It can happen here, again and again…

As militarized police in riot gear and armored vehicles barreled into peaceful protesters in cities across America, and its president emerged from a bunker to have citizens tear-gassed on his way to a church he’d never attended, holding a Bible he’d never read, many people recalled a famous saying often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Because Lewis’s novel is the best remembered of the many warnings against American fascism in the interwar years, he has latterly been credited with the admonition, but they are not Lewis’s words.

The adage probably originated instead with James Waterman Wise, son of the eminent American rabbi Stephen Wise and one of the many voices at the time urging Americans to recognize fascism as a serious domestic threat. “The America of power and wealth,” Wise cautioned, is “an America which needs fascism.” American fascism might emerge from “patriotic orders, such as the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution… and it may come to us wrapped in the American flag or a Hearst newspaper.” In another talk that year, he put it slightly differently: American fascism would likely come “wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.”

An American fascism would, by definition, deploy American symbols and American slogans. “Do not look for them to raise aloft the swastika,” Wise warned, “or to employ any of the popular forms of Fascism” from Europe. Fascism’s ultra-nationalism means that it works by normalizing itself, drawing on familiar national customs to insist it is merely conducting political business as usual. As José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of Spain’s proto-fascist Falange party, proclaimed in 1934, all fascisms ought to be local and indigenous:

Trump’s GOP is just the latest try.

RTFA. A longish read – as anything trying to explain a critical aspect of American history should be – it’s filled with examples that will aid in understanding.

5 thoughts on “It can happen here, again and again…

  1. Santayana says:

    “The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism” https://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/01/31/the-12-early-warning-signs-of-fascism/
    ‘Nazis didn’t fall out of the sky in January ’33’: The Holocaust Museum’s director on warning signs of fascism https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/nazis-didnt-fall-out-of-the-sky-in-january-33-the-holocaust-museums-director-on-warning-signs-of-fascism/2020/01/06/d97a2cbc-cf26-11e9-b29b-a528dc82154a_story.html

    “They knew that they knew what they didn’t want to know” (said of the residents of the German town of Dachau, located roughly 2 miles from the Nazi concentration camp during Hitler’s Third Reich)

  2. Pedant says:

    Robert Reich: “Trump’s Re-Election Playbook in 25 Steps” (Newsweek 6/29/20) https://www.newsweek.com/robert-reich-trumps-re-election-playbook-25-steps-opinion-1514185
    The Debate Over the Word ‘Fascism’ Takes a New Turn (New York Times Books 6/10/20) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/books/fascism-debate-donald-trump.html
    “On Tuesday last week, as police officers across the country deployed brutal tactics in response to protests over the killing of George Floyd, the former secretary of labor Robert Reich announced that his old vocabulary — crowded already with harsh words for President Trump — was making way for a new addition.
    “I have held off using the f word for three and a half years, but there is no longer any honest alternative,” Reich tweeted. “Trump is a fascist, and he is promoting fascism in America.”
    “I asked 5 fascism experts whether Donald Trump is a fascist. Here’s what they said.” Dylan Matthews, VOX (5/19/20) https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/12/10/9886152/donald-trump-fascism

  3. Niemöller says:

    “President Trump and top White House officials are privately considering a controversial strategy to act without legal authority to enact new federal policies — starting with immigration, administration officials tell Axios. https://www.axios.com/trump-executive-orders-supreme-court-daca-3d369f16-d9db-4e39-b8a0-946e670797b2.html
    The White House thinking is being heavily influenced by John Yoo, the lawyer who wrote the Bush administration’s justification for waterboarding after 9/11.
    Yoo detailed the theory in a National Review article, spotted atop Trump’s desk in the Oval Office, which argues that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 DACA ruling last month “makes it easy for presidents to violate the law.” The president has brought up the article with key advisers, two Trump administration officials tell Axios. https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/06/how-the-supreme-courts-daca-decision-harms-the-constitution-the-presidency-congress-and-the-country/
    Trump has said he is about to unveil a “very major” immigration policy via executive order, which he claims the Supreme Court gave him the power to do. In an interview for “Fox News Sunday” Trump told Chris Wallace that in addition to replacing DACA with “something much better,” he’s also going to be unveiling a health care plan within two weeks “that the Supreme Court decision on DACA gave me the right to do.”
    The White House declined to comment for this story.”

    “Trump Declines to Say Whether He’ll Accept 2020 Election Results in Fox News Interview” https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/20/politics/donald-trump-chris-wallace-coronavirus/index.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.