With great relevance to what’s going on with the Tea Party in Washington, D.C. right now, in March 2012, this column was devoted to a two-part series entitled, “When America Almost Went Fascist (Really!).” It told the story contained in author Sally Denton’s just-published book, The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right.
With the nation mired in the Great Depression, between the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933, there was an assassination attempt against him in Florida.
But that was nothing compared to the elaborate plans for a military coup that had been hatched by a small group acting at the behest of monied and related Wall Street interests. They were mortified at FDR’s plans to move the dollar off a strict gold standard and to undertake other moves, known collectively as the “New Deal,” to bring relief to the Depression-wracked nation.
Outspoken Marine Gen. Smedley Butler was approached with a plan to rally the national convention of the American Legion in Chicago in October 1933, delivering a rousing speech calling for a military march on Washington. The idea was that he could rally at least 400,000 men to march, and, as Mussolini did in Rome a decade earlier, simply take over the government in a bloodless coup.
Butler heard them out, but then blew the whistle on the plan and the whole thing blew up before Congressional hearings and media exposes, when it became known as the infamous “Banker’s Plot.”
But as Denton pointed out, the malicious forces behind this scheme did not give up. They organized the so-called Liberty League, and have never let up their pressure, gaining ground in the early 1950s with the McCarthy witch hunts, with massive clandestine operations aimed at de-fanging a post-World War II American population geared toward gains in civil rights, a “War on Poverty” and against another U.S. military adventure in Vietnam.
They used covert CIA and related tools domestically to engineer the mainstreaming of a so-called “counterculture” movement that diverted the public’s attention away from social justice causes and turned them inward by a combination of a massive proliferation of drugs (including LSD, which to this day is considered a viable “chemical warfare” tool for its ability to confuse its targets), provocateur-instigated urban riots, assassinations of key public figures, a so-called “sexual revolution,” a proliferation of mind-twisting cults and the promotion of consumerism and individual greed.
This all produced the “Reagan revolution” and the rise out of the dregs of the “counterculture” what became the social engineers of the radical right, including the “religious right” and more recently, the Tea Party.
Throughout all of this, the goal has remained the same, to undermine American democratic institutions and cultivating in the population an angry, anarchist tone, an “each against all” mentality.
The Great Recession of 2008 was allowed, even encouraged, to happen with George W. Bush in office, because the ensuing chaos and social dissembling would escalate the rise of a new fascist movement in America.
And so, here we are today, looking square in the face of the latest iteration of this decades-long movement, a phalanx in the U.S. Congress eager to shut down the government and wreak the kind of socio-economic chaos that, they feel, will only grow their ranks further.
It’s hard for the average American believe that there are very powerful forces in this land who not only don’t believe in democracy, but are passionately opposed to it. There are a variety of reasons for not taking such things seriously, not the least of which is the imperative that such a reality places on the public to become really informed and something other than a couch potato.
This rising fascism, which has populist rage on the one side, has the kind of pervasive electronic intrusion into individual American lives that the NSA is actively engaged in on the other. It’s a pincer operation that has as its goal the end of democracy, not only in the U.S., but worldwide, once and for all.