Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Neofascism in the White House

Wow. This really impacts and moves me deeply, both the words of Henry Giroux below and this excellent article by John Bellamy Foster. It took me a while to read and begin to absorb everything here. There is so much. And like many have said, it is painful to be conscious in these times. I also affirm my fierce commitment to truth and to staying with the ongoing struggle to emerge from the fog we are immersed in here in American culture. While it is painful to see more and more of these hard truths, I am also profoundly grateful for each new veil that is lifted and each new and more expansive vista to see and experience. Yes, my heart feels so sad. And I also feel deeply blessed by each opportunity to more fully absorb the truths that are so vital to know. Our children, and all the children everywhere, are counting on us to be brave, to know, and to act in protection of them here, now, today and for their future that is yet to come. Another world is possible. - Molly

On occasion two pieces of work appear dealing with the same subject in ways that are so at odds with each other that the shortcomings of one are glaringly obvious next to the strengths of the other. John Bellamy Foster has written a piece on neofascism in the Trump administration that is as insightful as it is brilliant. See https://monthlyreview.org/…/…/neofascism-in-the-white-house/

 On the other hand, Neal Gabler has written a piece stating that instead of neofascism, the Trump regime is one of unremitting incompetence exercising a kind of political anarchism in its blundering efforts to dismantle big government. This piece is so wrong in so many places that it is hard to address them all.

For instance, check out this paragraph:
"And then, last Friday, with the demise of the Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare and replace it with… well, with a massive tax giveaway to the rich, we discovered — I discovered — that I was fearing the wrong thing. It’s not Trump’s ability to marshal the forces of repression that should terrify us. It’s his inability to marshal forces to conduct even the most basic governance. Trump really is a presidential Joker. He knows how to wreak havoc, but he doesn’t seem to know how to do, or seem to want to do, much else." 

Really! Is Trump only wrecking havoc. Tell that to the immigrant families being split up, terrorized by the police; tell that to those who will suffer from the roll back in environmental protections; tell that to poor minorities who are terrified by Swat teams--the new robocops; tell that to people whose rights to privacy has just been sold to corporations. And, of course, should we ignore the white supremacists in power, the increased militarization of the state, the growing Antisemitism, the wrath being waged against the elderly and young people, the increase in attacks on those deemed un-American by fascist street thugs, and the dismantling of public goods and schools. This is far from a regime of incompetence simply wrecking havoc. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, Trump's appointments and policies are too systematic and point to a merging of neoliberal, religious, and educational fundamentalisms that constitute a neo-fascist project.Most importantly, this neo-fascist fundamentalist project will condemn coming generations of young people to an age of environmental destruction and a survival of the fittest ethos that will most certainly destroy any hope they have for the future. Trump represents a form of neo-fascism on steroids and the damage is systemic and ongoing. Gabler is a liberal in search of a story line that leads him to think that attributing incompetence and a skewed notion of anarchy to Trump somehow mitigates the charge and effects of a neofascist regime. Pathetic. See: http://billmoyers.com/…/forget-fascism-anarchy-we-have-to-…/

There is a shadow of something colossal and menacing that even now is beginning to fall across the land. Call it the shadow of an oligarchy, if you will; it is the nearest I dare approximate it. What its nature may be I refuse to imagine. But what I wanted to say was this: You are in a perilous position.
Jack London, The Iron Heel

Not only a new administration, but a new ideology has now taken up residence at the White House: neofascism. It resembles in certain ways the classical fascism of Italy and Germany in the 1920s and ’30s, but with historically distinct features specific to the political economy and culture of the United States in the opening decades of the twenty-first century. This neofascism characterizes, in my assessment, the president and his closest advisers, and some of the key figures in his cabinet.2 From a broader sociological perspective, it reflects the electoral bases, class constituencies and alignments, and racist, xenophobic nationalism that brought Donald Trump into office. Neofascist discourse and political practice are now evident every day in virulent attacks on the racially oppressed, immigrants, women, LBGTQ people, environmentalists, and workers. These have been accompanied by a sustained campaign to bring the judiciary, governmental employees, the military and intelligence agencies, and the press into line with this new ideology and political reality.

