Slipping and sliding back to 1933 Germany

Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, when speaking of how groups within society evolve to extremist views said: Reactionary concepts plus revolutionary emotion result in Fascist mentality.

Over the last decade and, in particular, since 2010, while we scratch our heads trying to understand what the GOP’s end game could possibly be, a significant part of our nation’s electorate  continues its steadily march towards a social order reminiscent of Germany in the 1930′s.  

Why do I say this? Look at what is going on in NH’s House of Representatives.  One vital aspect of what Reich described as a society’s move towards fascism is the ruthless drive of its leaders to attain and hold power.

Speaker O’Brien and his legislative team exhibit a complete lack of consistency or political principle in the legislative initiatives they pursue. Their goal is to maintain their power and in doing so they are willing to abandon any principle to adopt any issue likely to gain converts.

The Gingrichs, Romneys, Sanctorums, Palins, Bachmans and DeMints (et al) of the world, with the enthusiastic support of their state level extremist adherents, feed on the politics of resentment, alienation, frustration, anger and fear. They speak to a constituency composed of people who are gullible, lack intellectual curiosity or the analytical skills to evaluate the merits of what they are being told.

The message, mirroring the same talking points created by Karl Rove-inspired advertisers and other media savvy people, does not have to be fascist in content or language…they realize that they are targeting followers who are willing and glad to embrace the underpinnings of fascism as a salve, an antidote to their fears and perceived needs that are inculcated and reinforced by those who seek to gain and maintain power over them.

Another way to look at their actions is to see it for what it is: a movement of extreme cultural nationalists who have combined economic corporatism and authoritarian autocracy masked by pseudo-populist appeals to overthrow their political adversaries. They deny their goal is to “turn the clock back” but instead argue that they are simply responding to the organically expressed will of the people.

Their return on investment is realized when their supporters blame our vexing societal problems on handy scapegoats – anyone and everyone that is different from themselves and/or does not share their bleak and cynical view of the world.

What we have is a GOP electorate actively seeking to deny many of their fellow citizens the civil liberties and rights that they themselves enjoy. They target working class and middle class people as greedy, lazy workers who should be stripped of living wages because they are undeserving. They embraced domestic and foreign policies that are diametrically opposed to their rational self-interests. They embrace the limitations placed upon their own freedoms in the name of “the war on terror.”

We now see the emergence of the very worst of GOP leadership agenda: the introduction of “religious” fascism.

They want their followers to believe the big lie that there are certain segments and groups within society that are immoral and a threat to the public well-being.  What better way to attain and maintain political power and moral hegemony in the public square than by claiming to speak for the “good, moral, and decent folks.”  Apparently, the best way to “justify” homophobia is to manufacture LGBT people as “the enemy,” and that you are coming to the rescue so as to rid society of the “scourge” of “the homosexual agenda.”

This new tactic has emerged in the form new talking points the Speaker and his lieutenants have introduced into NH politics. Now their focus in on enacting laws and regulations designed to justify the resurrection of segregation; the subjugation of women; the condemnation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; capital punishment; overturning the right of same-sex couples to marry; elimination of health care provisions, eradicating critical thing in educational curriculums, and arming their followers for the cultural war they imply is surely coming.

Adolph Hitler once said: The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.

Notice the NH House leadership almost always appeals to some virtuous (albeit false and unsubstantiated) reason for whatever evil they are attempting to perpetrate on the citizens of NH.  This unevitably happens whenever you have a group of like-minded extremists who occupy unjustified authority positions and claim credit for accomplishments, competencies and expertise they certainly don’t have or deserve.

Yet, in almost every leadership role in the NH GOP, there are individuals who have misrepresented their personal histories in order to create a more palatable image and persona for their followers. What is particularly troubling is that while we sit by waiting for their deceptions, lying and hypocrisy tobe exposed by the Fourth Estate (our historical champion for seeking the truth), the Press seems paralyzed and unmotivated to challenge them.  

As I contemplate what they are going to do next, I am reminded of Henry Clay’s warning to fellow senators in 1834:  

The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces it; and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments.

  • hannah

    If they are unable to persuade or coerce others to do for them, how will they be sustained?  That’s the terrible (it terrorizes them) secret they are hiding–they are incompetent to sustain themselves.  Like a babe in the woods, they need to howl until the teat magically appears.
    Think of the babe which survived in the rubble of Mexico city because it continued to make lots of noise.
    Speech is man’s key to survival.  That parental love and care are automatic is wishful thinking. That only the obedient survive because there is “no free lunch” is a hard truth that is better denied. But, that’s the bargain on which the culture of obedience thrives. Do what you’re told (work) or starve. And, if that’s the truth, how are the incompetent to survive?
    State legislators don’t even get unemployment insurance.

