Dyer: The fascists really are coming in the United States

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Godwin’s Law, coined in 1990, says as an Internet discussion grows longer, the likelihood of somebody being compared to Hitler or the Nazis rises inexorably toward 100 per cent. But once in a very long while, the comparison is correct.

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Patrick Cockburn is a well-known Irish journalist, writes a column in the Independent newspaper. Now Bob Fisk is gone, he is the best foreign correspondent writing on the Middle East, but he has always covered other subjects with considerable insight. Last week, he broke the greatest taboo in English-language journalism.

Writing just after the G7 summit, he warned: “The most dangerous threat (facing the world) is the transformation of the Republican Party in the U.S. into a fascist movement.” Almost every journalist alive has toyed with this analogy, then avoided it because it sounds like partisan rhetoric, not hard analysis.

Cockburn notes Trump’s presidency had many attitudes and behaviours of a fascist regime — extreme nationalism, racist hatred of minorities, disregard of the law, and constant denial of the truth — but didn’t include automatic re-election, so Trump lost control.

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As a result, says Cockburn, “two strategies . . . never entirely absent from Republican behaviour have become far more central.” One is a greater willingness to use or tolerate violence against opponents, epitomized by the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.

The other, more sinister and significant, is “the systematic Republican takeover of the machinery that oversees elections and makes sure that they are fair.”

It’s common knowledge Republican-run states are passing new voter-suppression laws — ID requirements, limits on postal or Sunday voting, etc. — that target groups, mostly ethnic minorities, that tend to vote Democratic. It’s less well known they are also going after minor officials who run election machinery and keep the system fair.

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Those people wouldn’t cave to Trump’s threats and prevented him flipping the outcome in key states after last November’s vote. Now, Cockburn notes, many of them in Republican-governed states are being intimidated or forced out.

One-third of Pennsylvania’s county election officials are already gone, as are many more in such swing states as Michigan and Wisconsin. Many have been replaced by “conspiracy-theory zealots.”

Republican officials who refuse to say Trump won the 2020 election are being removed by their own party. In a bid to frighten independent officials into quitting to create openings for yet more GOP appointees, Republican-run state legislatures are imposing heavy fines (up to $25,000) on election officials who make even minor technical mistakes.

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The aim is to create a situation in which Democratic electoral victories in Republican-run swing states, key to Joe Biden’s win last year, will be nullified by Republican-aligned officials.

“Authoritarian regimes across the world have found that it is much easier to announce the election result they would like than to go to all the trouble of suppressing votes and gerrymandering constituencies,” Cockburn concludes. “Once the electoral machinery is controlled, democracy poses no threat to those in power.”

If the Democrats don’t use their narrow majorities in Congress to resurrect some version of the Voting Rights Act and stop these abuses (this is my own opinion now), then the new electoral machinery being installed by the Republican Party will guarantee it wins the 2024 presidential elections.

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Fascists don’t have horns and a tail. They’re mostly ordinary people who believe they’ll lose something vitally important — their wealth, status, values — if they don’t break the rules and take over. Those who lead and mislead them are usually not evil geniuses, but ruthless chancers who see an opportunity to hold great power.

America’s changing demography means Republicans will lose almost every future election if they don’t seize power now. They aren’t planning death camps or world conquest, but they have become fascists and will not be good neighbours.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist based in London, England

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