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Fascism Scholar Says U.S. Is 'Losing Its Democratic Status'

Historians in the News
tags: fascism, authoritarianism, Donald Trump, Jason Stanley



Since it was first popularized by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, fascism, and accusations of it, have been a common theme in American political discourse.

Voices on the left warned of fascism in the form of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bushconservatives have accused liberals of actually being the ones to embrace the far-right ideology.

Historians have noted similarities between Donald Trump and Mussolini since before the 2016 election. Some of the racial justice protesters this summer have said they are fighting fascism in the form of President Trump. And the presence of antifa — anti-fascist — protesters at some demonstrations has upped attention to the word.

But what is and isn't fascist isn't even agreed upon by scholars.

Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, offers one perspective on the word. He defines fascism as "a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of humiliation brought on by supposed communists, Marxists and minorities and immigrants who are supposedly posing a threat to the character and the history of a nation."

Stanley, who is the author of the 2018 book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, tells NPR's All Things Considered: "The leader proposes that only he can solve it and all of his political opponents are enemies or traitors."

Stanley says recent global events, including the pandemic and the protests, have substantiated his concern about how fascist rhetoric is showing up in politics and policies around the world.

Interview Highlights

On what has changed between when he first wrote the book in 2018 and now

Well if someone described to you, "Here's country X. The leader of country X claims that he is going to remain in power for many years beyond what is legal. He sends federal forces in to quell largely peaceful protests for racial justice in his country. His attorney general seems dedicated to him over the rule of law. The major political party that controls the courts and most of the government has, as their entire platform, devotion to him."

What would you think about that country? Where would you think the direction of that country was headed? I would think that country was losing its democratic status, especially when it had a history of voter suppression and the highest incarceration rate in the world as background conditions.

Read entire article at NPR

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