However long-lived a democracy — as in the U.S.A. — there always seems to be a segment of the populace prone to authoritarian rule. That this segment is highly religious is no accident, since religion is by definition, hierarchal: God reigns on high and we, his subjects, worship and obey from below without question. This renders the religionist susceptible to authority other than his own — a position inherently antithetical to democracy in which the ultimate authority is the people collectively. It is, therefore, not surprising that the authoritarian Donald Trump is supported primarily by the religious right. This group yearns for a leader, and the demagogue Trump perfectly fits the role. It’s no stretch to claim that fascism lurks in the soul of religion — a claim borne out by the plethora of dictatorships historically in primarily Catholic Latin America.
While currently activated by Trump, the fascist threat in the U.S. is nothing new. In the 1930s, when fascism was rife in Europe, it found its expression here in the “America First” movement headed by American hero Charles Lindbergh, who was enamored of Adolf Hitler. The movement was so potent that, in 1935, Sinclair Lewis was inspired to write “It Can’t Happen Here,” a novel that features a prescient counterpart of Donald Trump who, after being freely elected, enacts a fascist agenda, proof — fictionally, at least — that it can happen here. But in actuality, it didn’t.
Nonetheless, the question remains: Can fascism assert itself in the U.S.? The answer here is a resounding “no.” Almost 250 years of democratic governance has so formed the consciousness of Americans, that the fascist-leaning religious right remains a minority. In addition, we have an increasingly educated society in which the fascist contingent consists mainly of the non-college educated. Though they are many — and they form Trump’s “base” — they are not enough to reelect him.
Another ingredient in the political stew is capitalism itself which, through its tendency to accumulate in the hands of a few, creates a governing elite — which, by definition, has a fascist leaning. Were it not for his money, we’d have never heard of Donald Trump, much less having been saddled with him as president. Nonetheless, however much the capitalist elite, that forms the Republican Party, may dislike Trump, it will support him because he rules in their favor — e.g., he lowered their taxes along with those of wealthy corporations and he gutted environmental regulations that preserve the planet but thwart profit.
Yet despite their support and that of the fascist contingent, the Trump coup has failed. From all appearances, he’ll lose big in the coming election — and down with him will go the fawning fascists. A dark moment will have passed, and democracy will continue to reign supreme.
Andrew Torre lives in Londonderry.