The hopeful and dismissive thinking that fascism isn’t spreading—or is being exaggerated—is both ignorant and dangerous. Looking at what is happening politically throughout the country right now, we only need to examine Texas, Florida or Rhode Island before we realize that the disease of fascism has spread out among the entire country—and has been for a long time.
Fascism is alive and well in the United States, and it needs to be addressed for the problem that it currently is—rather than being looked at as potentially not quite here yet. This is not a problem to be pushed to the side or to be imagined that it doesn’t exist.
Robert Paxton defined fascism in his book, The Anatomy of Fascism, as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
The word fascist gets thrown around a lot—sometimes to the detriment of its meaning. Dismissing the very real rise of the aforementioned, nationalist militants who seek to create a violent ethnostate is dangerous and irresponsible.
For example, the current state of Ukraine exposes how nuance is essential when using the word fascism as a descriptor. While fascist groups exist in Ukraine, calling the entire country—or even Russia—a fascist state lacks any critical thinking.
The people of Ukraine have shown at the polls that they don’t agree with fascist ideologies, as the far-right received only 2% of the vote in 2019—the same 2% of Ukranians were estimated to be nationalists. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who won more than 70% of the vote in 2019, is both Jewish and the descendant of a Holocaust survivor.
When contrasting Ukraine and our own country, things become a lot more grim.
At the end of February, we had current representatives in Congress with a history of spewing antisemitic and other hateful rhetoric taking part in white-nationalist events like the America First Political Action Conference. When questioned about the event—hosted by white nationalist, Nick Fuentes—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed that she didn’t know the views of Fuentes or who he was before she spoke at the event.
At what point do the claims of ignorance to such things become negligent and potentially dangerous to the marginalized people of this country, whom fascists love to blame as reasons for their false sense of victimhood?
Despite her vast history of antisemitic remarks, I guess we are supposed to sleep better at night knowing that Greene got her committee assignments taken away, at least. How much longer do we continue to call these comments dog whistles, rather than the hateful and violent words they are?
While fascism is continuing to take and hold its roots in our government, we are also witnessing its reach into our school systems through the Satanic panic-like book bannings across the country, as well as the demonization of any teaching on the factual racist history of the foundation of the U.S.
Our school boards have been a focal point of energy for right-wing extremists, in order to push through book bannings and the banning of teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools, despite CRT curriculum not being taught in K-12. These bannings have largely become possible due to a national takeover of school boards across the country by QAnon conspiracy theorists and far-right individuals militarized by fake local news sites funded by right-wing, conservative individuals and organizations.
Texas has been at the forefront of the news due to their anti-trans rhetoric. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton compared gender-affirming surgery to child abuse, while Texas Governor Greg Abbott put out a letter instructing teachers and doctors to report the parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children, much in the same manner of the abortion reporting laws that went into effect last year.
Though both letters from the Paxton and Abbott aren’t legally binding, their rhetoric is incredibly dangerous and harmful to transgender youth, in addition to other anti-LGBTQ+ laws that were passed in the state.
All of these anti-LGBTQ+ laws—as well as laws that suppress voting rights and restrict access to abortion—are fundamental to the movements of fascists in their aim to disempower marginalized people in the U.S. through the violence these laws cause.
The El Paso shooter, the synagogue shooters in Pittsburgh and Poway, the man who murdered nine Black parishioners in a Charleston church and the man who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville at the Unite the Right Rally in 2017 were all white nationalists with views steeped in racism, white supremecy, antisemitism and other core tenents of fascist ideology.
The prevalent white-nationalism that is so intertwined with the fascism in this country causes an enormous amount of harm to the marginalized, including the communities of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+ people, women, immigrants and other groups who become victims to fascist violence.
The growing fascist violence is rooted in nationalism, white supremacy and false victimhood, all of which were the inspiration for much of the Nazi racial theory, as well as the United States’ racial conception of who was a citizen or not. Fascism needs to be treated like the disease it is, rather than being dismissed while more people become victims.