There Ain't No Fascists (Worth Ranting About) in America These Days
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
My fellow BIG THINK blogger, Mark Seddon, has written that Glenn Beck is "Goebbels" or a Fascist or Nazi rousing the masses up in a dangerous, murderous way. Palin and the Tea Party and so forth are all Fascists! If we don't wake up, freedom and decency may not have much of future. America today, apparently, is like the final days of the Weimar Republic.
I admit Beck's show is pretty extreme and bordering on bizarre. American labor unions aren't characteristically socialist or Communist these days. Not everyone who uses "social justice" in a sentence is an evildoer. And FDR and Woodrow Wilson weren't all bad etc.
But all my experiences with the Tea Party are of reasonable men and women genuinely concerned about the future of liberty in their country. They're much more hyper-individualists than anything else, and they believe their opponents are the Fascists.
Palin, for what it's worth, I view at this point as a sideshow who's "jumped the shark" and remains enabled by the "mainstream media" who want to create the impression that she IS the Republican Party. The goal: If people have to choose between Obama and her, then many will hold their noses and stick with the president. The mainstream media is all too aware she's the candidate who performs most poorly against Obama in the polls. But most Republicans no longer seriously consider her as a presidential alternative in 2012, for that reason and many others.
Beck, in a fairly strange way, and some Tea Party experts, with scholarly support, call the president a progressive and progressives Fascists. Their evidence comes from especially the 1930s and 1940s, when many progressive thinkers rejected the idea that individuals exist for themselves and have infinite value. They should be regarded instead as merely parts of the State or as expendable fodder for the production of some glorious classless society in the Historical future. From this view, Stailin and Hitler were equally progressives, and the many intellectuals seduced by communism were basically progressive Fascists. From this view, all totalitarianism--whether allegedly of the left or the right--is Fascism. And we have to add that it was the progressives of the early twentieth century who were so in favor of various eugenics schemes that everyone now agrees were shameful offenses against human dignity.
I agree that President Obama can't be identified with this Fascist form of progressivism. Whatever he is, he's not a Fascist. But neither are the Tea Partiers nor Palin nor even Beck (whom I'm not endorsing in any way). Our Republic is not about to be overthrown by Fascism of either the left or the right.
My conclusion: Beck is wrong to call Democrats these days Fascists. But too many Democrats are wrong in calling Republicans or Tea Partiers these days Fascists. There should be a moratorium on the label Fascist (when referring to our fellow Americans), because it really doesn't address the dangers we actually face these days. Remember, it was our president who so eloquently called for civility.
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