Archives for category: Bigotry

This is an outrage. Trump’s Brownshirts harass the Biden campaign, engage in voter intimidation, block major thoroughfares—without penalty.

Now this:

GRAHAM, N.C. — The voters came in black sweatshirts emblazoned with the mantra of the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who celebrated “good trouble.”


Fists and iPhones raised, they chanted “Black lives matter” and promised “power to the people,” as they made their way from a Black church to the base of a monument to a Confederate soldier. In its shadow, they paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, honoring George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for what was later determined to be 7 minutes and 46 seconds.


The participants in Saturday’s “I Am Change” march had intended to conclude at an early-voting site to emphasize turnout in the final days of the presidential campaign.

Those plans were thrown into disarray when law-enforcement officers in riot gear and gas masks insisted demonstrators move off the street and clear county property, despite a permit authorizing their presence.


As tensions escalated, officers deployed pepper spray and began making arrests. Among those caught in clouds of the irritant were children as young as 3 years old, as well as elderly residents and a disabled woman, said participants in the march.


The episode, which was live-streamed on Facebook by the march’s organizer, the Rev. Greg Drumwright of nearby Greensboro, unfolded three days before an election that feels to many Americans like the edge of an abyss. It capped nearly a half-year of protests after the killing of Floyd. And it reflected efforts to channel indignation on the street into power at the ballot box in North Carolina, a critical battleground state, and other places deciding the country’s direction.


“

The world wants to know what’s going on in Alamance County,” Drumwright said, invoking the rallying cry of anti-Vietnam War activists.
His outrage was echoed by state and national leaders, including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who called the incident “unacceptable.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law described the police response as a form of voter suppression.
In a statement, the Graham Police Department said its officers had made eight arrests, arguing that force had been justified by the refusal of demonstrators to disperse after the gathering had “reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command.”


The department also defended the deployment of what it called a “pepper-based vapor,” saying its officers did not “directly spray any participant in the march” — an account at odds with the statements of numerous participants.


The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office issued a one-line tweet, saying, “Unfortunately the rally in Graham ended due to concerns for the safety of all.” The office has previously faced scrutiny for what the Justice Department in 2012 called “discriminatory policing,” leading to a civil rights lawsuit against Terry S. Johnson, the county sheriff.

After a Republican-appointed federal judge dismissed the suit, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the case in exchange for revisions. Since then, Johnson has twice won reelection, both times running unopposed.


In August, a U.S. district judge in the Middle District of North Carolina blocked county officials, including Johnson, from prohibiting protests in certain areas around the county courthouse in response to a lawsuit brought by the Lawyers’ Committee and the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last year, the Orlando Sentinel reviewed the websites of the state’s voucher schools and discovered that scores of them publicly admitted that they do not admit the children of gay families and do not hire gay staff. The legislature then refused to require that voucher schools stop discriminating against gays; mustn’t trample on their freedom to be bigots.

Some voucher schools removed the language from their websites, but continue to fire gay teachers.

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/scott-maxwell-commentary/os-op-gay-teacher-fired-florida-scott-maxwell-20201023-mnfwdiqejrd2blf4cermulgeji-story.html

The voucher schools, apples of the eyes of Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush, skim $1 billion a year of public funds that should have gone to public schools or used for public purposes, where discrimination is prohibited.

Steve Hinnefeld, a regular commentator on education in Indiana, regrets that Amy Coney Barrett was not asked about vouchers during her hearings.

He notes that she served on the board of a Catholic school in Indiana that received state voucher funds and that openly discriminated against same-sex families.

Barrett served from 2015-17 on the board of Trinity School at Greenlawn, a South Bend Catholic school, the New York Times reported. Trinity had a policy during Barrett’s time on the board that effectively prohibited same-sex couples from enrolling their children in the school, according to the Times.

That would seem to cast doubt on Barrett’s claim in her confirmation hearing that she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference” and would not do so. It also raises policy questions about whether publicly funded institutions should practice discrimination.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post gathered interesting post-debate happenings.

