By Rudy Barnes, Jr., September 3, 2022
Dana Milbank’s column on August 26 was half right. Biden’s criticism of Trump’s supporters as semi-fascists was correct; but he didn’t mention that Biden’s Democrats are as likely to promote socialism as Trump’s Republicans are to promote fascism. Trump is a nasty and narcissistic right-wing demagogue, while Biden is a nice-guy leftist socialist.
Fascism exalts nationalism and a preferred race; and in 2016 white Christian nationalism provided the catalyst to elect Donald Trump President. The toxic mix of extremist politics and religion remains a powerful force that favors authoritarian politics over libertarian democracy, and gives Republicans an advantage over Democrats in America’s polarized partisan politics.
Socialism is a step away from libertarian democracy to fascism, with more government and less freedom. Without a moderate third party, America’s polarized 2-party duopoly forces voters to choose socialism over libertarian democracy. Party leaders claim it’s the other party that threatens freedom, but both parties are willing to sacrifice freedom for more political power.
Both Democrats and Republicans claim to be populists who appeal to ”ordinary people” and accuse the other party of being elitist; but loyalists in both parties who promote partisan objectives at the expense of providing for the common good are political elitists. Those ordinary people who oppose narrow partisan objectives are left out of America's polarized partisan politics.
Fusion candidates can dilute partisan polarization by running on more than one party ticket. It’s legal this year in South Carolina but has a questionable future since it’s opposed by both major parties. Ranked choice voting is another way to minimize partisan dominance. It’s legal in some states like Alaska; but it’s not available in S.C. or in most other states.
Competition is needed as much in a healthy democracy as in capitalism. A polarized two-party duopoly limits political choice, and leaves independent non-partisan voters with little political power. That allows an emphasis on party loyalty over political independence, and less willingness to compromise, encouraging less diversity and more authoritarian politics.
Biden’s executive order forgiving student debt will exacerbate partisan conflict in the midterm elections. It will motivate the millions who receive debt relief to support Democrats; but since it’s an executive order rather than an act of Congress, with no national emergency to justify its massive price tag, it will likely be perceived as a leftist Democratic move toward socialism.
As long as the Republican Party is controlled by the radical right and the Democrats by the left in America’s polarized partisan democracy, extremism will remain an existential threat to America’s politics. It will take supporters of both parties to rise above party loyalty to protect American democracy from partisan extremism and provide for the common good.
Dana Milbank quoted President Biden with some harsh words about those of the “extreme MAGA philosophy” currently hacking away at our democracy. “It’s not just Trump,” he said at a fundraiser. “It’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something: It’s like semi-fascism.” Americans are taking notice. A new NBC News poll finds that “threats to democracy” has become the top concern of voters, replacing the cost of living as the No. 1 concern. The 21 percent who cite it as the “most important issue facing the country” include 29 percent of Democrats, and even 17 percent of Republicans. Rubio, writing in the Federalist, a Trumpist publication, responded with more fakery, and by portraying himself as the victim. “This cisgender white male reeks of privilege,” Rubio wrote of Wilentz, borrowing the language of the woke left. [Florida governor Ron] DeSantis has devoted himself to book banning, voter intimidation and restrictions on what schools can teach about race, history and sexuality — all while DeSantis, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, bashes “elites.”
Such relentless attacks on facts, expertise, learning and voting, like fantasies of violence against a nefarious elite, are tools of the authoritarian. At DeSantis’s alma mater this week, Yale President Peter Salovey opened the academic year with a speech on the current “assault on truth,” in which he quoted Hannah Arendt, revered philosopher of the pre-Trump right: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” This is where the MAGA Republicans are taking us. It’s past time to call it what it is. See
The Washington Post Editorial Board criticized President Biden’s national address on Thursday just eight weeks before midterm elections when he emphasized partisanship over partnership. “Mr. Biden was wrong to conflate upholding the rule of law with his own partisan agenda, which he called “the work of democracy.” You can be for democracy but against the president’s policy proposals to use government to lower prescription-drug prices and combat climate change.” But many conservatives — not just “MAGA forces” — agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. It was disappointing that Mr. Biden chose to omit that the infrastructure, gun-control and burn-pits legislation he praised had passed with Republican votes.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/02/biden-philadelphia-speech-democracy-midterms/?utm.
Fascism is a political system headed by a dictator in which the government controls business and labor, and opposition is not permitted. In Socialism, individuals own the means of production while rulers distribute power and authority among its organizations. Fascist regimes are dictatorships, while socialist nations can be democracies. In libertarian democracies individual freedom is emphasized, with government regulating oppressive business practices.
On fusion voting, see https://ballotpedia.org/Fusion_voting.
On ranked choice voting, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked-choice_voting_in_the_United_States#:~:text.
On Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy (8/10/19) see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/08/musings-on-christian-nationalism-plague.html.
On Musings on Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy and Debt in Politics and Religion (3/6/21) see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/03/musings-on-socialism-capitalism.html.
On issues that have caused many Democrats to be critical of Biden’s executive order to forgive student debt, see Musings on the Consequences of Forgiving Student Debt (8/27/22) at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/08/musings-on-consequences-of-forgiving.html.