Fascism & #Fake Republicans

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Fascism is a strong word, one that evokes powerful emotional responses. But what is it, exactly? According to Wikipedia, it is a “form of radical right-wing, authoritarian ultra-nationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.

“Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader — such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party — to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.

“Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation. Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving national economic self-sufficiency through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.”

Fascism is also associated with a government that strongly favors business interests over those of individuals.

Some of you will be discomforted by equating the current Republican Party with fascism, but let’s examine that proposition critically. What follows is a catalog of abuses from present-day Republicans in America. None is sufficient by itself to make the case that the United States is on a path toward fascism, but when taken as a whole, they suggest that is the case.

Today’s #Fake Republicans like to beat their breast and proclaim their fierce belief in a so-called free market. To get the best possible outcome for society, let businesses compete in an open and honest economic forum. The preferred mantra is that government should not be picking winners and losers in the business world.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that point of view, but it ignores reality. Governments exist to act as referees in a game called commerce. The current crop of #Fake Republicans don’t want anything to do with pure free market capitalism. Instead, they want to render the referees powerless. They also want legislatures and courts to tilt the playing field in their favor, making it harder for competitors to get in the game. If they can get the government to throw money their way in the form of subsidies or special tax breaks, that’s fine with them, too. That’s the opposite of a free market ideal.

Exhibit 1: Bailouts For Nuclear & Coal In Ohio

This week, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature approved legislation to slash the state’s renewable energy standard and provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year to support bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear power plants, as well as some of the country’s oldest coal plants, according to a report by Greentech Media. The vote was barely over before the bill was hustled over to the state house, where it was signed into law immediately by governor Mike DeWine.

The law is opposed by the vast majority of Ohio residents according to a poll conducted by API Ohio. One surprising result of that poll was that more Republican voters (73%) than Democratic voters (67%) disapproved of the legislation. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote in a Tuesday editorial that the new law will “mortgage Ohioans’ future energy options to prop up aging nuclear and coal plants.”

What do you call a government that uses its power to shove a deeply unpopular public bailout to benefit a bankrupt corporation down the throats of the people?

Exhibit 2: The War On Meat Alternatives

Last week, Arkansas joined three other states with Republican-controlled legislatures in passing new legislation designed to protect the beef and dairy industry from competition from vegetable-based alternatives. Scheduled to go into effect next week, the law prohibits the use of terms like “meat,” “sausage,” and “beef” on products that are not made from animals, according to The Guardian. It also prohibits labeling of items like cauliflower rice as “rice” or soy milk as “milk.” Similar laws have passed in Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Dakota.

The ACLU has sued to block enforcement of the law, calling it a blatant attempt to stifle competition. In the complaint, the ACLU alleges the law is “specifically designed to disadvantage purveyors of plant and cell-based meat.”

David Hillman, the legislator who sponsored the bill, admits his intent was to “protect the agricultural producers in this state. You can’t sell a Chevy and call it a Cadillac.” Actually, Dave, the packages say “veggie burger” or “soy milk.” There are all sorts of burgers — tuna burgers, turkey burgers, as well as tofu burgers. There are all sorts of milks — milk of magnesia, mother’s milk, the milk of human kindness.

There is cottage cheese and head cheese, both of which make lousy fondue. Kraft makes something it calls “processed cheese food.” And then there is Velveeta. Oh, my. There really ought to be a law against that stuff. Does the great state of Arkansas truly intend to criminally prosecute cottage cheese or processed cheese food producers?

No one is actually confused when they see a product on the shelves called “veggie burger,” the ACLU argues in its court pleadings. In fact, people are seeking them out more than ever, whether it’s for health, environmental, or animal cruelty concerns. Plant-based meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger have become very popular lately.

“More and more, consumers are seeking out plant-based foods that can be produced without cruelty to animals or polluting our environment,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “But Arkansas’s lawmakers, kowtowing to the animal agriculture industry, have responded by enacting an unconstitutional law that makes truthful speech a crime.” Perhaps they think the good citizens of the Wonder State lack the mental capacity to distinguish between a plant-based burger and a patty made of beef? That would be a terrible indictment of Arkansas schools, wouldn’t it?

“When consumers choose plant-based foods, it is not because they are confused or misled, it is because they are savvy and educated about the health and environmental consequences of eating animal products,” says Jaime Athos, CEO of Tofurky, an Oregon company that makes a turkey-like product from wheat and tofu.