Joe Biden left Cleveland on a chartered Amtrak train and made a six-city whistlestop trip through areas of Ohio and a Pennsylvania that Trump won in 2016.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to face negative responses and from Republican leaders, silence, due to his inability to denounce white supremacists, and his dog whistle that inspired the violent rightwing “Proud Boys,” which the Anti-Defamation League calls a hate group.

Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes make it one of the most critical battlegrounds, and Biden predicted that over the next month he will be able to win over more Trump 2016 voters in rural counties like the ones he visited on Wednesday. “Even if we just cut the margin, it makes a gigantic difference,” Biden said at the airport named for Murtha. “A lot of White working-class Democrats thought we forgot them and didn’t pay attention. I want them to know – I mean sincerely – that I’m going to be your president. I hear them. I listen to them. I get it. I get their sense of being left behind…”

Trump promised in 2016 to fight for “the forgotten man,” reviving a term that President Franklin Roosevelt had used during the New Deal. “But once he got into office, he forgot about them,” Biden said everywhere he went on Wednesday.

During his speech in Johnstown, Biden spoke directly to former Democrats who have perhaps grown disillusioned. He said that the debate showed that Trump is “a self-entitled, self-serving president who thinks everything is about him.”

“The truth is he never respected us,” Biden said. “Behind closed doors, it’s been reported he calls his own supporters disgusting. He looks down his nose at working families just trying to do the right thing. And it’s been confirmed by multiple sources that he thinks that those of you who sign up to put their lives on the line for our country — our veterans and service members — are just a bunch of ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ It’s despicable. It’s not how I was raised, and I bet it’s not how any of you were raised either.”
Biden recounted how his mom used to always say to him, “Joey, nobody’s better than you, but everyone is your equal.”

“Donald Trump may think there ought to be a different set of rules for him and his rich buddies: rules that let him get out of his taxes, get out of his responsibilities and get out of the consequences for every one of his mistakes,” Biden said. “I don’t. I think it’s about time we start rewarding work in this country, not wealth. I think it’s time working families get a break and the super wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share. They’re still going to be doing just fine.”

The Democratic nominee framed the race as a choice between Park Avenue and Scranton, Pa., where he grew up. “Look, I’ve dealt with guys like Trump my whole life,” Biden told the crowd. “Guys who look down on you because they’ve got a lot of money. Guys who think they’re better than you. Guys who might let you park their car at the country club – but would never let you in. Guys who inherited everything they ever got in life – then squandered it.”

Biden said he will never raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year. “Maybe you didn’t believe me that we could do it without raising taxes on the middle class, but I bet that was before you found out Donald Trump paid just $750 in income tax,” Biden said. “If Donald Trump and his Park Avenue pals start paying their fair share, we’ll have more than enough to finally build an economy that works for everyone…”

Biden accused Trump of caring more about the strength of the Dow Jones Industrial Average than the numbers of jobless claims. “He doesn’t have a plan to help you get back on your feet or deliver relief to the people who most need the help,” Biden said in Johnstown. “He’s too busy planning his next big tax give away to the 100 richest folks in the country.”

During the debate, Trump said everyone tries to pay as little in federal tax as possible “unless they are stupid.” He even tried to blame Biden for creating the tax credits not closing the loopholes in the tax code that allowed him to reduce how much he paid. “I don’t want to pay tax,” Trump said. “Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws, and that’s what it is.”

Hohmann points out that Trump got his deductions due to claims of massive losses, which undercuts his claim to be a business genius.

Meanwhile, extremists took Trump’s advice to “stand by” as encouragement for election day trouble.

The president’s “stand by” remark has already become a galvanizing movement for the reactionary right. “By Wednesday morning, the hashtag #WhiteSupremacy was trending on Twitter in the United States,” Derek Hawkins, Cleve Wootson Jr. and Craig Timberg report. “Trump’s comments were enshrined in memes, including one depicting Trump in one of the Proud Boys’ signature Fred Perry polo shirts.

