Recently I spoke to Rick Staggenborg, who is running as a Progressive for U.S. Senate in Oregon, about several things: fascism, the upcoming elections, the role of government in citizens' lives and higher education finance reform. In light of the upcoming elections, the topic of fascism was the most relevant.
A few days after I spoke to Staggenborg, I noticed that the theme of fascism and elections kept coming up in a lot of pieces, especially by online progressive sites. I was most struck by Sara Robinson's recent piece, "Fascist America: Is This Election the Next Turn?" in which Robinson suggests that the Tea Party exhibits a lot of proto-fascist components. If the Tea Party gains any power, she argues, it has "the potential to become a clear and present danger to the future of our democracy."
While Robinson's argument is a bit alarmist, when combined with Robert Reich's concerns about the 'perfect storm' that has recently been created in the U.S., and the consequent eroding democracy, then we might have reason to be worried. Reich claims that the seeds for the demise of democracy as we know it have already been planted. He is not nearly as polemical as Robinson, though, suggesting that if we lose our democratic system, we will find ourselves in a plutocracy.
Let's take a look at some of the statistics that Reich uses to make this claim. First, nearly 25 percent of the nation's wealth is now controlled by one percent of the population. Second, it is no longer required that the sources of campaign donations -- huge ones at that -- be disclosed. If we have a democracy with fair elections, full disclosure and transparency seem like pretty obvious factors that ensure honesty and, at the same time, prevent corruption. Finally, the average American, who desperately needs to be helped by his/her government (and I'm not talking about hand-outs), is increasingly disillusioned with the political system. But why wouldn't s/he be? It's understandable, considering that the pleas for assistance from average Americans have fallen on deaf ears in D.C.
Ultimately, there isn't really a best-case scenario here. Either the U.S. is turning into a neo-fascist state (not completely out of the realm of possibility) or (marginally better, I suppose) our democratic system is at risk of becoming a vile plutocracy, if it isn't one already. The last, meager defense we might have against either of these scenarios is the typical 'lesser of two evils' voting options that face us on Nov. 2. But lest you think, in the face of these disheartening possibilities, that there's no longer any use in voting, consider the point made by Keith Olbermann recently in an article on the Daily Kos:
Not excited about Nov. 2? Feeling a little let down by the last 21 months-plus? Not really committed to getting one more Democrat to the polls for the mid-term? Take a number. But as the The Right Reverend Treason of the Texas proves, this is no longer about timid Dems or unheard Progressives. This now boils down to keeping the nutjobs out of office.
If we don't turn out to vote, any inkling of hope I currently posses about higher education finance reform will surely be extinguished. Folks, you need to vote. And on that note, it is my hope to return to a better country than the one I left behind. Here's to voting today.