I’ve been watching the coverage today of President Morsi in Eqypt. The discussion in the news has often drifted into the description of Morsi as a fascist. Inevitably this leads to many of the conservatives with whom I live and work referring to “our fascist President.” This ranks high among the things that drive me crazy about the tone of the discourse surrounding President Obama. I want to clear something up for the conservatives out there: President Obama is in no way a fascist. In fact, the elements of the current far-right conservative movement (including the Tea Party) are more aligned with the concept of fascism than anything the President or his administration has done.
For those who, like myself, are plagued by these people who love to use this term without understanding what they are saying, here is a brief rundown of why this is true. While each fascist regime is slightly different, there are some aspects of the ideology that permeate.
Extreme nationalism is one of the common characteristics of fascism. This is something that we have seen growing since the 9/11 attacks. While some degree of nationalism can be wonderful because people are dedicating themselves to the betterment of the nation, there are some disturbing side effects of extreme nationalism. Does any of this sound familiar:
Lloyd Kramer, author of the book Nationalism in Europe and America, stated in an interview with NPR, “”nationalism often encourages fears of all kinds of other people: fears of other religions or races or cultures or ethnic groups or homosexuals. This fear can be mobilized for violence and scapegoating. It can lead people to feel aggrieved and constantly at risk.”
Based on my interactions, I would say that this behavior describes the attitude of many of the conservatives that have complained about the “fascist Obama regime.”
Another characteristic connected with fascism is contempt for electoral democracy. While I believe most people in our country, even conservatives, don’t display this trait often, I have heard quite a few comments from conservatives condemning the elections because they didn’t like the winner.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence is the fact that fascism is marked by a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites. This is something you will see me write about extensively. I like to call this the American Aristocracy. Borrowing from the recent issue with gay marriage, we can see conservatives fighting very hard to keep homosexuals in a second class marriage subordinate to their own. This can also be seen in the proposals by conservatives to allow undocumented immigrants to gain legal residency, but only if they can’t vote for years. In effect, they want to create a category of second-class citizens.
We also see a push by conservatives to increase the power the “elites” have over our government. Conservatives champion ideas like corporate personhood which allows corporations (meaning rich executives) to exhibit an unprecedented amount of influence over our political process. Elites such as David Siegel have even threatened their employees with layoffs if they did not vote against President Obama in the last election. These threats were defended by conservatives who claimed that the threats were just informing the workers about what would happen if the President were to be re-elected and the economy didn’t improve. Interestingly enough, Westgate Resorts (Siegel’s company) has been posting record profits. He came out after the election and said that he has no plans to fire any employees, but instead gave out a 5% raise. Does this not show that the initial email to employees was a threat?
“The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration…If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”
The fact that conservatives find this kind of obvious attempt to use their position as a way to control the people acceptable shows that they truly believe that there is a hierarchy (do I have to hear the phrase “job creators” again?) in our society and that we should be controlled by this elitist American Aristocracy.
To be fair, I will finish with one element of fascism that they can rightfully accuse our current President’s administration of exhibiting to an extent. Liberalism is a characteristic that is displayed in fascism. However, like many ideologies, there are positive and negative elements involved. To take the description of liberalism from Encyclopedia Britannica, “liberalism [is a] political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others; but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty.” Maybe it’s just the liberal in me, but I believe that a healthy push towards freedom of the individual is exactly what we need. It is the idea that caused our founding fathers to go to war with England.
Added up, I would say that, if the only connections to fascism that is evident in President Obama’s administration is a dedication to individual freedom, it is obvious that our President is not pushing a fascist regime. On the other hand, I do see a frightening degree of fascism in those who are exhibiting the characteristics outlined above without the dedication to individual freedom protected by the government. Those would be the very people accusing President Obama of possessing the ideology with which they are more closely aligned. Perhaps they think that pointing the finger at President Obama will keep the attention off of them. Whatever their reason, I hope that this annoying trend of accusing the President of being fascist ends soon so that I don’t have to repeatedly show these conservatives how ignorant they are about the subject.