Exhibit 3: Tennessee Bans Single-Use Plastic Bans

dead albatross with plastic in stomach
Dead albatross with plastic waste in its stomach. Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Almost everyone is opposed to single-use plastics. Soon, the plastic waste in the world’s oceans will weigh more than all the fish in the sea. Burning fossil fuels is causing global warming but using fossil fuels to make plastics has created millions of tons of plastic waste, with more being produced and thrown away every second.

Today, the plastics industry, estimated to be worth more than $4 trillion, generates in excess of 300 million tons of plastic a year according to the most recent records — nearly half of which is for single-use items, meaning it will almost instantly become trash, according to The Intercept.

Between extraction, refining, and waste management, the production and incineration of plastics will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere this year alone. That’s equal to the emissions from 189 500-megawatt coal power plants, according to a report from the Center for International Environmental Law.

The city of Memphis, Tennessee, is considering a fee on plastic bags and a ban on single-use food service items. But the Tennessee legislature has just based a law that prohibits cities and towns in the Volunteer State from doing so. How on Earth can that be?

All credit goes to the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a lobbying group that fights restrictions on plastic. It is part of the Plastics Industry Association, a trade group that includes Shell Polymers, LyondellBasell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips, DowDuPont, and Novolex.

Exhibit 4: Koch Puppet Alert

The head of the American Progressive Bag Alliance is Matt Seaholm. He switched to the APBA in 2016 after serving as the national director of Americans For Prosperity, a Koch-funded front group that promotes the idea that corporations should be free to to do any damn thing they want without any government oversight whatsoever. What’s good for American business is good for America. End of story.

Seaholm positions himself as an enemy of environmental groups. He told an industry conference in Texas recently, “They hate what we’re doing.” The fact that such groups oppose what the APBA is doing just proves it “must be doing something right.” He added, “We wear this as a badge of honor.”

Getting states to outlaw local plastic bans is a priority of something called the American Chemical Council. Both it and the APBA borrow heavily from the playbook created by another Koch brothers front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which funds lobbying efforts to prevent cities and towns from passing pesticide restrictions and living wage policies.

In the past 8 years, the American Chemistry Council has helped pass state laws prohibiting local bans on plastics in 13 states using the ALEC model. Seaholm proudly proclaims 42 percent of Americans now live in states where local bans on plastics are outlawed.

And what is the ALEC model? It is twofold. Bribe current politicians with offers of generous campaign contributions if they play ball or spend unlimited amounts of money to defeat them in a primary by someone who will shut up and do what he or she is told once in office.

Exhibit 5: The War On Science

The alleged president of the United States is taking a page from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 by severely restricting the free flow of information. Earlier this year, he signed an executive order mandating the number of advisory committees to government agencies be cut by a third.

Those panels offer agencies scientific and other expert or independent advice on a variety of subjects and sometimes include representatives of the public, industry, and interest or advocacy groups, according to Inside Climate News.

Advisory committees have played an important role in shaping federal programs and policies since the country’s founding, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees the committees. “Since President George Washington sought the advice of such a committee during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the contributions made by these groups have been impressive and diverse,” the GSA says.

“It’s just another extension of this administration’s attack on science, an attack on transparency, and an attack on anything that can get in the way of this administration doing what it wants to do without need for experts to intervene in any way,” says Gina McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration. She says the cuts will dramatically effect climate change research.

“Climate science is complicated, it requires scientists who are experts in a variety of fields to look at all the lines of evidence that indicate that our climate is changing and that manmade emissions are a significant part of the reason for that,” she says. “And if we don’t continue to have real scientists engaged on these issues both within the agency and from outside, then we will fail to understand and take action on what is the most significant public health and economic challenge of our time.”

The war on science is happening in less obvious ways as well. The government, prodded by Trump officials, plan to move several agencies out of Washington, DC, to locations in the Midwest. In some cases, staff personnel were given only a few weeks to agree to uproot their families and move or be fired. The result is many of the scientists on staff today will be lost.

Laura Dodson, union steward for the Economic Research Service, tells The Guardian there is a small pool of people who are qualified to replace them. “If we were to hire 20% of all the agriculture economics PhDs on the market each year, it would still take us probably five to 10 years to get up to full staffing,” she says. Some of those positions are “extremely specialized,” with only a handful of qualified candidates in the country, she adds.

During the time it takes to replace the existing staffers, the government will be deprived of input from qualified scientists. The administration says the move is intended to save money and make agencies more responsive to the areas they serve, but many believe it is simply a ploy to further marginalize the input from scientists.