Another meme showed Trump’s ‘stand by’ quote alongside an image of bearded men carrying American flags and appearing to prepare for a fight. … One prominent Proud Boys supporter on Parler said Trump appeared to give permission for attacks on protesters, adding that ‘this makes me so happy.’ … For many members, the president’s remark was the validation they craved, quickly turning into a fundraising and recruitment drive while, experts worried, legitimizing the group’s violent tactics.”

“Trump’s debate-stage call for volunteers to stand watch at voting locations has prompted an enthusiastic response from known neo-Nazis and right-wing activists, leading many state election and law enforcement officials to prepare for voter intimidation, arrests and even violence on Election Day,” Amy Gardner, Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Josh Dawsey report.

“The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee for months have promised to recruit as many as 50,000 poll watchers to monitor voting locations on Election Day. The campaign’s ‘Army for Trump’ website has contributed to that effort. … But more-extremist supporters appeared to be joining that effort Wednesday, raising the prospect for confrontation and intimidation at polling locations. ‘I got shivers,’ Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, wrote in a post Wednesday. ‘I still have shivers. He is telling the people to stand by. As in: Get ready for war.’ …The Oath Keepers, a militia group that formed more than a decade ago that comprises current and former law enforcement and military members, also has pledged to have ‘volunteer security teams’ at Trump rallies and out on Election Day. …

And Hohmann added this bit of good news:

Former RNC chairman and Montana governor Marc Racicot announced he will vote for Biden. In an interview with Yellowstone Public Radio, Racicot spoke of the need for a president to have patience, decency and openness to contrary opinion, “qualities Racicot suggested are absent in the Trump administration,” the Missoulian reports.

Trump and Barr have warned about the dangers of a group called “Antifa.” I had never heard of them and don’t know anyone who belongs to this group. I did a small amount of digging and learned that Antifa means “anti-fascist.”

That confused me. How can it be wrong to be anti-fascism?

Hitler and Mussolini were fascists.

We fought a world war from 1941-1945 to save the world from fascism.

During World War II, there were pro-fascist people in America.

The current American fascists are the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and armed militias like those that stormed the Michigan State Capitol to protest public health measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Fascists threaten their fellow citizens with military-type assault weapons. Fascists use extra-legal means to subvert the rule of law and to intimidate people of color and those who oppose them. Fascists want to make America a white a Christian nation where none is welcome who is either white nor Christian.

I oppose fascism. I support the efforts to suppress fascism.

I support the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I believe in democracy and the rule of law. I believe in equal justice under law for all. I believe in pursuing the goal of equality of educational opportunity. I know we are far from our ideals and values. I believe in pursuing them, not abandoning them.

I am a proud anti-fascist.

Are you?

Get ready for a vicious campaign. It has already started.

Trump, a man with no discernible religion, recently said that Biden, a faithful Catholic, will:

“Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.”

Now that Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential candidate, the bigots are targeting her, and it will only get worse.

Trumpers say that she isn’t really black, because her mother was born in India. (She is half-black, half-South Asian).

They say she did not descend from American slaves, which is true. She descended from African slaves in Jamaica, on her father’s side.

They say that she isn’t really African American because her father was born in Jamaica. (On Twitter, someone asked, “Where do they think that black people in Jamaica came from?”).

Some claim that she can never be president because both her parents were immigrants. (Not true. She was born in Oakland, California, and native-born citizenship and the age of 35 is all the Constitution requires.)

Then comes the claim that her ancestors were slave owners, based on her father having written that he was descended from a slave owner in Jamaica. (Snopes judged thisa year ago to be “unproven,” but also notes that if she does have a lineage linked to a white Jamaican slave owner, it would likely be because he raped or cohabited with one of his slaves.)

On this blog, a Trumper dropped by yesterday morning to say that Harris is “unqualified” and to call her “an affirmative action hire.” Harris graduated from Howard University and earned her law degre from the University of California Hastings College of Law at San Francisco. Both of her parents earned Ph.D. degrees and were successful professionals. Harris was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, State Attorney General of California, and a U.S. Senator. Harris is highly qualified to be on Joe Biden’s ticket. Her qualifications are far superior to those of Trump and Pence. I judge the slur to be racist, sexist trash.

