Fascist absolutism came to rule the U.S.A. unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, in spite of our 33rd president's warnings to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." He added ominously, "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Eisenhower was the first to recognize that we had not so much defeated fascist Germany as taken over the franchise, and henceforth would have our turn at world domination, a fool's errand at which the Romans, the Turks, the French, the English, and the Germans had failed before us.
But the fact is, fascism has been with us for a long time; we just didn't notice, because authoritarian fascism existed alongside and in competition with the progressive tradition we inherited from FDR, the Kennedies, and Martin Luther King. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," said Abe Lincoln, and the fascism of empire and capital is incompatible with economic progressivism and social justice. After the late-60's youth protests against the war machine and the corporate domination of civic life, accompanied by the black liberation revolution, American fascists realized that progressivism had to be destroyed.
It's a work in progress, so to speak.
The great failing of the Democratic Party in all this has been their unwillingness to offer anything more than token opposition to the war machine. This failing was visibly manifest in the person of President Lyndon Johnson, who pushed cutting-edge progressive legislation through Congress at the same time he ramped up the Vietnam War. Conflicting tendencies and warring ideologies can't exist together in a unified country, much less in the same party, and the progressive weakness for "strong defense," emotional patriotism, and flag waving has made the fascist task of destroying them much easier.
On August 30, Jonathan Schwarz posted an essay called "Welcome to the Terrordome," which contains an economical and accurate overview of the ascendancy of fascism and the eclipse of progressivism:
When Goldwater captured the nomination in 1964 with some real psycho vibes, the liberal imperial mainstream could easily crush him—because the empire, then at its height, had the breathing room to offer lots of inducements to regular Americans. Then it was back to Nixon, a competent imperial manager.
The ascendancy of Reagan, who was just slightly less insane than Goldwater, indicated the system was under stress. Still, he was surrounded by people like George H.W. Bush and James Baker, who kept him from going off the deep end. Bush-Quayle and Clinton-Gore supervised a period of needed imperial retrenchment.
But over the past eight years, things have truly gone off the rails...
Full-blown authoritarian fascism burst over our heads with the arrival of the Iraq War. It was accompanied by an intensification of the vast and tireless propaganda apparatus that always accompanies ascendant fascism, and that produces a wall of incessant noise whose purpose is to drown out and submerge any and all contrary opinion in a tidal wave of indignant, shouted superpatriotism. From the pages of newspapers, television screens, radios, internet sites, the highly emotional (as opposed to rational or intellectual), appeal of fascism pours endlessly like hot lava from an erupting volcano. The braying jackasses of fascist talk radio, in particular, daily and hourly vomit out equal parts orgiastic exultation in the supremacy of the fascist state and crude threats, in a bullies' attempt to intimidate and silence any dissent.
Can I prove any of this? That's as easy as falling off a bridge. The United States in the last eight years has discarded large portions of its Constitution, now spies on its own citizens, and tortures people who have not been convicted of any crime. No amount of spinning these simple and obvious facts -- obvious to anyone with the capacity to be honest -- can change what they mean. Sieg Heil.
So far we've been able to say what we want about our situation and tell the truth as we understand it, as long as we don't take any concrete actions that seriously challenge the authority of the fascist regime and the iron rule of capital. But the arrests and manhandling of protesters and journalists by jack-booted thugs at the Republican Convention in St. Paul signals that the era of free speech may be coming to an end.
Some of us are placing our hopes on Barack Obama, but I think those who do will find themselves leaning on a very frail reed. The fascist noise machine is just now cranking itself up for the stretch run, and one way or the other, Obama will be crushed like a leaf.