The Fascist Persuasion in American Politics

One of the most notable lines in film history, for those of us old enough to remember and appreciate, is found in John Huston’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre. The plot takes place in Mexico and involves some gold hunters including Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) who are confronted by clutch of banditos trying to masquerade as Federales and respond indignantly when proof of their identities is demanded: "If you're the police, then where are your badges?” Dobbs asked. "Badges!” came the response. “We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" At that point, a gunfight broke out, a squad of real Federales came on the scene, and the banditos were chased away. In the film, the banditos lost; in real life, however, they win all the time.

In fact, all one has to do with this great phrase is to alter it in a way that gets to the heart of fascism, allowing us further to avoid the definitional problems covered by Jonah Goldberg’s excellent treatment in Liberal Fascism. So it goes like this: “Congress! We don’t need no stinkin’ Congress!” And while we’re at it: “We don’t need no stinkin’ courts! Or laws! Or constitutions! Or public approval!  Or any of that antiquated, democratic garbage!” In other words, fascist rule is all about the state and the whims of its leader; there are no restrictions on governmental dictates, and nothing else matters.

Still yearning for a more “formal” characterization? Try this, from Mussolini: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” If Italy’s dictator seems too remote for Americans, let’s throw in something closer to home. This comes from an address by President Woodrow Wilson: “He [the leader] supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates… It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.”  Still looking for something more explicit? How about this, from President Obama: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation…  I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” 

In fact, speaking of that pesky legislation thing -- you, know, the Constitution’s Article One stipulating that Congress makes the laws -- when Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address showed his determination to carry out his policies without congressional authorization, Democrats in the chamber, who cared nothing about defending their own institution, gave him a standing ovation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the fascist persuasion in American politics.

But not according many (probably most) American pundits, critics, scholars, politicians, and party leaders, both Democrats and Republicans; indeed, who are they all fretting about? Trump! That’s right, America’s Hitler-in-waiting, rousing the rabble to Revolution! Thus writes Jeffrey Herf in the acclaimed journal, The American Interest: “The poisons he has unleashed and the taboos he has smashed with such glee have created a new, dangerous field of rhetorical violence and insult in American public life.” And the normally sensible Kevin Williamson in National Review:  “He advocates a presidency a thousand times more imperial than the one that sprung Athena-like from the brow of Barack Obama and his lawyers.”

Finally, there is the editorial board of the Washington Post, opining with crocodile tears sufficient to put the capitol in full flood alert.  Sobbing about its concern for the Republican Party, the editorial warns: “Their [Trump’s] playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies.” This is unintentionally hilarious. In fact, substitute the word “minority” for “white and Christian,” and you have a pretty good description of the academic and Progressive “playbook” for the past generation or so. Talk about ideological projection.

All of which occurs against the backdrop of Democrats having done everything they’re accusing Trump of doing or planning to do, by supporting a president who has broken the law on ObamaCare, the auto bailout, illegal alien amnesty, and Guantanamo Bay; lied habitually, violated the constitution on recess appointments, while supporting America’s leading unindicted felon to follow him in office. Just the short list, here. 

This is not to defend Donald Trump, who is boorish, petulant, needlessly provocative, and so philosophically shallow (not stupid, though) that he likely has little idea what a fascist is. The fact that most Americans don’t either is one of the great threats to the survival of our country and explains the popularity of the Obama’s, the Hillary’s, and Sanders’s in our midst. They are the ones, not Trump, who have shown contempt for America. They are the banditos who think they don’t need no stinkin’ congress, or courts, or laws, or constitution. And don’t expect the Federales to save us from them; indeed, the Federales in America are the banditos themselves and likely will rule the country indefinitely to save it from the possibility of any future Trumps. 

One of the most notable lines in film history, for those of us old enough to remember and appreciate, is found in John Huston’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre. The plot takes place in Mexico and involves some gold hunters including Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) who are confronted by clutch of banditos trying to masquerade as Federales and respond indignantly when proof of their identities is demanded: "If you're the police, then where are your badges?” Dobbs asked. "Badges!” came the response. “We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!" At that point, a gunfight broke out, a squad of real Federales came on the scene, and the banditos were chased away. In the film, the banditos lost; in real life, however, they win all the time.

In fact, all one has to do with this great phrase is to alter it in a way that gets to the heart of fascism, allowing us further to avoid the definitional problems covered by Jonah Goldberg’s excellent treatment in Liberal Fascism. So it goes like this: “Congress! We don’t need no stinkin’ Congress!” And while we’re at it: “We don’t need no stinkin’ courts! Or laws! Or constitutions! Or public approval!  Or any of that antiquated, democratic garbage!” In other words, fascist rule is all about the state and the whims of its leader; there are no restrictions on governmental dictates, and nothing else matters.

Still yearning for a more “formal” characterization? Try this, from Mussolini: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” If Italy’s dictator seems too remote for Americans, let’s throw in something closer to home. This comes from an address by President Woodrow Wilson: “He [the leader] supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates… It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.”  Still looking for something more explicit? How about this, from President Obama: “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation…  I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” 

In fact, speaking of that pesky legislation thing -- you, know, the Constitution’s Article One stipulating that Congress makes the laws -- when Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address showed his determination to carry out his policies without congressional authorization, Democrats in the chamber, who cared nothing about defending their own institution, gave him a standing ovation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the fascist persuasion in American politics.

But not according many (probably most) American pundits, critics, scholars, politicians, and party leaders, both Democrats and Republicans; indeed, who are they all fretting about? Trump! That’s right, America’s Hitler-in-waiting, rousing the rabble to Revolution! Thus writes Jeffrey Herf in the acclaimed journal, The American Interest: “The poisons he has unleashed and the taboos he has smashed with such glee have created a new, dangerous field of rhetorical violence and insult in American public life.” And the normally sensible Kevin Williamson in National Review:  “He advocates a presidency a thousand times more imperial than the one that sprung Athena-like from the brow of Barack Obama and his lawyers.”

Finally, there is the editorial board of the Washington Post, opining with crocodile tears sufficient to put the capitol in full flood alert.  Sobbing about its concern for the Republican Party, the editorial warns: “Their [Trump’s] playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies.” This is unintentionally hilarious. In fact, substitute the word “minority” for “white and Christian,” and you have a pretty good description of the academic and Progressive “playbook” for the past generation or so. Talk about ideological projection.

All of which occurs against the backdrop of Democrats having done everything they’re accusing Trump of doing or planning to do, by supporting a president who has broken the law on ObamaCare, the auto bailout, illegal alien amnesty, and Guantanamo Bay; lied habitually, violated the constitution on recess appointments, while supporting America’s leading unindicted felon to follow him in office. Just the short list, here. 

This is not to defend Donald Trump, who is boorish, petulant, needlessly provocative, and so philosophically shallow (not stupid, though) that he likely has little idea what a fascist is. The fact that most Americans don’t either is one of the great threats to the survival of our country and explains the popularity of the Obama’s, the Hillary’s, and Sanders’s in our midst. They are the ones, not Trump, who have shown contempt for America. They are the banditos who think they don’t need no stinkin’ congress, or courts, or laws, or constitution. And don’t expect the Federales to save us from them; indeed, the Federales in America are the banditos themselves and likely will rule the country indefinitely to save it from the possibility of any future Trumps.