign in an agency that has run at a loss of $75 billion dollars in taxpayer funding since the mid-2000s. This story of postal collusion is rated verifiably unproven by Snopes along with the false claim that post boxes were being locked in order to undermine the election. To clarify, laying out a well-detailed argument to present these actions as Fascist is not particularly the issue, but to hastily characterize them as Fascist without any concern for context, history, or other relevant variables is a complete disregard for any sense of academic honesty.
When it comes to President Trump there are still valid arguments to be made, that jokes about staying in office past two terms or expanding the power of executive orders are an authoritarian trait. But even though all Fascists are authoritarians, this does not mean all populist authoritarians are Fascists and should be labeled as such. To do so is to affirm the consequent and make use of loaded terms to fear monger those who are not able to pay attention to politics on a day to day basis.
This all isn’t to say that The American people shouldn’t hold their leaders accountable, but keeping politicians in check should not be a game of who can ironically associate an unpopular politician with the most extreme segment of their political party. Ironic in the sense, that if one realized they were actually living in a Fascist regime, it wouldn’t be long before they would be in chains for trying to publicize that realization in the first place. Unfortunately, political partisanship has devolved into a competition of who’s the real Fascist and who’s the real racist. But to operate within these moral frameworks, regardless of party, ignores American foundational values and simply serves to undermine any shred of bipartisanship still left today.