Who forms the social base of the neofascist phenomenon? As a Gallup analysis and CNN exit polls have demonstrated, Trump’s electoral support came mainly from the intermediate strata of the population, i.e., from the lower middle class and privileged sections of the working class, primarily those with annual household incomes above the median level of around $56,000. Trump received a plurality of votes among those with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 a year, especially in the $50,000 to $99,999 range, and among those without college degrees. Of those who reported that their financial situation was worse than four years earlier, Trump won fully 77 percent of the vote.3 An analysis by Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell of Gallup, updated just days before the election, indicated that in contrast to standard Republican voters, much of Trump’s strongest support came from relatively privileged white male workers within “skilled blue collar industries”—including “production, construction, installation, maintenance, and repair, and transportation”—earning more than the median income, and over the age of forty.4 In the so-called Rust Belt 5 states (Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) that swung the election to Trump, the Republican vote increased by over 300,000 among voters earning $50,000 or less, as compared with 2012. Meanwhile, among the same demographic group, Democrats lost more than three times as many voters as the number Republicans gained.5 None of this was enough to win Trump the national popular vote, which he lost by almost 3 million, but it gave him the edge he needed in the electoral college.

Nationally, Trump won the white vote and the male vote by decisive margins, and had his strongest support among rural voters. Both religious Protestants and Catholics favored the Republican presidential candidate, but his greatest support of all (80 percent) came from white evangelical Christians. Veterans also went disproportionately for Trump. Among those who considered immigration the nation’s most pressing issue, Trump, according to CNN exit polls, received 64 percent of the vote; among those who ranked terrorism as the number-one issue, 57 percent.6 Much of the election was dominated by both overt and indirect expressions of racism, emanating not only from the Republican nominee but also from his close associates and family (and hardly nonexistent among the Democrats themselves). Donald Trump, Jr., in what was clearly a political ploy, repeatedly tweeted Nazi-style white supremacist slogans aimed at the far right. Trump’s only slightly more veiled statements against Muslims and Mexicans, and his alliance with Breitbart, pointed in the same direction.7

As the Gallup report pointedly observed:
In a study [Richard F. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler?] of perhaps the most infamous [nationalist] party, the geography of voting patterns reveal that the political supporters of Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist party were disproportionately Protestants, if living in a rural area, and those in lower-middle administrative occupations and owners of small businesses, if living in an urban area. Thus, neither the rich nor poor were especially inclined to support the Nazi Party, and even among Christians, religious identity mattered greatly.8

The clear implication was that Trump’s supporters conformed to the same general pattern. According to the Hamilton study, it is generally believed that “the lower middle class (or petty bourgeoisie) provided the decisive support for Hitler and his party.”9 Hitler also drew on a minority of the working class, disproportionately represented by more privileged blue-collar workers. But the great bulk of his support came from the lower middle class or petty bourgeoisie, representing a staunchly anti-working class, racist, and anti-establishment outlook—which nevertheless aligned itself with capital. Hitler also received backing from devout Protestants, rural voters, disabled veterans, and older voters or pensioners.10

The parallels with the Trump phenomenon in the United States are thus sufficiently clear. Trump’s backing comes primarily neither from the working-class majority nor the capitalist class—though the latter have mostly reconciled themselves to Trumpism, given that they are its principal beneficiaries. Once in power, fascist movements have historically cleansed themselves rapidly of the more radical lower-middle-class links that helped bring them to power, and soon ally themselves firmly with big business—a pattern already manifesting itself in the Trump administration.11

Yet despite these very broad similarities, key features distinguish neofascism in the contemporary United States from its precursors in early twentieth-century Europe. It is in many ways a unique form, sui generis. There is no paramilitary violence in the streets. There are no black shirts or brown shirts, no Nazi Stormtroopers. There is, indeed, no separate fascist party.12 Today the world economy is dominated not by nation-based monopoly capitalism, as in classical fascism, but a more globalized monopoly-finance capitalism.

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