Expect more of the same from the flailing Trump camp.

Fred Klonsky writes here about “cancel culture” and about opinion columnist John Kass, who lost his prominent spot in the Chicago Tribune after his references to George Soros as a bad guy. Kass did not get fired, but his column did lose its highly desirable spot on page 2 of the paper.

Here is what you need to know about George Soros. He was born in Hungary, survived the Holocaust, and became a billionaire. He has used his fortune to promote democracy and civil society in eastern Europe and elsewhere. He is Jewish. When rightwing fringe elements invoke his name, they are using his name, irrespective of facts, as an anti-Semitic slur, to imply that his money (Jewish money) is supporting whatever they oppose. This is a “dog whistle” in the new lingo of our day.

I have been interested in “political correctness” and censorship for many years. In 2006, I published a book called “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.” The book has a list of hundreds of words, phrases, and images that will never appear in a textbook or on a test because someone finds them objectionable. So, for example, students will never encounter references to owls or witches or Halloween or death on a test. They will never see an image of an elderly person using a cane or a walker. They will never see a rainbow or a picture of a man with his hands in his pockets. The list is hilarious and at the same time sad. The book contains many examples of books that were banned from school libraries and from classroom use, decades ago. It also goes back in history to demonstrate that censors bowdlerized Shakespeare to remove references to sex that the censors found objectionable.

“Cancel culture” (another new term, but not a new practice) has a long history, rooted in Puritanism and prudishness.

I only recently became aware of “dog whistle” and figured out its meaning from the context.

Here is the online definition:

dog whis·tle
noun
noun: dog whistle; plural noun: dog whistles
a high-pitched whistle used to train dogs, typically having a sound inaudible to humans.
a subtly aimed political message which is intended for, and can only be understood by, a particular group.
“dog-whistle issues such as immigration and crime”

Merriam-Webster added the word to its dictionary in April 2017:

The earliest, and still most common, meaning of dog whistle is the obvious one: it is a whistle for dogs. Dog ears can detect much higher frequencies than our puny human ears can, so a dog whistle is nothing more than an exceedingly high-pitched whistle that canines can hear, but that we cannot.

dog whistle
Figuratively, a ‘dog whistle’ is a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.

Yet there’s another dog whistle we’ve been hearing about lately: a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.

Given that the term dog whistle has been around for over 200 years, it seems odd that it only developed a figurative sense recently. After all, it’s the perfect word to use to describe something that some people can hear, but others cannot. Yet it is only within the past 20 years or so that it has seen this figurative sense take hold. And it is primarily used to describe political speech.

If you want to cast him as just a nativist, his slogan “Make America Great Again” can be read as a dog-whistle to some whiter and more Anglo-Saxon past.
—Ross Douthat, The New York Times, 10 August 2015

Saul introduces the concept of the “figleaf,” which differs from the more familiar dog whistle: while the dog whistle targets specific listeners with coded messages that bypass the broader population, the figleaf adds a moderating element of decency to cover the worst of what’s on display, but nevertheless changes the boundaries of acceptability.
—Ray Drainville, Hyperallergic, 12 July 2016

Dog whistle appears to have taken on this political sense in the mid-1990s; the Oxford English Dictionary currently has a citation from a Canadian newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen, in October of 1995, as their earliest recorded figurative use: “It’s an all-purpose dog-whistle that those fed up with feminists, minorities, the undeserving poor hear loud and clear.”

The recent appearance of the figurative use does not mean that dog whistle has not been used previously to describe the habit that politicians occasionally have of sending coded messages to a certain group of constituents. In 1947, a book titled American Economic History referred to a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as being “designed to be like a modern dog-whistle, with a note so high that the sensitive farm ear would catch it perfectly while the unsympathetic East would hear nothing.” However, saying that speech is like a dog-whistle (which is a simile) is not quite the same as saying that it is a dog whistle (which is a metaphor), and this subtle distinction is what causes us to judge the phrase as having originated in the 1990s, rather than the 1940s.

