Let me try to make sense of what’s happening to the right wing in America. It’s as simple as it is chilling. American fascism is now becoming American Nazism. Yes, really. There is a big difference between the two. Fascism is an angry teenager, and Nazism is a bureaucrat organising a mass atrocity. Nazism is what happens when fascism grows up — and that’s what’s happening in America right now. Making matters worse, as I’ll come to, the Dems are fumbling in the background, letting fascism’s embryo reach Nazism’s adulthood with barely a whimper.
Let me try to explain.
A few years ago, when American fascism exploded — just as I’d predicted, as many had — it was just that: a nascent fascist movement. It dabbled with the doing the things fascist movements always dream of, having ascended to having its very own demagogue in the White House. Bans, camps, kids in cages, kids in cages in camps, raids, purges, Gestapos…beatings, disappearances, hate…all culminating a violent coup.
The coup on Jan 6th was a turning point — at least that’s how history will remember it. That’s going unnoticed by Americans, at least liberal Americans. But it was a moment of sudden and sweeping transformation for the Republicans and their base. Violence was legitimized. The Big Lies were acted upon. Brutality was normalized. A head of state allegedly led a violent coup that left five people dead (and counting) to overthrow a democratically elected government by trying to stop the process of vote counting. It’s a minor miracle there wasn’t a massacre.
Why do I say that was a turning point? Because after that, Republicans could have thought “we’ve gone too far.” Or “That was wrong.” Or “that was way too much, and we are on the wrong path.” And to be fair, a few have — a tiny, slender few. That is the exception which proves the rule.
By and large, Republicans — not just leaders, but everyday people — believe the “election was stolen” and therefore “it needed to be taken back,” presumably by any means necessary, right up to paramilitaries storming Congress and hunting down members of Congress to kill. Republican support for Trump has soared after the coup.
The reason that Republican leaders don’t disavow Trump is because they can’t. They’ll lose grass roots support. So they’re caught between a rock and a hard place — at least “moderates,” like Mitt Romney, who, it should be widely understood, are as still as conservative as say fanatical right wingers in Europe. The “moderates” can’t fully attack Trump, because they will lose their positions in the party.
What does that tell you? It should tell you three things, all of which are very, very bad. One, it’s Trump’s party now. Two, it’s Trumpism’s party. And three, Jan 6th was a moment that sealed the American right’s fate and destiny from a nascent fascist movement, to a now aspiring Nazi one.
What’s the difference? A fascist movement is a coalition of social groups. They are still debating goals and purposes. They agree on general philosophical principles, to use that word far too generously. You know the score. It’s the old, old Nietzschean logic: there are the weak and the strong, the weak deserve to perish, the strong to survive, and the strong must prove their strength therefore by dominating the weak. All that is broken down along lines of “race,” which is an artificial construct to begin with (after all, most “white” people are actually pink, and there are no “yellow” or “red” or “black” people at all — those are just boxes we force people into.)
A fascist movement is testing the waters. It’s disseminating this moral logic of the strong subjugating the weak among itself. It is busy developing this logic in mythologies and fairy tales that then go on to provide a real world belief system which justifies oppression and hate. It is toying with creating institutions to turn this abhorrent moral philosophy of strong dominating weak along racial lines into a social and political reality.
A fascist movement is like any other movement in that regard — it is vying for power, its philosophies yet to harden and coalesce, really, into widely held mythologies and symbols and belief systems, which then trickle down further into institutions and norms and values and aspirations and goals.
All that’s a little soft, but do you see the difference? Let me make it clearer. Fascism is Trump challenging the courts with ban after ban. Nazism is a group at CPAC standing on a white-supremacist symbol shaped stage, chanting slogans that are barely even thinly veiled code for fascism anymore.
(By the way, if you’ve been looking at the Runegate controversy, that apparently the CPAC stage is shaped like a literal Nazi symbol, and wondering, “Am I paranoid to think there’s a connection here?” No, of course you’re not paranoid. Symbolism is a huge part of any Nazi movement, and the burden of disproof should always rest on people who espouse openly fascist beliefs. If a Nazi tells you this clearly who they are, believe them.)
Nazism is what happens when a fascist movement unites, hardens, and develops. Develops what? Long term plans. For what? For things like Final Solutions. For “race laws.” When it develops goals and aspirations to seize total control of a society. When it hardens: when violence and brutality, to the point of assassination and murder, become acceptable to the rank and file, in a casual way. When things like violent coups become perfectly legitimate. When it unites: when things like violent coups attain mass support that reaches the level of almost perfect consensus.
Do you see what I mean? Feel a chill, if you did? Think about it carefully. Uniting, hardening, and developing is exactly what is happening on the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Republicans are not divided at all — all that stuff from pundits about a civil war is completely false. Republicans are united in a horrifying way: the vast majority of them support Trump even after what happened on January 6th. The Big Lie that the election was stolen has almost uniform support among the right: that’s unification. And what does “the election was stolen” really mean? That it was stolen from “us,” meaning the chosen people, the pure and true, the “real” Americans, to whom the soil belongs — and will take it back with blood, if necessary.
For just that reason, you see figures like Josh Hawley skyrocketing in fame and popularity. And the truth is that they are way, way more dangerous than Trump. That is because they are politically savvy and organized. Trump was a bumbling incompetent, by comparison. He wasn’t a good enough manager to get a large-scale atrocity done — just an emotive demagogue. Hawley, on the other hand, is ruthless, organized, and determined. He is the GOP hardening into, uniting behind, and developing into Nazism proper.