Jeff Sharlet has spent two decades covering the intersection of extreme Christian nationalism and the far-right. In his new book, Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, he gives snapshots of a country rapidly devolving into a Christian fascism state. He captures the rage, the despair, the dislocation, the alienation, the aesthetic of violence, and the magical thinking that are the foundations of all fascist movements—forces that are now coalescing around the Trump-led Republican Party. The bizarre conspiracy theories and buffoonish quality of many who lead and embrace this movement, such as Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, make the use American fascists easy to ridicule and dismiss.
The parting gift, I expect, of the bankrupt liberalism of the Democratic Party will be a Christianized fascist state. The liberal class, a creature of corporate power, captive to the war industry and the security state, unable or unwilling to ameliorate the prolonged economic insecurity and misery of the working class, blinded by a self-righteous woke ideology that reeks of hypocrisy and disingenuousness and bereft of any political vision, is the bedrock on which the Christian fascists, who have coalesced in cult-like mobs around Donald Trump, have built their terrifying movement. Trump, as the writer Jeff Sharlet points out, has morphed from the Elmer Gantry huckster of politics — holding out the illusion that we can all get rich like him — to the peddler of dark conspiracies about the deep state and pedophiles running the Democratic Party, to full blown fascism.
There is no report, investigation or new revelation, including the recent release of Special Counsel John Durham’s “Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns” that will implode the myth that Russia was responsible for the election of Donald Trump. Myths are impervious to facts. They fulfill an emotional yearning. They are a short circuit from reality into a world of childish simplicity. Hard and painful questions are avoided. Thought-terminating cliches are spat out to blissfully embrace a willed ignorance. The cynical con the Democratic Party and the FBI carried out to falsely portray Donald Trump as a puppet of the Kremlin worked, and continues to work, because it is what those who detest Trump want to believe.
Sometime in the mid–Russiagate years, when it became clear that America was on a swoon back into the collective neuroses of the 1950s, I began to think we would have to wait for future historians to retrieve the truth buried alive in the cesspit of lies and cynical propaganda operations the deep state—and I am fine with this term—inflicted upon us in response to Donald Trump’s rise in national politics. There seemed no sorting out the godawful mess amid the incessant waves of mis– and disinformation to which our corporate media subjected us. The task, if you were in the scribbling trade, was to write truthfully for readers, of course, but also to contribute, however modestly, to a record that tore a hole in mainstream media’s façade so that later historians looking back on our time could peer through it to see things as they were.
Former White House National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien has hinted at a sinister US contingency plan in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Rather than see Taiwan’s semiconductor factories fall into the hands of the Communist Party of China, the US and its allies would simply pull a Nordstream. “The United States and its allies are never going to let those factories fall into Chinese hands,” O’Brien told Semafor, a news outlet that has been funded by jailed Democratic financier Sam Bankman-Fried and his brother. O’Brien went on to compare the destruction of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) to Winston Churchill’s bombing of a French naval fleet after the country’s surrender to Nazi Germany.
Since the U.S. sponsored coup in Ukraine in 2014, taking a stand against the plan by the U.S. to use Ukraine as a weapon of war against Russia was a perilous stance for pro-peace and anti-imperialist forces. What made opposition especially difficult was that the plan was being executed by the administration of Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama with the full support of the right-wing neoliberal establishment that controlled and still controls the U.S. state. But, while it was a challenge to oppose the many criminal adventures of the Obama administration, the return of that administration to power under Joe Biden has ushered in the acceleration and normalization of censorship, the blatant politicization of the investigative agencies of the state and a war fever that has gripped the culture.
As hundreds of meatpacking workers fell sick from the coronavirus that was spreading through their plants and into their communities in April 2020, the CEO of Tyson Foods reached out to the head of another major meatpacker, Smithfield Foods, with a proposal. Smithfield’s pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had been hit particularly hard, and state and local officials were pressuring the company to shut it down. “Anything we can do to help?” Tyson CEO Noel White asked in an email. Smithfield’s CEO Ken Sullivan replied that he wished there was. But White had an idea. Would Sullivan like to discuss the possibility of getting President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open?