Trump is the master of the dog whistle. Every time he talks about his reverence for Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag as “our heritage” and “our history,” that’s a dog whistle, which racists hear clearly. It is such a loud dog whistle that even non-racists and anti-racists can hear it.

Ron Berler writes about education. This article originally appeared at Medium. He originally wrote the article at the beginning of Trump’s presidency but thinks it resonates today.

It was the Friday before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kathryn Frey had decided to read Carmen Agra Deedy’s children’s book, “The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark,” to her fourth-grade, Greenwich, Conn., class. It tells a tale of how the king and his countrymen protected that nation’s Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II.

Frey teaches at New Lebanon School, one of the town’s three Title I elementary schools. Some know Greenwich as a tony New York suburb. But one corner of it is not. In her class of 18, there are 14 Latinos, two African Americans and two whites. Seventeen are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.

Frey was sick that day, so I was recruited to read to her students. The children, 9 and 10, gathered in front of me on the rug. They had barely heard of Nazi Germany or the war, and couldn’t say when the events in question took place. But they did have a firm sense of right and wrong. They blanched when I told them what the Nazis had done and how they had discriminated.

I opened the book and began to read, pausing after each page to show the children the illustrations that help illuminate the story. Deedy’s picture book is myth inspired by fact. In her telling, the king encouraged all his people to wear on their outer clothing the yellow star meant by the Nazis to identify and isolate Jews, so the invaders wouldn’t know who was Jewish and who was not. History teaches that the king protected Denmark’s Jews by other means. But the students got the point: Jews, non-Jews, all were Danes.

Since President Donald Trump issued his initial immigration executive order, temporarily barring U.S. entry to visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim nations, and banning refugees from all nations and those from Syria indefinitely, I’ve thought quite a bit about Deedy’s book, and why Frey chose it for her students. I sought her out in her classroom.

Frey has taught for 30 years, the last four at New Lebanon. She invited me to sit at a round, child-size worktable near the center of the room. We were alone; her students were in gym class. The wall in front of us was lined with baskets of books that made up the room’s library. Above them was a partial timeline of U.S. history, from the first British expedition to Roanoke Island, N.C., in 1584, to the civil-rights era, in 1960.

Frey said that the class had just begun a unit on historical fiction — a genre with which few of the students were familiar. She had selected “The Yellow Star” for its simple theme and its schoolchild accessibility. “This is the first time that most of them have been exposed to historical time periods,” she said. “At this age, they know famous people, but they don’t have a sense of what happened. They know Martin Luther King, and when I returned the day after his holiday, we talked about how a person’s actions and words can cause change. They made the connection between Dr. King and King Christian.”

Change and action and the power of words have taken on particular meaning for her students.

“The day after the [presidential] election, several children told me they were very worried about what might happen to them,” Frey said. “They talked about it that morning among themselves when they came into class. They were worried about their families. One boy came to me in tears and said he was leaving the country, that his family was going back to Portugal. He went around the room, saying goodbye to his friends. Later that day I called his dad. The boy was mistaken; the family was staying.”

But the damage was done.

It took 15 minutes to read “The Yellow Star” to the class. Upon finishing, I looked up at the students. From their expressions, I feared I had upset some of them all over again. When I asked their thoughts on those who had threatened Denmark’s Jews, their response was heartfelt, uncomplicated. “That’s wrong,” blurted one boy, to general agreement. “It’s not fair,” seconded another.

The students never mentioned President Trump or his executive order. But they decided they liked King Christian X very much.

To those who think that Donald Trump represents a new phenomenon in American politics, Sarah Churchwell’s essay in The New York Review of Books is a necessary antidote. Open the link to see the alarming photographs that accomparticle. Yes, it happened here. Yes, you should describe to the New York Review of Books.

She writes:

As militarized police in riot gear and armored vehicles barreled into peaceful protesters in cities across America, and its president emerged from a bunker to have citizens tear-gassed on his way to a church he’d never attended, holding a Bible he’d never read, many people recalled a famous saying often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Because Lewis’s novel is the best remembered of the many warnings against American fascism in the interwar years, he has latterly been credited with the admonition, but they are not Lewis’s words.

