Listen To This Story
Reporters for Talking Points Memo obtained text messages between Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (formerly a Tea Party congressman) and 34 Republican members of Congress advocating strategies to end democracy in America by keeping Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election.
For example, South Carolina Republican Congressman Ralph Norman texted Meadows:
Mark, in seeing what’s happening so quickly, and reading about the Dominion law suits attempting to stop any meaningful investigation we are at a point of no return in saving our Republic !! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!
His misspelling of “martial” — as in “having the military take over the country” — notwithstanding, Norman was pushing to end the American experiment in much the same way Robert E. Lee tried to do in 1861.
This is not a coincidence.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows 61 percent of Republicans have abandoned Trump, but not because they object to his brutality or lawlessness; they’re just largely concerned that he can’t win elections in the future, in part because he may end up in prison.
This increasingly includes the 147 members of Congress, 10 of them US senators, who voted to end American democracy on January 7, 2021.
So, they’re jumping on the Ron DeSantis train, a man largely indistinguishable from Trump when it comes to supporting cruel, racist, white male-supremacist policies.
This is happening because Trump launched a modern-day authoritarian fascist movement, with the help and encouragement of Putin and a handful of American and foreign billionaires.
And the authoritarian-follower Americans who first embraced Trump are now looking for the next leader of that movement.
The big mistake so many political observers make is assuming that Trumpism is all about Trump. It’s not. It’s all about a 21st century American version of authoritarian fascism. There’s always been a strain of authoritarian fascism in American politics, as there has been in every moment of major political crisis around the world.
Here in the United States it reached a peak in the deep South in 1860 — leading to secession and civil war — and was defeated by Abraham Lincoln.
It came back in a big way in the 1930s with the America First movement, the most prominent spokesperson of which was Charles Lindbergh. Rachel Maddow has recently and brilliantly documented part of that in her new Ultra podcast series.
In Congress, nearly 100 members of the America First movement, almost all Republicans, gave speeches praising Adolf Hitler or offering legislation or resolutions to prevent President Franklin Roosevelt from challenging Germany.
The nation’s #1 bestselling author at the time, Nero Wolfe creator Rex Stout, compiled their speeches into a book titled The Illustrious Dunderheads. That movement largely vanished after World War II when a new generation of Americans discovered the horrors of authoritarian fascism.
And now, here it is again.
Arnold Toynbee, it is said, argued that every 80 years or so America repeats its greatest political mistakes, and must learn that lesson through mass death because 80 years is the rough span of human life. “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies,” he’s often quoted as saying, “the next great war becomes inevitable.”
Similarly, when the last Americans who fought fascism die out, the next authoritarian fascist movement is certain to emerge, leading us back to the struggle to maintain democracy.
- In the 1770s, Americans fought and died in the Revolutionary War against British oligarchs and their colonialism policy, that generation’s version of authoritarian fascism.
- Eighty years later, as that generation died out in the 1850s, the new authoritarian fascism of the Confederate South rose up and declared another war in America. Over 600,000 Americans died to defeat fascism that time.
- Eighty years after the Civil War, Americans again defeated fascism, both overseas and here at home, losing almost a half-million American lives but winning World War II and reaffirming the values of American democracy.
Politicians and newspapers who’d spotted the rise of authoritarian fascism in the old South and in the 1930s America First movement tried to warn the country about the dangers of rising fascism here and abroad. In both cases they failed and war broke out.
And now, roughly 80 years after World War II, here we are again.
The question this time is whether, in an era of mass media and the internet, that infrastructure will be used to strengthen and spread today’s new fascism, or will succeed in awakening and alerting the American people.
It isn’t about Republican versus Democrat; it’s about authoritarian fascism versus democracy in our republic.
The stakes are much bigger than the political futures of the members of Congress, or even leadership of the Republican Party.
If authoritarian fascism isn’t defeated now it will certainly tear our nation apart, accelerate the growth of fascism around the world, and end the American experiment with representative republican democracy.
Its support and funding from within the senior levels of American industry (particularly fossil fuels and finance) also means its successes damage humanity’s ability to deal with serious crises like climate change, disease, and poverty.
Just putting Trump into jail isn’t going to solve this problem; indeed, when Hitler was put into jail it strengthened him, turning him into a martyr. Some observers of the Israeli scene believe the same thing happened when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted for bribery and corruption and then won reelection.
This is a critical moment for American media to stop handling this movement with kid gloves and start calling it what it is: fascism.
And to begin demanding accountability and answers from the thousands of Republican politicians nationwide who refuse to repudiate it.
Reprinted from The Hartmann Report with the author’s permission.
Thom Hartmann is a four-time Project Censored-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of 34 books in print and the #1 progressive talk show host in America for more than a decade.