Thomas Palley: Proto-Fascism Unleashed: How the Republican Party Sold its Soul and now Threatens Democracy

I came across this yesterday and find it sort of amazing. It’s the history summary of my dreams. I lived this history and was paying attention to current events and the political games, though as a citizen busy with living my life, it was all a fast moving river and now here we are today.

As opposed to me, Thomas Pally is a scholar who’s done more than watch, he’s studied it and though I’m not familiar with him a look at his blog reveals the depth of this guy and what I’ve read so far totally resonates (thus reinforces) with my own memory & impressions of our mess.

The following is an excellent summary of the past fifty years of American politics and I feel it really belongs on this board. It’ll give us something serious (constructive) to kick around.

Proto-Fascism Unleashed: How the Republican Party Sold its Soul and now Threatens Democracy (a PDF)

by Thomas Palley, June 2021
Political Economy Research Institute
University of Massachusetts Amherst, NY

  1. A Faustian bargain

This essay argues that some forty years ago the Republican Party struck a Faustian bargain whereby it traded integrity and decency for tax cuts and a corporate dominated economy. Now, the party is reaping the consequences of that bargain in the form of its capture by Donald Trump and his followers. How- ever, it also means we are all threatened as the party has unleashed and legitimized neo-fascist tendencies that stand to destroy democracy and tolerance and replace them with authoritarianism and intolerance.

  1. Triumph of the Big Lie

Recently (May 12, 2021) the U.S. Republican Congressional delegation expelled Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her position as their No.3 leader. Cheney is the daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who was himself a former Republican Wyoming Congressman and was a leader in the Neoconservative takeover of Washington’s foreign policy establishment. That speaks to her extraordinary conservative Republican pedigree, yet still she was removed from her position.

Her offenses were twofold. First, denying Donald Trump’s dishonest claim to have won the No- vember 2020 election. Second, voting for Trump’s impeachment for his role in promoting the insurrec- tion of January 6, 2021.

Cheney’s dismissal marks …

  1. Triumph of the will

Fascist political thinking emphasizes will power, and that turn to the politics of will power is now evi- dent in the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to systematically rig elections via a combination of ex- treme gerrymandering and voter suppression. The goal is to stack the electoral deck by making it harder for African Americans, minorities, and the poor to vote. Measures include making it more difficult or costly to vote by reducing the number of polling stations, eliminating postal vote drop boxes, reducing polling hours, and lengthening polling station wait times by reducing the number of voting machines. Additionally, Republicans are requiring ID that poorer people are either less likely to have (e.g. a driving license) or is relatively more costly and difficult for poor people to get. …

  1. The germination of the fascist seed in the U.S.

It is comforting and tempting to attribute the current danger to just Donald Trump. If that were true it would alleviate any wider responsibility, and particularly any responsibility on the part of U.S. political culture and the U.S. political system. However, the reality is the fascist seed germinated in U.S. politics long ago, but only now has it become so visible that it is possible to speak of it. …

  1. Death of the aspiration to truth telling

The emergence of the fascist threat in the U.S. has been a long slow process. That process is marked by three key developments, the first of which is the death of the aspiration to truth telling. The death of that aspiration has destroyed the basis for agreement on what constitutes fact.

Over the last several years there has been much chatter about fake news. …

… However, that storyline is a form of fake news in itself. First, it misses the story of Fox News which is broadcast by the enormously influential “old technology” Fox TV network. Second, it misses the story of why so many Americans have rejected traditional news sources, why they have such an appetite for fake news, and why they are so vulnerable to fake news. …

  1. A greater purpose above the law

The death of truth telling is the first critical development in the rise of fascism within the U.S. polity. The second critical development is the Republican Party old guard’s promotion of the notion of a greater purpose above the law. This may be the worst development of all as it renders democratic politics impossible.

In its current struggle with Trump, the old guard now declares itself on the side of democratic rule of law. However, recent history shows it has been instrumental in fostering a world view whereby almost forty percent of Republicans think political violence is justifiable and could be necessary. …

  1. Politics as total war

The third key development is the shift to a view of politics as total war in which winning is the only thing that matters, regardless of damage done to the spirit of democracy. That view is now visible in the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to gerrymander district voting boundaries and suppress voting by groups which incline Democratic (as described earlier). Though now gaining much attention, the reality is those political practices are not new. Instead, once again, the old guard Republican Party had already put them in play.

The full blown revival of gerrymandering goes back to Rep. Tom Delay’s interventions in the Texas redistricting of 2003. …

  1. Why the Republican base cannot be stopped

Old guard Republicans (like Rep. Liz Cheney) are now prisoners of the monster they reared. They can- not break with their toxic base. If they do, they risk being primaried and defeated. …

  1. A saga without heroes

The drama now unfolding in the U.S. is a political saga without heroes. The protagonists are either malev- olent or compromised. Trump and his cult are malevolent. So too is the Republican Party old guard which struck a Faustian bargain whereby it pandered to prejudice in return for votes that enabled tax cuts and pro-corporate policies which benefitted its elite wealthy supporters. The bargain has now come back to haunt …

  1. Conclusion: reaping what they sowed

To sum up, Donald Trump is clearly capable of putting in place an American fascism, and his political success speaks to the fact that the U.S. is open to going in that direction. Much of the analytical focus has been on Trump’s personality: his sociopathic narcissism, his disregard for truth and ethics, his ab- sence of empathy or concern for others. That makes him capable of great evil.

However, to focus on Trump’s personality is to miss the far deeper story, which is that Trump is a continuation of political practices of the Republican Party old guard. Trump has certainly ratcheted up those practices, but that is an issue of degree, not kind.

Even the insurrection of January 6, 2001 has precedent in Republican old guard behavior, in the form of the “Brooks Brothers riot” of November 22, 2000. That riot had well-dressed Republican op- eratives trying to shut down the vote recount in Miami-Dade County. Had Vice-President Al Gore not blinked, it is quite plausible Dick Cheney (father of Rep. Liz Cheney) would have tried to use Republican suasion with the military to seize control on behalf of George W. Bush. …


Here’s something more recent:

How the West betrayed Mikhail Gorbachev and seeded the Ukraine conflict

By Thomas Palley

Mikhail Gorbachev died on August 30, 2022. Since then, praises have flowed from Western leaders. Those praises obscure how the West betrayed Gorbachev after he fell from power, and how that betrayal seeded the Ukraine conflict.

The story is complicated because Gorbachev’s fall was triggered by Communist Party hardliners, so the troubles which befell Russia thereafter are also significantly due to Russian actions. That said, Gorbachev sought a partnership for peace, prosperity, and democracy. After he fell, the West reneged on its handshake agreement with him.

A tribute to Gorbachev’s inspiring vision

Before turning to the details of that betrayal, a tribute to Gorbachev is warranted. …