The adage probably originated instead with James Waterman Wise, son of the eminent American rabbi Stephen Wise and one of the many voices at the time urging Americans to recognize fascism as a serious domestic threat. “The America of power and wealth,” Wise cautioned, is “an America which needs fascism.” American fascism might emerge from “patriotic orders, such as the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution… and it may come to us wrapped in the American flag or a Hearst newspaper.” In another talk that year, he put it slightly differently: American fascism would likely come “wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.”

An American fascism would, by definition, deploy American symbols and American slogans. “Do not look for them to raise aloft the swastika,” Wise warned, “or to employ any of the popular forms of Fascism” from Europe. Fascism’s ultra-nationalism means that it works by normalizing itself, drawing on familiar national customs to insist it is merely conducting political business as usual. As José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of Spain’s proto-fascist Falange party, proclaimed in 1934, all fascisms ought to be local and indigenous:

Italy and Germany… turned back towards their own authenticity, and if we do so ourselves, the authenticity which we find will also be our own: it will not be that of Germany or Italy, and therefore, by reproducing the achievement of the Italians or Germans we will become more Spanish than we have ever been… In fascism as in movements of all ages, underneath the local characteristics there are to be found certain constants… What is needed is a total feeling of what is required: a total feeling for the Fatherland, for life, for History.

Samuel Moyn recently argued in these pages against comparing Trump’s policies to fascism, because his administration is “pursuing causes with roots deep in American history. No analogy to Hitler or fascism is needed to explain these results.” But this presumes that fascism does not have its own deep roots in American history. It is arguable—not to say, exceptionalist—to presuppose that anything indigenously American cannot be fascist; this begs the question of American fascism rather than disputing it. Experts on fascism such as Robert O. Paxton, Roger Griffin, and Stanley G. Payne have long argued that fascism can never seem alien to its followers; its claims to speak for “the people” and to restore national greatness mean that each version of fascism must have its own local identity. To believe that a nationalist movement isn’t fascist because it’s native is to miss the point entirely.

Historically, fascist movements were also marked by opportunism, a willingness to say almost anything to get into power, rendering definitions even murkier. Trying to identify its core, the unsplittable fascist atom, has proved impossible; we are left with what Umberto Eco called fascism’s “fuzziness,” others its “hazy and synthetic doctrines.” There are good arguments against attempting through taxonomies to establish what’s become known as a “fascist minimum,” as if a checklist could qualitatively differentiate fascism from other authoritarian dictatorships. Some think anti-Semitism is a litmus test; others genocide. Does colonialism count? Aimé Césaire, C.L.R. James, and Hannah Arendt, among many other notable thinkers who lived through the first fascisms, certainly thought it did, arguing that European fascism visited upon white bodies what colonial and slave systems had perfected in visiting upon black and brown bodies.

Paxton has argued influentially that fascism is as fascism does. But conspicuous features are recognizably shared, including: nostalgia for a purer, mythic, often rural past; cults of tradition and cultural regeneration; paramilitary groups; the delegitimizing of political opponents and demonization of critics; the universalizing of some groups as authentically national, while dehumanizing all other groups; hostility to intellectualism and attacks on a free press; anti-modernism; fetishized patriarchal masculinity; and a distressed sense of victimhood and collective grievance. Fascist mythologies often incorporate a notion of cleansing, an exclusionary defense against racial or cultural contamination, and related eugenicist preferences for certain “bloodlines” over others. Fascism weaponizes identity, validating the herrenvolk and invalidating all the other folk.

