There has, understandably, been much talk recently about the potential decline of the US into genuine fascism. Strict discourse on such matters depends, of course, on how one defines the political ideology of fascism. Dr. Lawrence Britt, offers us a fairly straightforward definition of fascism here. There is little doubt in my mind that even sticking with such strict definitions, the US is currently edging toward genuine fascism.
At the very least, the US is falling toward a difficult and dangerous situation in which outright violence (that is to say, not simply systemic violence) committed by civilians in the name of a perceived nationalism, is taking the place of 'normal' political discourse. Not only has Trump begun to encourage and justify violence by his supporters, his supporters have upped the ante and begun to talk about carrying guns at rallies and voting booths, and killing opponents as a matter of course. As routine as violence has become in a country like the US, even those inured to such matters should be sweating a little more nervously of late.
The great American writer Sinclair Lewis once wrote a novel "It Can't Happen Here," in which he attempted to remind his fellow citizens how easy the slide toward fascism can occur and how vulnerable American was to this potential slide. Regardless of what happens from here, political historians will talk for a long time about the events we are seeing unfold. They give us a strange sense of unreality as we watch, much like we had here in Canada as Harper slowly attempted to pervert the history of this country gradually and from the inside. But, as they often are, events in the US are more intense and radical than they are in Canada, and this is like the Harper revolution on crack.
Daniel Marans and Ryan Grim have written an interesting article on how the Trump phenomenon could fall into traditional fascist violence. "Extreme political movements like Trump's" they say, "often go hand-in-hand with street violence. But organized militias like Hitler's Brown Shirts and Benito Mussolini's Black Shirts don't spring up overnight. They evolve."
And, in retrospect, we have seen that evolution over the past fifty years in America. As the demographics have changed, we have seen diversity become the norm in American society and many whites have resented this process as they see their traditional entitlement and power slipping away. I think that there is an irony in this fact because I think that it has evolved directly from the US notion of a social 'melting pot.' Many white Americans had a vision that diversity would mix society together such that they would still live in the same society they had always known, just simply one that had people of colour still "towing the line" of traditional "white values." Ironic too is the way conservatives here in Canada have maligned and attacked policies of "multi-culturalism," because I suspect it has been such policies that have actually prevented the white population from feeling too entitled and waking up suddenly, as many have done in the US, feeling as though they have been "taken over." In other words, while many Canadians have grown gradually accustomed to a diverse society, many white Americans have been "taken by surprise" by what they perceive to be a suddenly changing demographic. I understand this process empirically because when I grew up in the US, it was clear to me that immigrants and "non-whites" were simply expected to "integrate" into US society. When I came to Canada still in my youth, I experienced a very different attitude. Though racism was still evident, I saw that there was a much greater expectation that there was strength and enrichment in diversity and that we could celebrate different cultural aspects and still unite together. This issue is exactly why, when Harper and his minions tried to stoke the flames of racism as a way of getting reelected, they were considerably less successful than someone like Trump could be.
What happens in the next few months and years in the US is anyone's guess. Fascism doesn't happen with a sudden coup or the election of an autocrat. It begins years before when a nation lets its anger, bigotry, and hate take over its political discourse, a tendency which inevitably slides into violence.