“Unity is an anomaly. Polarization is normal. Skepticism about liberal democracy is also normal. And the appeal of authoritarianism is eternal.” –Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy
It got pretty lost amidst the other news of FBI arrests of violent insurrectionists and whatnot, but last week the POLITY scale – an official scorecard that measures and rates global democracies – announced that America has officially been downgraded from democracy to anocracy. There it is. We are no longer a democracy.
Umair Haque wrote a thoughtful and (I found) helpful article on defining fascism that I was surprised to see dated October 28, 2018. It could have been written yesterday, or any day after the attack on the Capitol. I all but assumed it had been. He defines fascists as people who desire a personhood hierarchy, and want that hierarchy institutionalized, violently if need be. He writes:
“Fascism is best seen this way. A person who believes that there is a hierarchy of personhood — that some people are more human than others, and some fall below the threshold of being people entirely — and furthermore, that that hierarchy should be institutionalized, is a fascist. A movement composed of such people is a fascist movement. A government managing such a project is a fascist government.”
Haque argues that most Americans were taught that the definition of fascism is essentially socialism (including social democracy), when instead it is the institutionalized hierarchy of personhood – such as, oh, slavery, or genocide of Native tribes, or segregation. His argument is that so many Americans are taken in by, or want to ignore, actual fascism because they were taught to shun public goods. I think he’s correct about some people, but wrong about others.
If you learn anything from my lived experience, learn this: those people know what a liberal democracy is and they explicitly do not want it.
They know socialism, including social democracy, does not equal fascism; it is simply the cover they use because they know it is socially unacceptable to say what they’re actually thinking: that white, wealthy Christians deserve preferential treatment from the government. Haque is probably correct that they’ve gotten some to genuinely believe in the whole socialism equals fascism fallacy. But I assure you, those upper middle class white mobsters and their cheerleaders do not. You will never hear anyone I grew up with complain that police unions have too much power, or demean tax breaks to large, wealthy corporations. They are fine with unions and government handouts, as long as that socialist power is allocated so as not to disrupt the social hierarchy they desire.
The best encapsulation I can offer is to recall conversations about the Johnson Amendment (the rule stating that churches and nonprofits are tax-exempt so long as they do not endorse politicians or engage in directly partisan activism). First, they complain about the rule that churches can’t endorse politicians. They should be allowed to. Okay, you’ll reply, they can if they pay their taxes. Well no, they shouldn’t have to pay taxes, they’ll respond. Then they can’t endorse politicians! Pick one, you can’t have it both ways. Here is the point in the conversation when it will dawn on you that they literally do want it both ways, and see zero problems with any inherent immorality or hypocrisy therein. This is the world inside their heads, what they believe should be the natural order. Get all the benefits without paying for them. Not pay taxes AND directly influence politics, no matter who it might harm.
These are people who eagerly desire an authoritarian strongman in charge, one who will dictate society to center them and their religion. They view things like oversight, governmental accountability, and constitutional checks and balances as stupid, cumbersome roadblocks to their wealth and happiness. When we Exvangelicals warn you they are trying to implement a fascist theocracy, this is what we’re talking about. They know exactly what fascism is, they actively want it, and their only concern is that said fascism benefits them: white, cishet, patriarchal Christianity.
More education, more information, is not going to move the needle with these types. They are educated. They simply do not want the same system of governance that you want. You will never change their hearts or minds. You cannot explain or love or compassion or de-radicalize them away from fascism. They felt this way long before Fox News ever came onto the scene, and they’ll still feel this way if the Fairness Doctrine is reinstated.
I do believe the data that shows a large swath of the population was radicalized by Fox News et al, and somewhat recently. I choose to hold out hope that a portion of those Americans could be swayed by deradicalization techniques, along with better civics education plus government policies that improve their lives. But that is not the group I’m talking about.
If you want to see democracy restored in America, liberals will have to come to grips with the fact that some minds will not, cannot, be changed. And unfortunately, those minds belong to a voting bloc with money and high socioeconomic status.
They know what democracy is and they reject it. They know what fascism is and they embrace it. Nothing you do or say could ever change that. All you can do is marginalize them in the voting booth, legislate equality for all, and hold the line by imposing social and financial consequences.
Grapefruit and Earl Grey Bread
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 grapefruit (I used ruby red)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ⅔ cup fresh grapefruit juice (about 1 medium grapefruit)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 1 tbs loose Earl Grey tea, from about 2-3 bags
- 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or softened butter.
- Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla, and grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are incorporated and uniform in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. Add the baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then beat well to incorporate completely. Add the grapefruit juice and beat to incorporate.
- Now add the flour and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the sour cream and beat until just incorporated.
- Scoop about a quarter of the batter into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the tea leaves and cocoa powder and mix gently with a rubber spatula until uniform.
- Pour or scoop half the plain grapefruit batter into your prepared baking pan. Top that with about half of the Earl Grey tea batter. Now add the remaining half of the plain grapefruit batter, then top it with the remaining Earl Grey tea batter. Use a butter knife to swirl the batters together, using a figure eight motion.
- Bake for about 60 to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted sideways into the center comes out clean, and the top of the bread is springy when lightly tapped. The sides will start pulling away from the edges when it’s done as well. Let the bread cool completely, then carefully transfer it to a cutting board or serving plate. Use a serrated knife to slice it and serve. It will keep several days tightly wrapped in aluminum foil.