During the Trump presidency, slogans like “Facts Matter” and “#BelieveTheScience” abounded. The idea was that, unlike the outright denial espoused by Republicans, Democrats recognize basic scientific truths about the world, such as the existence of climate change and the dangers of Covid-19. Because they “take science seriously,” it’s implied, Democrats will propose and enact more scientifically-informed policies. It’s been a year since Joe Biden took office on the promise that his respect for science would manifest in more rational policy solutions. So, now is a good time to ask: how’s that going? “Follow the science” was an effective campaign slogan during the Trump years, but it was only ever a slogan. On September 20, 2020, Joe Biden tweeted, “Unlike Trump, I’ll listen to the experts and heed their advice — especially when it comes to matters of health and safety.”
Every time I watch or read news updates on another promise that Joe Biden has reneged on, I hear this song in my head, jaunty synthesizer music and all. Because I seriously cannot figure out why people believed this guy and all his promises. Remember the promise he made to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for everyone? Has it happened? Nope. What he has done instead was to extend the loan payment suspension first until January 2022, with payments originally set to resume in February 2022. Then after a nationwide outcry from those burdened with student loans that were coming due in the new year with no relief in sight from a pandemic that continues to ravage the nation, the federal student loan forbearance program was extended again to May 2022 .
Analogies of Trump to Hitler can be misleading. While material conditions for many Americans are distressing, they are not as dire as Weimar Germany, following its economic collapse. Nor do the Proud Boys and company approximate the hundreds of thousands of trained and armed paramilitaries under Hitler’s direct command. Most important, the mass working class Communist and Socialist parties in Weimar Germany were positioned to contend for state power, while trade unions and third parties challenging bourgeoise rule are in decline in the US today. Under fascism, the capitalist class voluntarily cedes a degree of economic decision making to a dictatorial state in exchange for guarantees of public order and promises to keep their profits.
A year ago today, a fascist mob took over the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., stunning the country and the entire world. Called to action by Donald Trump and instigated by his false accusation that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, the mob stormed the building and briefly stopped the certification of the electoral college votes. The attack would not have been possible without collusion from high-level military, police and security officials. Yet, none of them have been brought to justice. At the same time, Congress formed a special committee on January 6th which has no legal authority to persecute the people responsible for it. The insurrection was a historic attack on one of the most fundamental tenets of US democracy – the peaceful transition of power between the two ruling class parties.
On George Washington’s birthday, 2018, the Donald Trump administration’s director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, changed the agency’s official mission statement, dropping the language of “a nation of immigrants” to describe the United States. The previous mission statement had said the agency “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.” The revised mission statement reads: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”
For her 65th birthday, Diana Marquez was grateful to be out of prison and celebrating with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. They feasted on a smorgasbord of brisket, sushi and Mexican food. She was not allowed to leave the house, but she still felt blessed to celebrate the day surrounded by family rather than confined in a prison cell. Marquez is one of over 4,000 people who were released from federal prison to home confinement under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to stem the spread of COVID-19 behind bars. The CARES Act prioritizes the release of people whose age or health makes them vulnerable to COVID, whose “risk assessment” is low and whose convictions are for federal crimes classified as nonviolent.
The amount of additional taxes that the richest Americans owed after the IRS audited their tax returns fell more than 99% in Donald Trump’s first full year in office, data tables released this week show. Among households making on average $30 million in 2018, IRS auditors recommended less than $5.4 million in additional tax. That’s not the extra tax owed by one rich tax cheat. That’s the total for all 26,517 households reporting income of at least $10 million in 2018—the first year of the huge tax giveaway Trump and the Radical Republicans in Congress engineered in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The recommended additional tax under Trump fell 99.1% from the $610.4 million that tax auditors recommended in 2010, Barack Obama’s first full year as president.