#Fake Republicans

Trump fascist pig

Just as in George Orwell’s novel, the United States is now ruled by a demagogue who lies with every breath he takes, punishes anyone who disagrees with him, and projects a hyper-nationalist agenda. Today’s #Fake Republicans, led by the hate-filled Mitch McConnell, embrace the leader because he allows them to pursue their own agenda of consolidating one party rule through aggressive manipulation of voting districts and voter suppression tactics. McConnell, with his “winners make the rules, losers go home” attitude, is to politics today what General Sherman was to the Civil War — an implacable foe who will utilize any tool to subjugate the opposition.

There used to be Republicans like Abraham Lincoln who sought to unify the country, Teddy Roosevelt who promoted the national parks system, Dwight Eisenhower who didn’t insult the members of the Supreme Court when they made their ruling in Brown Vs. Board of Education but used the power of his office to enforce that decision, Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Water Act and created the Environmental Protection Agency. Even Ronald Reagan, the darling of Republicans, took steps to invigorate the EPA.

Until the current occupant of the Oval Office came along, every president, once inaugurated, made an effort to represent every citizen of the United States, not just those who turn out for carefully crafted adoration festivals. The present day #Fake Republican party is anti-everything except promoting the interests of unchecked business and celebrating the historical dominance of white male culture.

The current president leans heavily on an appeal to patriotism, but he is no patriot. As union organizer Eugene Debs said a hundred years ago, “Every robber or oppressor in history has wrapped himself in a cloak of patriotism or religion, or both.” Trump has done both.

The signs that a warming planet is placing the entire planet at risk are all around us, but the fake Republicans refuse to lift a finger to address the problem. They are too busy making corporations into super citizens while diminishing the power of the people who are the nominal holders of the nation’s sovereignty. Unable to see beyond the next quarterly report, they are literally pouring gasoline on the fire and turning a blind eye to the consequences.

Politicians used to work for the common good, or at least pretend to. No more. Today it’s all about destroying the enemy. With the help of ALEC and similar front organizations, those who speak out are threatened with felony convictions that carry prison sentences of up to 40 years. Government workers who speak out are harassed, demoted, or fired. We have a “my way or the highway” president and a coterie of sycophants who applaud his every move.

America is embracing totalitarianism by brutally suppressing voting rights for anyone who is not likely to vote for Republican candidates. Polling places in poor neighborhoods are arbitrarily closed, voting hours are shortened, and new restrictions on voter registrations are added. If the people will not get out and vote, soon they will find they have lost the ability to do so and the consolidation of power in the hands of a few super-wealthy white males will be complete.

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The Death Of Liberalism

The favorite sport of #Fake Republicans is bashing liberals. To them, liberalism is equivalent to socialism, communism, and the giving away of government money to those who don’t deserve it. But liberalism is something else entirely. In fact, it the very essence of America’s founding principles.

According to Wikipedia, “Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights (including civil rights and human rights), capitalism (free markets), democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

“Liberalism sought to replace the norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of kings and traditional conservatism with representative democracy and the rule of law.”

In other words, the agenda of today’s #Fake Republicans is a direct challenge to the ideas that formed the foundation of the United States, the values and ideals that hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have fought and died for over the past 250 years. The weaponized Republicanism popular today is an affront to their sacrifice.

For #Fake Republicans, the inclusive society envisioned by America’s motto of E Pluribus Unum is anathema, something to be opposed with every breath and fiber of their being. To them, America exists for one purpose and one purpose only — to solidify the rule of wealthy white males. For #Fake Republicans, the ideal is not a pluralistic society — the so-called shining city on a hill — but an enormous white male dominated plantation from sea to shining sea.

To put it bluntly, today’s #Fake Republicans care nothing for the lofty ideals upon which America was founded. Their motto is “Liberty and Justice for some.” Just as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, in America today, some are “more equal” than others.

The Takeaway

We began this story with some of the attributes of fascism. We have seen that many of those characteristics are prominent in the way the #Fake Republicans of today govern. A pedantic president militarizes the 4th of July festivities to massage his already massive ego, vilifies his opponents, threatens any nation that will not bend to his will with punitive tariffs, and applauds ultra-right-wing nationalists who beat up those who protest his xenophobic and racist rants.

These #Fake Republicans have no interest in governing. Their only interest is in consolidating their political power. Let the world burn just as long as history records that in the United States, when the end came, #Fake Republicans ruled the roost.

There is only one way to stem this fascist, racist, misogynistic tide. Vote these people out of office as soon as possible. We may not get another chance before the cancer of climate change metastasizes and sweeps all humanity from the face of the Earth.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

Steve Hanley has 5411 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley