Saturday, November 21, 2015

The GOP and the New American Fascism

The far right regularly accuses liberals and gays of being fascists and being a threat to "freedom."  The reality is, of course, that it is the far right and today's Republican Party that are the advocates of a new American fascism.  This fascism is dressed up in the guise of patriotism and protecting American values (most often so-called "Judeo-Christian values").  Hitler and the Nazis used similar tactics in the early days of their take over of Germany in the 1930's. Frighteningly, the Republican Party and the ugliest elements of its base want to take America down a similar road.  A column in Salon looks at the disturbing phenomenon championed by those like Ted Cruz and Donald trump.  Here are highlights:
It would appear that our descent into irrationality has not yet hit its limit. Yesterday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said that he would consider forcing Muslims to register with the government to be part of a tracking database. Here’s what he said:
MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard: Should there be a system a database to track Muslims?

Trump: There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases, we should have a lot of systems, and today you can do it.But right now we have to have order, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall and we cannot let what’s happening to this country happen any longer.

Hillyard: Is that … your White House would…(inaudible)

Trump: I would certainly implement that.
This took place at a ropeline in Iowa where Trump was campaigning. The question didn’t come out of nowhere. Earlier in the day Yahoo News had published an interview in which Trump said that he would deport any Syrian refugees allowed to enter this country under President Obama and didn’t rule out draconian surveillance measures to track American Muslims. He ominously warned:
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule. And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
The MSNBC reporter asked him why Muslims databases would be different than having Jews register in Nazi Germany. He replied, “You tell me.”

So, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president has once more upped the ante on the xenophobia that’s been sweeping through the right wing for some time. Mexicans, Muslims, it all the same. Gotta build that wall, track them, deport them, keep ’em out.

Unfortunately, the nervousness coursing though society after the terrorist attack in Paris has made this kind of talk sound less unreasonable to more people, and we had the Congress yesterday struggling to find a way to appease voters who were calling into their offices demanding that refugees be denied entry into the country.
The explanation as to why 47 Democrats would join in this immigrant bashfest is as prosaic as it is depressing. They fear being called “soft on terrorism.” A bunch of hysterical voters who listen to demagogues on cable TV and talk radio called their offices to demand they put a stop to this foreign threat. Rather than be leaders and try to calm the waters, they just went with the flow, knowing that this legislation is unlikely to become law, but wanting to be able to tell their constituents they voted to bar refugees from our shores and keep the children safe. (Well, the good American children anyway. Syrian children will not be so lucky.)

Why they believe this will work for them is unknown. . . . Voters who succumb to xenophobia will likely vote for the Republican alternative. Stoking paranoia is the GOP specialty.
And anyway, this is a soulless sort of politics. This isn’t a highway bill or a tax hike. It’s an issue of life and death. These are votes that should be taken on merit, not political calculation (which very often turn out badly — ask Hillary Clinton). And feeding this xenophobic beast in an environment in which the frontrunner of the Republican Party is endorsing government registration of American Muslims is a very risky business. This kind of thing can get out of hand  quickly.

The public’s fear of Syrian refugees may be understandable but it is nonetheless irrational, and political leaders have a responsibility to be rational at times like these, if for no other reason than to actually protect the nation instead of playing kabuki games for political purposes. 

[E]nabling Islamophobia is one of the most dangerous things our leaders can do:
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is pursuing a strategy explicitly designed to provoke hostility toward innocent Muslims in Western society in order to radicalize these communities and recruit them to their cause. Listening to the American political debate in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, that strategy may be working. Islamophobic rants are both morally offensive and factually inaccurate and play right into the hands of our terrorist enemies.
Hopefully, the House will calm down and the Senate will derail this bill. But more importantly, one hopes that Democrats and whatever sane Republicans are left will recognize that every time they feed this xenophobic monster it makes Donald Trump and his ilk stronger. And if they make Donald Trump and his ilk stronger they are also making the ISIS terrorists stronger. That’s a bad policy on every level.

No comments: