Writing in the Kentucky State Journal, Sara Robinson describes the stages of fascist movements:
In the first stage, a mature industrial state facing some kind of crisis breeds a new, rural movement that's based on nationalist renewal. This movement invariably rejects reason and glorifies raw emotion, promises to restore lost national pride, co-opts the nation's traditional myths for its own purposes, and insists that the country must be purged of the toxic influence of outsiders and intellectuals who are blamed for their current misery.Sound hysterical? Of course it does. We're far too sensible for that. Yet... recall the lunacies of would-be Senators Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. The ravings of Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Death panels and birthers and demagoguery. Global warming denial and "liberal treason" and the nonsense of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. The apparent inability of the Republican leadership to control their tea partiers, and a party with no interest in governing, but only in power. A media that plays to its own preconceptions, for example hiding liberal victories and highlighting liberal defeats. A government that tortures its own citizens.
(Sound familiar yet?)
In the second stage, the movement takes root, turns into a real political party, and seizes a seat at the table....
(Paging the Party of No....)
In the face of this deadlock, the corporate elites forge an alliance with rural nationalists, creating an unholy marriage that, if it continues, will soon breed a fascist state. And, of course, this is precisely what's happening now between the Koch Brothers, the oil companies, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party.
The majority of history's would-be fascist movements have died right at this stage -- almost always because of the basic authoritarian ineptitude of their leadership, which ensured that they'd never gain anything more than a small and temporary handful of seats at the political table. The successful fascisms, on the other hand, were the ones that held together and to gained enough political leverage that capturing their governments became inevitable....
...there are three quick questions that let you know you've crossed that fail-safe line beyond which an emerging fascist regime has too much power to be stopped:
If the answer to all three is "yes," you're probably on for the rest of the ride, which can run for at least a decade or two before it burns through.
- Are [neo- or protofascisms] becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on the political scene?
- Is the economic or constitutional system in a state of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities?
- Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?
There is a nasty tendency towards the mob in this country, and a deep seated distrust of the educated. It's long past time for us to seize the narrative in a way that can connect with the mob, and not just our own elite echo chamber. But I have no idea how to get there, since the values espoused by the mob are so very, very different than mine. We might as well be talking different languages.
And in the violence and hyperbole, an undeniable whiff of the 1930s.