America's Descent Into Fascism

The fate of a nation built on rejecting tyrannical rule might be full-blown fascism.

It started with the arrival of federal agents in unmarked vans in Portland, and now it may end with the postponing of an election that may never occur if only for Trump’s obsession over absolute power. America’s future has never been more uncertain–between civil unrest in the wake of a national reckoning with the legacy of systemic racism and collective upset over a botched coronavirus response, the conditions under which the upcoming elections will play out will prove crucial to the country’s fate; that is if it still has one.

Trump’s ambitions of great power have been known since his earliest days on the campaign trail–he’d brag about using the Oval Office to exact vengeance against his enemies, lock his political opponents behind bars, incite violence against marginalized communities, and worst of all, he’d praise authoritarians for their disregard of institutions and their willingness to wield state power to see through any project — however heinous — through completion. To say that Trump hasn’t revealed to us his intentions would reek of naivete–the man made it an electoral selling point that he’d drain Washington of its swamp, but it turns out the only body of water left in the years following his election is an even deeper swamp than the one he vowed to drain.

Before Trump took office, his opponents cautioned against overblowing the extent to which he’ll bend American institutions to his will–after all, wild cards aren’t an aberration in American presidential history; if anything, they’re rather the norm. But Trump is a different beast altogether–owing perhaps to his lack of understanding of what the duty of presidency will entail, he pigeon-holed American institutions below him to act only as servants rather than collaborators. During his tenure in office, he hedged his bets on executive power and rendered several agencies under his purview toothless–it’s what left the CDC unprepared for the coronavirus, while other agencies are left drowning in organizational chaos.

There was a glimmer of hope when Trump tried to posit himself as a wartime president in fighting the coronavirus, that he may finally take on the serious duty of piloting a nation through turbulence most-unforgiving, but that quickly became only a faint memory as the nation backslid into collective delusion where it continued to wish a pandemic away even as no means were deployed to see that it is slowed down; or better yet defeated. Now Trump is a wartime president, but the war he’s fighting is one he decidedly already lost–even the most charitable reading of his time in office would be disingenuous as to leave out the incompetence of recent months as a pandemic continues to tear through the nation’s every corner and recess. This is one of the very few times where Americans most-patriotic, will have to simultaneously be ones most-defiant of the state they’ve sworn to protect and uphold the values of.

What allowed protesters to get snatched in the middle of the night without due process or being at least told what they’re getting taken for, is at the root of American political complacency–”None of this could happen to me,” the internal script often goes. The horrid of what’s to come will have been only matched by very few moments in history–pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany is most-reminiscent of today’s charades, but parallels extend far beyond the extrajudicial kidnappings, antagonizing political enemies, or the attacks on the press. What awaits America is a disaster of most-hellish proportions–it may so be the case that if tension isn’t relieved, the next few years will mark America’s first all-out conflict between populace and government in an ultimate struggle for power.

The stakes became apparent when the founder of the Federalist Society — yes, the one that spearheads Republican dominion over the American judicial system — warned of an ugly descent towards fascism, citing Trump’s intentions to postpone the election as pretext enough to exercise extreme caution. But we don’t need the words of a right-wing conservative think tank to tell us what we already knew–Trump isn’t cut from law-abiding cloth; he defies all convention in the pursuit of his own selfish ends. Lest radical action is undertaken, utter catastrophe is sure to follow.

Whereas it would’ve been compelling to ask the public to vote so that Trump’s threat to American democracy is quashed, it will likely not be enough come November–even if Joe Biden is elected president, the underlying structures that have allowed the last four years to occur in the first place are still present. What America will need if its fight with the devil ever reaches a conclusion, is a complete rethinking of the relationship between electorate and government such that their paths run parallel in the pursuit of a better society. When one goes out of balance, the other should feel empowered to straighten the other’s course–what we’ve rather ended up with, is a government that feels justified in employing whatever means necessary to quash dissent, emulating the worst in authoritarian regimes abroad.

It is said that when authority is desperate to keep its standing, it’ll toss false compromises at the people to dissuade rebellion–what we’re seeing right now however, is an honest embrace of the politics of oppression with no end to suffering in sight. The earlier rounds of economic stimulus are pending expiration, and it’s estimated that a great portion of Americans living in chronic housing insecurity are likely to end up street-stranded unless the people who’ve solemnly sworn to protect them come through with financial aid–it’s not what the cogs in power are turning towards, and it’s frankly a miracle that disparate protests against police brutality are the full extent of anti-government furor at this current stage.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures, and it would be an understatement to dub Donald Trump anything short of the most extreme circumstance to deploy against the most extreme of measures. A question in urgent need of answering, is what are Americans exactly prepared to do to rid themselves of the greatest menace to American democracy in modern history? So far it doesn’t seem to be a lot, but the parameters may very well radically change once November is upon us–for global democracy’s sake, here’s hoping they do.