Biden's Semi-Fascist America
We live in an Orwellian world in which words have lost their exact meanings, or in the case of President Biden, any meaning at all.
Last Thursday at a fundraising event in Maryland, Biden said the "extreme MAGA philosophy" is "like semi-fascism." He added that if the GOP wins in the November elections, they will be "wiping out choice, across the board." It's not clear what "extreme MAGA" meant (was he saying that all MAGA philosophy is extreme, or is there some especially extreme MAGA philosophy?) or what sort of "choice" he was referring to.
It's common to hear the word "fascist" thrown around, especially by those on the left, with little concern for its actual meaning. This outworn usage is so ambiguous that it's little more than hitting the "dislike" button on Facebook. In this illiterate usage, "fascism" means nothing more than "you bad, me good," and that seems to be the level of a lot of Biden's thinking.
But Biden's remark should remind us of one troubling fact — one that is quite the opposite of what he intended. It is not that the MAGA philosophy is "semi-fascist," but that Biden's own progressive philosophy is, and that it has a long history of connections with European fascism and authoritarianism.
The origins of progressive thought lie in European political philosophy going back to German chancellor Otto von Bismarck and continuing through Italian fascist Benito Mussolini and German Nazi Adolf Hitler. In America, Mussolini was much admired by FDR and, in the case of German political philosophy in general, by Woodrow Wilson, a product of the German university model of research and a founder of American progressivism. In Wilson's case, he "had carefully studied the administrative practices of not just France and England but a small nation like Prussia and praised the ruler Frederick the Great who regarded himself as the chief servant of the people and his office as a public trust."
Bismarck in turn greatly admired American president Abraham Lincoln, a lifelong proponent of the American System, an early version of progressivism traceable back to Alexander Hamilton that called for consolidation of power in the federal government and for larger expenditures on public works and social welfare. From Hamilton to Lincoln to Bismarck, Mussolini, Lenin, and Hitler, and on to Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Obama, and Biden — the progressive vision is one of a Perfect Society engineered by an all-powerful and centrally planned State.
There are several characteristics shared by all fascist states. It is not just control of the economy, but also control of the minds of citizens to the extent that a majority either support the State unquestioningly or are rendered incapable of opposing it. In any case, no opposition is permitted, and the effort to stamp out the opposition begins in schools and continues in the workplace, media, and even religious institutions.
Under fascism, the individual is exposed to an endless bombardment of lies, all of it devoted to solidifying the power of the State. Eventually, individuals lose the ability to conceive of a democratic alternative. Cult leaders play an important role in this destruction of freedom. In place of critical thinking, individuals find that they can evaluate the State only on its own terms and with the information it provides.
The crucial fact that freedom of thought no longer exists — and would not be permitted if it did — is beyond the understanding of ordinary citizens. What remains is the State's promise to feed and house citizens at a minimal level in return for uncritical support. The State even expects gratitude for this degrading system of dependence — a system that is celebrated on any number of May Days and commemorative holidays, and attendance is obligatory. Eventually, even the suspicion of opposition is enough to earn that midnight knock on the door.
For President Trump, the strongest opponent of fascism in our time, that knock came on August 8, 2022. The FBI was once highly respected, but now, after its involvement in Russia-gate and the Mar-a-Lago raid, the agency seems to be an instrument of partisan politics. And the sort of power the FBI wields is typical of State agencies under fascism.
One of Hitler's first actions after he became chancellor was to weaponize governmental agencies, and create new ones, so as to control the media, schools, and the polling place (which of course were never legitimate after his initial success, and even then, he won only 37.4% of the vote at the height of his popularity in 1932). But Hitler moved swiftly to establish power: within three months of taking office, he established Dachau, at first for the purpose of liquidating political opponents. In Biden's case, in little over one year, he has passed an astounding $7 trillion in spending on top of a normal $5 trillion in annual budgeting, and this spending solidifies his political power and that of his party since much of it goes into the pockets of his political base.
The totalitarian state possesses unlimited means of persecuting all who oppose its power. That, I believe, is the point of hiring 87,000 new IRS agents, many of them licensed to carry firearms, as are agents of the EPA, Fish and Wildlife, and other federal agencies. Yet these 87,000 will probably never audit Hunter Biden or the Clintons — they will focus on small business–owners who tend to vote for conservatives.
In reality, we face a simple choice: an all-powerful State exercising total control over its citizens or a democratic capitalist system with limited State powers as intended by our Founders. President Trump earned the permanent hatred of the left because he had begun to limit State powers, and the left is determined not to see him run again in 2024. That was the point of the Mar-a-Lago raid — the sort of midnight raid so common in fascist societies as to go unnoticed.
It is frightening when an administration carries out midnight raids on the home of a former president and future candidate for the presidency and when a sitting president starts accusing the opposition of "semi-fascism." These actions are truly assaults on democracy, and they must not be allowed to stand. Conservatives need to speak up against Biden's attacks on democracy and to vote for conservative candidates in November.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Image via Good Free Photos.