  • BurtCohen

    That’s what Santorum says about the president.

    Fanning flames of fear of The Other–we’ve seen this before.

    I am not one who conflates legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, but this framing by Sanatorum is already resulting in Jews being seen as The Other.

    Very dangerous indeed.

    • mevansnh

      in which Santorum was called Senator Sanctimonious.  I thought that was an apt description of the loser from PA who would turn the clock back centuries if he has his way.

  • Dartmouth Dem

    2012 Republicans support bad policies that undermine America’s (and New Hampshire’s) economic and social well-being.

    1930s-era Nazis put in place a system that enabled the genocidal murder of more than six million people, and launched a world war that killed tens of millions more.

    You don’t think this comparison is a problem? Really? . . . When we compare our political opponents to Hitler, we undermine our moral authority — not that of the Republicans. And we hinder our ability to get good people elected.

    Stop it. Please.

  • Dave O’Brien

    Let me think a bit how I would like to respond so I can offer a resoned argument.

    The thrust of the diary was about the drift towards fascism not simply taht the extreme right is Adolph Hitler or Nazis.

    By the way, it was not my intention to indict every member of the GOP – just those that reside on the destructive, extreme fringes.  

    • Dartmouth Dem

      I respect your sincerity. But when we call our political opponents fascists, or state that they are following Hitler’s model, we overrun the boundaries of common decency.

      At a campaign rally yesterday, Ron Paul said that we are “slipping into a fascist system.” He does it, too. You are no more right than he is.

      We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the birthers, the Ron Pauls, the people who who call us communists, etc. We are better than they are. We stand for economic justice and labor and civil rights and environmental protection and health care for all. We seek to defend human rights at home and around the world.

      Avoid provocative hyperbole. Focus on the issues. Because we win on the issues. And the Extreme Right knows it.

      • StraffordDem

        makes, DD, is not in bringing up the Third Reich.  I think that there are many apt comparisons and where are we in the arc of human progress if specific moments and actors in history cannot be mentioned.  I think we could have a healthy debate about this, but that’s not what Dave’s diary is about.

        Instead, I think that the mistake made by the diary is not seeing the differences between the classic totalitarianism of Mussolini, Hitler, or the Bolsheviks, and the potential for inverted totalitarianism today.  Prof Sheldon Wolin has written a very accessible book on inverted totalitarianism – the idea that totalitarianism can emerge from a strong democracy rather than a failed state – and that this can be protected by the mechanisms of our government (see Citizens United, for one such mechanism).

        The idea, then, is not that people are following anyone’s model, but that we slowly drift towards this fate through public policy and policy drift.  This moves us from what Dave refers to as “followers who are willing and glad to embrace the underpinnings of fascism…” to a more disengaged citizenry.  A citizenry that cannot imagine the big lie.

        As Wolin writes in his book, the brilliance of this power grab, “lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. A demotion in the status and stature of the ‘sovereign people’ to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of ‘popularizing’ power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.”

        It is impossible to have a discussion about totalitarianism without being in the shadow of Nazi Germany.  It is a classic example and Prof Wolin’s book makes many comparisons, although his book goes into much detail behind the comparisons.  The unfortunate result is the noise that the comparisons create.  

        Link to Wolin’s book:  http://press.princeton.edu/tit

        • Lucy Edwards

          for the resource, and for adding to the conversation.  It’s a difficult one, but one that we may need to have, carefully and thoughtfully.  Perhaps best to keep personalities out of it and concentrate on how policy interacts with the economy, since fascism is an economic system as well as a political one.  

  • kite

    He is not calling the Republicans fascists or nazis.  He is saying that their is a trend in the U.S. that could lead in that direction.  It is something i have worried about for some time.  Papers please.

  • JimC

    This is clearly a Godwin example (we all know what happened to Germany in the 1930s), and the problem with Godwining is that it shuts down conversation. It leaves them no answer.

    “Well, yes, we do want society to move right … but not that way … ”

    It’s starting with the absurd conclusion. Even if they pick the middle ground (less right ground?), they’re forced to do it in terms that make them evil. So what’s the fantasy? That some moderates will say, “You’re right,” and renounce Repulicanism?

    My motto lately is “Do unto the other party as you would have them do unto yours.” And I know how tired I am of being called a socialist.

    On the bright side, I actually think their tactics are starting to backfire.

    • elwood

      liberals, or even moderates, and the Republican right-wing?

      It’s hard to shut down a conversation that doesn’t exist.

      • JimC

        Dueling banjos, maybe. Or like when Frank Zappa had eight musicians playing in seven different time signatures.

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