What Is Fascism?

In recent years lots of people have been calling lots of other people fascists.

During the Trump Presidency, for example, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and others decided after careful reflection that Donald Trump qualified as a fascist.  Trump himself seemed not to notice, and if he did, he most likely dismissed the label as just another pejorative hurled by his enemies.

In contemporary Europe important political figures have been called fascists.  Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and President Recep Tayyip Ergodan of Turkey sometimes wear the label.  In France critics suggest right-wing leader Marine Le Pen is a fascist, but she complicated the labeling by expelling her father Jean-Marie Le Pen from their political party because he was a fascist.

Fascist-labeling, to coin a term, has been rampant during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Vladimir Putin’s Russian government has long since ceased to be Communist, but in the opinion of some Putin is certainly a fascist.  For his part, Putin has stated that the Ukrainian government is dominated by fascists, an allegation Ukrainian President Vodymyr Zelinsky has ridiculed since, as a Jew, he could not possibly be a fascist.

Many of the allegations that somebody is a fascist amount to calling a person a bully or perhaps an autocrat.  But what is fascism? 

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No Exit

Prof. Rick Hasen of UCLA, an expert in election law, had an op-ed in Friday’s New York Times that argued that in the wake of the 2020 election and its aftermath, including the January 6th attack on Congress, “[w]e must not succumb to despair on indifference. It won’t be easy, but there is a path forward if we begin acting now, together, to shore up our fragile election ecosystem.”

Unfortunately, I disagree. The fact that there is no path forward unless X, Y, and Z happen does not mean that X, Y, and Z will happen. It could well be that there is no path forward. And no path is likely to be available until a significant portion of the American public fundamentally change their present views about their society and their fellow citizens.

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In an “On the Issues” Interview, Rep. Kind Warns of “A Very Perilous Time” for Democracy

Ron Kind says he wants to leave the United States House of Representatives after 26 years on a hopeful and optimistic note. But that is hard in the current political environment, he made clear during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Wednesday (Dec. 1, 2021).

The state of American democracy is “very fragile,” he told Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy. He said that on Jan. 6, 2021, the nation was “a majority away” from having an armed overthrow of the government when people stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Joe Biden from being formally declared to be the president. He said that if Republicans had been in the majority, there likely would have been a major constitutional crisis.

More generally, Kind, a moderate Democrat who has represented western Wisconsin in the House since 1997, said, “Unquestionably, our politics have gotten very toxic in recent years.” That is hard for someone like him., he said, because he has always tried to have good relationships with members of Congress from across the spectrum.

Continue ReadingIn an “On the Issues” Interview, Rep. Kind Warns of “A Very Perilous Time” for Democracy