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The fascists among us

Crowds gather for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Crowds gather for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

As 2022 has begun its 365-day stay in the American house, it’s time to focus on the most important threat in the coming year: the fascist assault on democracy.

The historically literate no longer holster the f-word to describe the 21 million Americans who would reinstall Donald Trump via violence. Trump’s sock puppets may prattle about a “ragtag band of misfits” that stormed the Capitol last Jan. 6. But “misfits” don’t boast a cheering section that could populate Massachusetts three times over. And only those of stunted vocabulary use “ragtag” (“untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character”) to describe the insurrection’s tidy, organized arm: Trump’s behind-the-scenes machinations to steal the election procedurally.

Fascists justify bloodshed over ballots on grounds that their Dear Leader was robbed in 2020. That belief was adjudicated as lunatic in 60 court cases, sometimes by Trump judges, and by multiple, even Trump-friendly, election probes. But “to the true believer, the lack of solid evidence simply confirms how well hidden the rigging was.”

Take the retired, pro-Trump firefighter who told The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman that the insurrection was the work of Antifa, U.S. Special Forces, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell. His evidence for what would be history’s most bizarre alliance came from a retired general, who said the mob “looked like” Special Forces, and that a square shape concealed under one rioter’s coat could only be Pelosi’s laptop.

If Rip Van Winkle awoke amid such fact-free superstition, he’d swear he was watching the Salem witch trials.

Generals who didn’t disgrace the uniform warn that 2024’s presidential election could trigger another uprising, aided by traitors within the military. Few Americans bother with New Year’s resolutions these days. But thwarting wannabe Mussolinis, military and civilian, requires real patriots, as opposed to MAGA poseurs, to resolve the following in 2022.

Their utopia is a white-nationalist America, secured at gunpoint.

Resolved: to recognize that the enemy may sit next to you at the Rotary lunch. Gellman, who researched anti-democratic violence globally, says its practitioners tend to be men in their 20s and 30s, poorly educated and unemployed. But the Jan. 6 insurrectionists had a mean age of 42, when most people are paying the mortgage, not breaking and entering into federal buildings. They were white-collar and schooled.

So what put them in a traitorous funk? “They are much more likely to come from a county in the United States back home in which the white population is in decline,” Gellman says. Similar racial fear infects the 21 million violence-supporters, who “agree overwhelmingly with the proposition that the rights of people of color are exceeding those of whites in today’s society.”

Whites own more wealth than Blacks, live in healthier neighborhoods, and are less likely to be killed by police for such heinous crimes as traffic stops or to be busted for drug abuse, despite using at similar rates to Blacks. So anxiety that woke stupidity (condemned by smart progressives) somehow jeopardizes white equality is akin to believing that a fat man in red came down chimneys last month. But it’s in keeping with fascism’s historical racism.

Resolved: to support unforgiving law enforcement and defense measures when fascist belief crosses into criminal deeds. Seven hundred-plus face charges for Jan. 6. The military will discipline service members who “like” extremist social media posts. Those military men worried about anti-democratic revolt within the ranks call for intelligence-gathering to ferret out mutineers and propagandists of disinformation and for detailed planning for the next insurrection.

Prosecutors meanwhile should take a cue from Karl Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, who has reached into the past for an anti-fascist hammer. Racine exhumed the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act to sue the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for their roles in planning and executing Jan. 6. President Ulysses S. Grant signed and used the Act to exterminate the KKK.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland should heed Racine’s example. The facts and precedent justify charges of seditious conspiracy against the insurrectionists. If Garland needs a back brace, stiffening his spine to unleash legal hell on the conspirators, Joe Biden should give him one.

Resolved: If Republicans stall federal legislation enforcing voting rights, support federal and private lawsuits against GOP state laws that torpedo those rights. Many such state laws empower partisan legislators to hijack election oversight and discard even fair results. Superseding federal legislation may be doomed. So anti-fascists should cheer Garland’s suit against Georgia’s voting restrictions.

Whatever public concern galvanizes you — climate change, the pandemic, poverty —it should take a back seat to stopping Trump-y fascists, whose hero was indifferent or hostile to solutions for those matters. Their utopia is a white-nationalist America, secured at gunpoint. Even Trump acolytes who haven’t divorced reality recognize a fascist bridge too far. Hence Donald Trump Jr.’s frantic text to his dad’s chief of staff as people were dying at the insurrection: “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP.”

Not for nothing did “It Can’t Happen Here,” Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novelized, fascist dystopia, suggesting it damn well could happen here, become a bestseller during Trump’s reign. That suggests the last resolution.

Resolved: come Nov. 8, to vote against any GOP quislings who refuse to condemn their party’s demons or who mouth whataboutism diversions.

So that it won’t happen here.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rich Barlow Cognoscenti contributor
Rich Barlow writes for BU Today, Boston University's news website.

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