Sunday, July 22, 2007

The glass is one third empty.

I’ve been thinking lately about the 27-30% (or so) of Americans telling pollsters that they approve of George Bush’s performance as President. In a “normal” case of a bad administration, it would seem naïve and foolish to spend much time considering this. There have always been these kinds of divisions in public opinion. I have known myself to be part of such a minority many times—during the Reagan years it felt like a truly beleaguered one.

What makes this situation seem unusual to me is the sheer magnitude of failure represented by Bush. From Iraq to New Orleans and everywhere in between, the Bush regime has corrupted everything they’ve touched. It seems futile to restate the many crimes and abuses committed—illegal eavesdropping, torture, kidnapping, using signing statements to avoid the law, the Plame affair, trying to sell our ports to Dubai, the “unitary executive,” trashing Social Security, trashing the environment, the Gannon affair, giving high government jobs to incompetent fundamentalist lackeys, using the Justice Dept. to suppress voting, bankrupting our future for a murderous, failed foreign adventure—and there’s so much more. Even on the most superficial level, Bush’s deranged and juvenile statements, the lawless and arrogant mendacity of Cheney (whose attempt to conceal the circumstances surrounding his shooting of a man in the face is the very least of his crimes), and the grotesque antics of the rest of the gang of liars—Rove, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Rice, and so on—should be enough to make any partially awake citizen give pause.

And yet after all this, there are Americans who still approve of the job Bush is doing—if we are to believe the polls, somewhere around 27-30% of us. I would like to attribute most of this to sheer ignorance. I don’t doubt that a good chunk of this group consists of the fabled mass of hypnotized sheep who believe that Fox News is actually news, or (more likely) simply don’t pay attention to news at all.

I would prefer to think that’s the reason, simply because ignorance is something that can be treated. By sharing our views, by listening, and by making more information available, more people can become more informed. This is the job that the alternative media is trying to do today, and I would never want to underestimate the progress that has actually been made.

But I don’t think we can attribute all of this 27-30% to ignorance, or even most of it. It seems quite clear that there are many who believe the way they do not because they are misguided and manipulated sheep, but because they really believe in the message of war, hatred, and domination of the world preached by Bush and the rightist Republicans.

The situation today is analogous to that of having the Nazi Party, or the Ku Klux Klan, managing to win national office and thereby gaining control of the executive branch. The analogy is of course not exact—the current regime places looting and personal enrichment above most purely ideological concerns, for one thing. And in the case of Nazi Germany, the approval ratings were extremely high, so the extent and rapidity of the restrictions placed on human freedom, and the eventual murder campaigns, were much greater than we have now.

I realize that many people are turned off by such analogies. In this case I feel the need to make it because of one crucial aspect of the Bush-Republican movement. It has no interest in maintaining Constitutional freedoms, or in the democratic process of governance. This is a cautious, negative way of stating that Bush and company are actively committed to dismantling the Bill of Rights, and to establising a Presidential power unfettered by any law or standard other than their own political will. Everything they have done, every statement, policy, and initiative, has served the aim of absolute executive power. There has been no compromise. They will defy Congressional subpoenas, while finding ways to ignore and subvert any laws that Congress may pass which they consider a threat to their authority. Their arguments amount to claiming dictatorship over the United States, with perpetual war used as a pretext to refute any legal challenges. That is the simple truth, and everything that this administration has done falls perfectly within this paradigm, while alternative theories fail to adequately explain its behavior.

So in this sense I think it is accurate to characterize the Bush regime as fascist in nature. And the trouble with fascism is that you can’t make deals with it. “No appeasement”—that Cold War rallying cry of the right wing—in fact reveals the only possible response to the right wing movement itself. To think that you can coddle fascism, or somehow use the legislative process to disarm it, is an illusion, one which the Democrats have been too slow in discovering. It has to be rooted out of the body politic by any means necessary. When I’m living in a country where the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan run the executive, I don’t bother to give serious consideration to anything that the agents of the executive may say. What they say is always already false. They are inherently untrustworthy because their object is the destruction of American freedom and the establishment of dictatorship. No one now says of the Germans, “They did the right thing by respecting Hitler, since he was their commander-in-chief, after all.” With hindsight we decry the fact that so few fought back. We even wish someone had assassinated Hitler, although this ignores the truth that Nazism was an entire movement and not just one man.

But hindsight makes everything seem simple. Prior to World War II, it didn’t seem that way. At the time, many conservatives in this country liked Hitler. The point is, you can’t see all the destructive consequences of fascism when it first starts. It may just seem like “strong leadership.” But it is during these earlier times that one needs to recognize the threat for what it is and take action.

In my view, therefore, a large percentage of those 27-30% that tell pollsters they approve of Bush are fascists. They don’t call themselves that, of course, or think of themselves that way. But their views and actions coincide with a policy of despotism.

I don’t say this to declare war on a group of people, and certainly not violence of any kind. My intent is to warn against complacency, and against underestimating the threat. I know that I probably sound too extreme to some, but all you have to do is visit any number of right-wing websites, or listen briefly to right-wing radio, and you will see that these people have no compunction about labeling you as a traitor and an enemy. Many of them would not hesitate to sanction your murder, and the murder of your loved ones, if you demonstrated opposition to their movement. I believe we must recognize this group that has seized power in our country as an illegal and subversive movement, without legitimacy of any kind. It is a criminal fascist movement and must be characterized that way, not as a normal “business as usual” political phenomenon. No appeasement.


pygalgia said...

A truly great post. Thank you.

fiddler said...

A British journalist recently went right into the lion's den and gives some fascinating insights into the minds of these people:

(Apologies if you've read that already.)

Just a small nit I have to pick:
"Trying to sell our ports to Dubai" is IMO a populist, xenophobic, even demagogic way to frame that affair. I understand that, naturally enough, the commercial aspects of American ports are managed by commercial private companies, and that this (and only this) business part of some ports was to be sold to a Dubai company (state-controlled, but so what). The concerns about the sale one could hear trumpeted about were about port security however, which is, and would have continued to be, in American hands.

I, and I suspect a goodly part of my fellow Old Europeans were rather bewildered then that liberal Americans would suddenly join the chorus of how Arabs are, by virtue of being, well, Arabs, a risk to national, err, Homeland security.

Chris Dashiell said...

Re: Dubai. Fiddler's point is well taken. Selling off the country to the highest bidder is what I'm referring to, not some idea that Arabs are inherently untrustworthy. Then there's the breathtaking assumption that you can rattle on about the Islamic threat ad nauseum and at the same time try to pull the Dubai deal off without batting an eye. Notwithstanding the right-wing protest at the affair, it demonstrates that the rhetoric around the so-called "war on terror" is a thorough falsehood.

Dick said...

We must remember that Bush is not the only nor the first American president to violate Libertarian principles. Abraham Lincoln centralized executive power to win the Civil War. The Monroe Doctrine was an unjustified intervention in the internal affairs of other American nations. Manifest Destiny was a ruthless persecution of the American Indians. When we repudiate Bush, we are repudiating over a century of our history. Warmongering became respectable through the Mexican War and the Spanish American war. We are the imperialists that the socialist nations have often accused us of being. Wake up America, read your history, learn who we, as a nation, really are.