A few years ago I was talking to people about the possibility of America falling into fascism. It could happen here, I said. You might need to be a certain age to understand what “it” means in that sentence, but to many it clearly means fascism, and in America that seemed impossible in most people’s minds.
Just so we don’t split hairs, I’m not going to use the term lightly. It has a history of both being overused and used to intentionally delegitimize groups who tried to call out authoritarian behavior. It’s also been debated a lot making it hard to define exactly. I mean it in the sense that a nation-state could be controlled by a political system with minority rule, a belief in a social or racial hierarchy, militarism, and suppression of opposition by force. Since Mussolini is credited as being the first to use the term, people discredit its use in the context of the United States for a few reasons. Namely, because our belief in capitalism allows for a decentralized economic structure and we have a belief in rugged individualism. Or the part we like to call freedom. Which the German and Italian fascist movements didn’t really have. But our fascistic tendencies share everything I listed above plus a disregard for labor rights, human rights, the protection of the environment, and usually any kind of robust social safety net. All of the gains we associate with a Democracy that allows its populace to put in safeguards for the common good. Plus, more than a dash of anti-institution, anti-elite, anti-immigrant, and all that stuff you can use to place blame and divide and conquer.
I would say that what happened in America and what happened in Europe are both the result of unchecked colonialism and capitalism.
Ok now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on. So even today with all of the talk about the end of our Democracy it seems that people can’t truly wrap their heads around what it could mean to have fascism in America. According to recent polls, It seems too abstract to even be something that could affect the upcoming elections. When Biden framed his reelection bid on saving our Democracy from authoritarianism Mitt Romney cynically said “I think the threat to democracy pitch is a bust.”
But what else can you do? Pretend it’s all normal? Yeah, we could do that, because we’re pretty good at that actually. Biden calling out reality is pretty outstanding in a country that’s used to believing its own, well you know. So what will fascism look like in the United States of America? We can look to our past for some examples. We didn’t call it fascism, we called it democracy, capitalism, and a lot of other names. But hey what’s in a name?
Hitler, the guy who is literally the face of fascism, even though he copped it from the Italians, studied America’s Jim Crow laws when he was looking for ways to control and suppress the German populace. I can’t think of a better example of pure authoritarianism than the antebellum South—a police state where the slave population outnumbered their captors by 10 to 1 in some areas. Yet successful uprisings were almost nonexistent. We didn’t call it a fascist state at the time because we didn’t have the term yet. But arguably the Civil War was the first time the Americans defeated fascism. And then lost ground as fascistic tendencies during Reconstruction brought us into the Jim Crow era. As mentioned, something Hitler studied.
We have plenty of more recent examples. Our prison system and felony laws disenfranchise tens of millions of mostly poor and disproportionately black and brown people today. Not only taking away their vote but making it difficult for them to access credit, jobs, and housing. Basic necessities to survive in our society. But we’ve started to address the laws that created that environment in the past few years. That’s been our dynamic since our inception. We have always both had fascistic tendencies and fought against our most fascistic tendencies. It’s no different today. Except for the fact that we have an aggressive amount of fascists fighting to end our democracy. More than we’ve seen in over half a century. That’s probably why people are having trouble recognizing it, no one in the past two generations has lived through anything like this.
What’s also muddying the waters is the fact that tens of millions of Americans are viewing our current fascistic movements as completely normal. They view the Democratic party and the American left as an existential threat and view these movements as the only way to safeguard what they believe to be the true America. And they’re supported by a well-oiled propaganda machine that distorts basic facts about pretty much every aspect of American life. There are thousands of videos of comedians interviewing people at Trump rallies and maybe that was funny for a while but those people never came back to our reality and now have their own. One where people who are in jail because of their actions on Jan 6 are political prisoners. Where Joe Biden is bent on destroying America. Where the political left is trying to indoctrinate their children and make everyone gay or socialist or something. And where their last line of defense lies in the Republican party and the MAGA movement. What makes this so difficult is that most of us know these people. They’re our family and friends and we’re endlessly frustrated by the fact that we can’t seem to shake them from these beliefs.
