According to the corporate media, the West seems to be having a fascist moment. Italians just voted for Giorgia Meloni, who is apparently the reincarnation of Benito Mussolini because she opposes mass immigration and supports the family. In Sweden, similarly “fascist” candidate Jimmie Akesson received a large number of votes after promising to crack down on the surge in rape and terrorism in his country. And here in the United States, Joe Biden and his advisors routinely denounce semi-fascist MAGA Republicans for their ongoing criticism of his administration.
Indeed, leftists use the smear “fascist” so often that the word has become completely untethered from its original meaning. Much like the term “racist,” “fascist” is simply shorthand for anyone who opposes leftism. Thus, a black American like Larry Elder who decries racism in his books and documentaries is deemed racist, and a democratically elected Catholic mother, Meloni, who has repeatedly denounced fascism, is nonetheless a terrible fascist.
However, unlike the word “racist,” which one can at least imagine today, the term “fascist” feels ridiculously anachronistic. Whereas one can imagine curb-stomping skinheads from American History X or modern dictators performing “ethnic cleansing” like Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, it’s difficult to mentally picture a bona fide fascist.
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The term has its roots in Mussolini’s Italy and is also used to describe the Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. These leaders wore military uniforms, conducted large military marches, and spoke to homogenous crowds of people who were forced to applaud. How does anyone today labeled a fascist come even remotely close to this?
Of course, one could go beyond aesthetics and consider the actual meaning of fascism, an ideology that calls for centralizing all political and economic power, silencing and punishing dissent, and endorsing a blood-and-soil nationalism. Although leftists like to frame fascism as diametrically opposed to communism, the only difference is their respective stance on nationalism. Otherwise, they have almost identical agendas, make the same appeals, and make the same moves once in power. Dinesh D’Souza makes this point in United States of Socialism about the National Socialists (aka the Nazis) in Germany, whose commitment was first to socialism and then nationalism.
By this definition, the closest contemporary representation of fascism is China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls China’s government and main industries. It enforces conformity through censorship, surveillance, social credits, religious persecution, and concentration camps. And there’s plenty of nationalist propaganda in its media and schooling to make all citizens compliant. Because of the way China brands itself, many people in the West are convinced that China simply can’t be fascist—as though this makes it okay to do business with them and overlook their human rights abuses.
The Left cannot help but admire the CCP, nor can they help imitating their tactics. After all, one simply has to circumvent the constitutional order to get things done. Therefore, Democrats have weaponized law enforcement to punish dissent, persecute political opponents, and censor speech. Their policies have also fostered the consolidation of all the main economic sectors (Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Agriculture, etc.), making it much easier to enforce social policy through supposedly private institutions. As for elections, they will do all in their growing power to rig them and maintain an unaccountable elite uniparty.
But they hate America, so at least it’s not fascism—not like those MAGA Republicans.
This contradiction makes it necessary to move past the fascist/communist dichotomy and use a better word to denote the current regime: authoritarianism. Authoritarianism applies to all forms of centralized governments that curtail the rights of the populace in order to advance a political program. Usually, the antidote to authoritarianism is liberalism, a system of free trade, free and fair elections, an open marketplace of ideas, and an institution of checks and balances.
Ironically, it takes an authoritarian to impose this liberalism. A general like George Washington must stand up to King George III and fight for independence. The American military must stand up to the Axis powers and liberate Western Europe and East Asia from fascist regimes.
By contrast, when authoritarianism is challenged by the liberal system alone, what results is a long, protracted, undefined conflict without much of a resolution. Such was the case in the Cold War or the War on Terror where liberalism was only partially introduced because the authoritarian approach was only partially implemented. In the end, Russia and the former Soviet States (including Ukraine) reverted to corrupt authoritarian regimes, as did Iraq and Afghanistan.
This leaves Americans in an uncomfortable position. How does a freedom-loving, patriotic American confront the growing authoritarianism of the ruling party? In his book We’ll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America, Kurt Schlichter goes into some depth about how today’s political situation plays out. Either some kind of civil war breaks out between the red states and blue states, with the former embracing some kind of liberal system and the latter adopting a socialist authoritarian system, or Americans will vote for a right-wing authoritarian who uses the same playbook as today’s Democrats to advance conservative priorities.
There are historical precedents for this. Before they became vibrant, free democracies, both Taiwan and South Korea were under military dictatorships. Before they could establish a working democratic system, they had to restore law and order, ensure that individual rights would be respected, and, most importantly, remove all communists from the levers of power. Unfortunately, this meant censoring certain kinds of speech, prohibiting the assembly of certain groups, and taking aggressive action against dissenters.
The prospect of a conservative authoritarian—which, to be clear, is not the same as a fascist—understandably frightens milquetoast conservatives, like Mitt Romney or Ben Sasse, who still believe in the system. To be fair, American liberalism has a long, distinguished history, and it has its roots in the natural law tradition of the Catholic Church. It’s incredibly tragic that it should fall prey to bad ideas from the Left. Unfortunately, the evidence keeps mounting that this is exactly what’s happening and simply preaching more freedom and civility isn’t going to change anything.
Renouncing Donald Trump won’t change anything either. If it’s any consolation to his detractors, The Donald talked a good game about doing some of these things and becoming an authoritarian for the Right, but he never actually did them. He ended up respecting the process and his experts too much to change or reverse the status quo. At this point, all the people who supported him are now the targets of a regime doing its utmost to destroy American democracy in the name of American democracy.
As conservative writer Michael Anton recently argued, the window is closing for a peaceful return to normalcy, if it hasn’t already. The only choice will be to fight fire with fire, authoritarianism with authoritarianism. Naturally, this isn’t the best outcome. But it may be the only way to save the country and save it from real fascism, not the fake kind decried by the secular Left.
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