Americans of the interwar period, though they could not predict what was to come in Europe, were nonetheless perfectly clear about one fact we have lost sight of today: all fascism is indigenous, by definition. “Fascism must be home grown,” admonished an American lecturer in 1937, “repeating the words of Benito Mussolini, that fascism cannot be imported,” but must be “particularly suited to our national life.” Logically, therefore, “the anti-Negro program” would provide “a very plausible rallying cry for American fascists,” just as anti-Semitism had for Germans. Others recognized that the deep roots of anti-Semitic evangelical Christianity provided equally plausible rallying cries for an American fascism. Wartime patriotism and the Allied triumph soon gave Americans permission to regard fascism as an alien and uniquely European pathology, but “the man on horseback,” the despot who could ride reactionary populist energies to power, had been a specter in American politics since at least as early as the presidency of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

One of the last, and most horrific, public lynchings in America took place in October 1934, in the Florida Panhandle, where a crowd of as many as 5,000 gathered to watch what had been advertised hours earlier in the local press. Claude Neal was burned and castrated, had his genitals stuffed into his mouth, and was forced to tell his torturers that he enjoyed their taste. After he was finally dragged to his death behind a car, his mutilated corpse was urinated upon by the crowds, and then hung from the Marianna Courthouse. The German press, quick to capitalize on reports of American lynching, circulated photographs of Neal, whose horrific death they described with “sharp editorial comments to the effect that America should clean its own house” before it censured other governments’ treatment of their citizens. “Stop Lynching Negroes is Nazi Retort to American Critics,” read the Pittsburgh Courier headline reporting German accounts of American racial violence.

The Courier was one of many African-American papers that not only saw affinities between Nazi Germany and Jim Crow America, but also traced causal connections. “Hitler Learns from America,” the Courier had declared as early as 1933, reporting that German universities under the new regime of the Third Reich were explaining that they drew their ideas from “the American pathfinders Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard,” and that “racial insanities” in America provided Nazi Germany with “a model for oppressing and persecuting its own minorities.” The African-American New York Age similarly wondered if Hitler had studied “under the tutelage” of Klan leaders, perhaps as “a subordinate Kleagle or something of the sort.”

The Nazis themselves saw a clear kinship. Recent histories have demonstrated that Hitler systematically relied upon American race laws in designing the Nuremberg laws, while the Third Reich also actively sought supporters in the Jim Crow South, although the political leadership of the white South largely did not return the favor. But the correspondence between the two systems was perfectly evident at the time, on both sides of the Atlantic. A Nazi consul general in California even tried to purchase the Klan, with the idea of plotting an American putsch. His price was too low—the Klan was nothing if not mercenary—but, as journalists remarked after the story came to light in 1939, the Klan could not afford to seem foreign; “to be effective,” its nativist agenda had to be pursued “in the name of Americanism.”

In 1935, African Americans organized around the country in mass protests against Mussolini’s slaughter of Ethiopians across the sea. “American Fascism Already Has Negroes,” declared the Jamaican-American journalist and historian Joel Augustus Rogers. Langston Hughes agreed: “Give Franco a hood and he would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a Kleagle. Fascism is what the Ku Klux Klan will be when it combines with the Liberty League and starts using machine guns and airplanes instead of a few yards of rope.” “We Negroes in America Negroes do not have to be told what fascism is in action,” Hughes told another audience. “We know.”

At the same time, in 1935, W.E.B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America. This foundational work of African-American revisionist historiography appeared amid the tumult of the Scottsboro Nine’s persecution and as Jesse Owens’s medal haul at the Berlin Olympics was seen as both a joke against Hitler and a rebuke to Jim Crow America. In no way coincidentally, then, Du Bois implies in his study more than once that the white supremacism of Jim Crow America could indeed be regarded as “fascism.” Sixty years later, in a neglected but remarkable essay, Amiri Baraka made Du Bois’s notion explicit, arguing that the end of Reconstruction “heaved Afro America into fascism. There is no other term for it. The overthrow of democratically elected governments and the rule by direct terror, by the most reactionary sector of finance capital… Carried out with murder, intimidation and robbery, by the first storm troopers, again the Hitlerian prototype, the Ku Klux Klan, directly financed by northern capital.” It would take another twenty years for white American historiography to absorb the argument, when, in 2004, Paxton observed in The Anatomy of Fascism that a strong argument could be made for the first Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction South being the world’s earliest fascist movement:

[The first Klan was] an alternative civic authority, parallel to the legal state, which, in the eyes of the Klan’s founders, no longer defended their community’s legitimate interests. By adopting a uniform (white robe and hood), as well as by their techniques of intimidation and their conviction that violence was justified in the cause of their group’s destiny, the first version of the Klan in the defeated American South was arguably a remarkable preview of the way fascist movements were to function in interwar Europe.

