To say we live in absurd times is perhaps the greatest of understatements. Today, I have seen flurry of posts about the Trump/Biden debate. “Biden won the debate” or “Trump trounced Biden” or “Trump was mess” festooned my social media newsfeed. Was it really a debate? I confess, I did not watch it in its entirety, but from what I saw I would dispute that designation.
I have also seen people write “Biden is a socialist” which honestly made me laugh, as well as give me a headache. I mean, this is 2020. How can an adult think that a person who is beloved by Wall Street is a socialist? How can an adult think that the Affordable Care Act, which is a financial boon to insurance companies, even remotely resembles a socialist program? Or that he consistently refuses to consider universal healthcare? Or boasts about “beating the socialist?” Biden isn’t even a social democrat like most politicians in the EU, or New Zealand, or Canada.
And this gets to the root of the problem. Most Americans cannot really define terms like socialism, democratic socialism, communism, anarchism, capitalism, authoritarianism or fascism. Most do not understand the spectrum of politics, from far left to centrist to far right, or that the political climate in the US, on both sides of the aisle, has steadily moved to the right over the past several decades. When you cannot define something, you become easy prey for influential or powerful political players to manipulate. But this doesn’t even begin to capture the gravity of this historical moment.
When Trump was asked last night to condemn white supremacy and rightwing militias he said the real problem was Antifa and the left. He also proclaimed: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Right after this, Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs shared a PB logo with the president’s words on it.
The Proud Boys are a far right, fascist organization founded by the racist, anti-Muslim, misogynistic, antisemitic, English born Canadian, Gavin McInnes. They are infamous for their threats, intimidation, and supremacist ideology. Trump is a huckster. A snake oil salesman. And his only interest is self interest. But that does not mean that his appeal to fascism is not real. His self interest is in remaining president, emperor of the flailing American Empire, by any means available to him.
Fascism thrives on weak political responses of the opposition, plays on nationalism, and taps into the irrational fears of a segment of society who perceive that they are under threat. Whether or not this is true does not matter. And Trump has provided a segment of white American men a voice for their unhinged fantasies of supremacy. These men, and many women, are in the country’s police departments. They are in the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. And the fact that many others are armed and organized into militias should keep anyone with even a scant grasp of history up at night.
If they are “standing by,” we should be doing the same.
Kenn Orphan September 2020