So what would the kind of fascism, or authoritarian anti-democratic government look like under a Trump presidency in 2025? Or better described as a Republican regime maybe? The leaders of our most current form of fascism. It’s so plainly visible it’s surprising how difficult it is for people to see. They’re literally screaming it from the rooftops. There’s even a website that outlines a lot of it, just look up Project 2025. Here are a few ways it’s going to manifest itself, and most of this will happen very quickly if Trump takes the presidency.
A cohesive white house with a fascist agenda:
Last time Trump was restrained by a cabinet that was undermining him. Or democracy loyalists who constrained his illiberal bent. That won’t be the case next time. They’ll hit the ground running with an agenda and the personnel to reach their objectives hard and fast. I wouldn’t be worried about another 4 years of bumbling around, but it won’t be that. It’ll be extremely organized.
A purge of our civil servants:
Tens of thousands of officials in every agency across our government will be fired and replaced with loyalists. So people in the State Department, Homeland Security, FBI, FDA, EPA, all the way down the line will be replaced with people ready to dismantle everything they deem to be in the way of their agenda. The Heritage Foundation has been compiling a list of loyalists and has a strategy for purging every department throughout our government. And a process to do it quickly.
Political revenge, or retribution as they are calling it will be rampant. Expect to see people like Representative Adam Schiff or Secretary Mayorkas charged with crimes and investigated. To the point where there won’t be an opposition party that either isn’t shouted down or jailed or otherwise sent to the wilderness. Did you see how Eiyse Stefanik gloated when she succeeded in getting the President of Harvard fired? “Two Down!” she tweeted. Expect a lot of that throughout all of our institutions. Anyone who represents the propagation of what they consider to be the liberal agenda will be attacked. Gleefully. That’s the sick part. They take a lot of pleasure in winning and they will gladly destroy people’s careers, send people to jail, and possibly, as Trump is already advocating, execute opponents of their agenda.
Their solution to our immigration mess is to stop it completely somehow and create mass detention centers on the southern border. They also plan on rounding up and deporting millions of undocumented Americans every year. Not only will it be inhumane and against our basic principles, but it’s also unclear how it will play out given we’re addicted to the cheap labor that flows across the border. Their plans were outlined in interviews with Trump advisers given to the New York Times in late 2023. But Trump also talks about it at his rallies. It’s one of his go-to applause lines.
Rolling back the New Deal:
Expect drastic erosion of our social safety net. This one should be obvious. Social Security, Medicare, welfare in general, gutting Obamacare. You name it, they have plans to come for it.
The Republicans have been trying to access all kinds of federal lands for oil, minerals, ranching, and every way they can exploit our natural resources unhindered by regulations. They have no interest in fighting climate change and will gut the EPA. This one should also be obvious.
They claim to be against foreign intervention and they plan on using that to win votes. But in reality they have plans to drastically shore up our nuclear arsenal. They view China and the southern border as our greatest foreign policy threat and they have plans to use the military on the southern border and to prepare for a war with China. In general they feel that we don’t spend nearly enough on our military.
Basically, think of all of it as the Republicans finally getting to do what they’ve wanted to do for the past fifty years. Without our usual checks and balances, there’s not much that will hold them back. Will there be fights with the states? With the courts? Will there be mass protests? Yes, of course. It’ll be a crazy period of upheaval. And they expect it to be. That’s why they also have plans to use the military to suppress unrest. I didn’t make that up, it’s been widely reported for the past year. They have plans to invoke the insurrection act.
What will happen is they will test every aspect of our checks and balances in an attempt to purge America of the socialists, left-wing radicals, communists, marxists, and all anti-democratic elements that are threatening America. That too is a go-to applause line at Trump rallies. Yes, it makes no sense. Marxists? It doesn’t matter, in fact, it’s better if their enemies are ill-defined. It makes it easier to label anyone an enemy.
So they’ve plainly told us what they plan to do. We should believe them. Will they succeed? They intend to and they have plans and personnel ready to enact those plans as soon as they get an inch of power. Will our institutions hold? They already have loyalists throughout our government, in our judiciary, out in the streets, in corporate boardrooms, and in our state department and military. That’s exactly what they intend to test the limits of. The next big test is the Supreme Court deciding if Trump can be on the ballot. We’ll see how that goes.
So this is our latest battle with fascism in America. Or call it what you like, but it’s always been here. The good news, so far we’ve usually won out in the end. Be it after a war or decades of social unrest and struggle or simply at the voting booth. Let’s try to win this one at the voting booth.