After the KKK was resurrected in 1915, the second Klan claimed as many as five million members by the mid-1920s, a degree of proliferation in American society that represented one out of every three or four white Protestant American men. When Mussolini burst onto the world stage in 1921, many Americans across the country instantly recognized his project, as newspapers from Montana to Florida explained to their readers that “the ‘Fascisti’ might be known as the Ku Klux Klan,” and “the klan… is the Fascisti of America.” Comparisons between the homegrown Klan and Italian fascism soon became ubiquitous in the American press; the resemblance was not superficial.

The second Klan disintegrated in the late 1920s under the taint of corruption and sex scandals, but some of its erstwhile leaders soon began cutting their bloodstained cloth to fit new political fashions. The majority of the American fascist groups of the interwar period, more than one of which self-identified as fascist, began not as branches of Nazism, but as offshoots of the Klan. Their Christian nationalism was inextricable from their anti-Semitism, although it also led to a sectarianism that may have kept them from forging stronger alliances.

Many of these groups shared the fondness of their European counterparts for dressing up in “colored shirt” uniforms, to suggest organized force and militaristic might, to intimidate and exclude, including Atlanta’s Order of Black Shirts; the White Shirts, militant “Crusaders for Economic Liberty,” founded by George W. Christians, who cultivated a toothbrush mustache and Hitlerian lock of flopping hair; the Gray Shirts, officially “The Pioneer Home Protective Association,” founded in upstate New York; the Khaki Shirts (also “US Fascists”); the Silver Shirts, which William Dudley Pelley modeled on Hitler’s “elite Nazi corps,” and the Dress Shirts. By the end of 1934, American journalists were mocking the growing list. “Gray Shirts Make America No. 1 Among Shirt-Nations,” read one sarcastic headline, noting that unless other countries began cheating by combining colors, “it will be impossible to out-shirt us.”

But others took the threat more seriously. As James Waterman Wise repeatedly explained, “the various colored shirt orders—the whole haberdashery brigade who play upon sectional prejudice,” were “sowing the seeds of Fascism” in the United States. The Black Legion was an offshoot of the Klan that flourished in the Midwest, whose leader spoke of seizing Washington in a revolutionary coup, called the New Deal a Jewish plot “to starve the Gentiles out,” and espoused the extermination of American Jews by means of poison gas dispensers in synagogues on Yom Kippur. Anyone wondering “what fascism would be like in this country” should look to the Black Legion, with its “odor of Hitlerism,” its “anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Negro, anti-labor platform, its whips, clubs and guns, its brazen defiance of law and order and the due processes of democracy,” warned a widely syndicated 1936 editorial. “These are the attitudes and equipment of fascism.”

The short-lived “Friends of the Hitler Movement” soon transformed into the more acceptable “Friends of New Germany” in 1933, before becoming the Bund. It held several large rallies in Madison Square Garden, including its 1939 “Mass Demonstration for True Americanism,” where a giant banner featuring George Washington was flanked by swastikas, and twelve hundred “storm troopers” stood in the aisles delivering the Nazi salute; footage from the rally was restored in 2019 as the short film “A Night at the Garden.” By 1940, the Bund claimed membership of 100,000 and had established summer camps in upstate New York, New Jersey, and Long Island where it trained American Nazi youth. The Bund’s propagandist, Gerhard Kunze, reported at the time that “the swastika is not foreign but one hundred per cent American. The Indians always used it,” while the emblem of another group, “The American National-Socialist Party,” was “an American Indian, arm outstretched in salute, poised against a black swastika.” They admitted to working to naturalize Nazism, seeking consanguinities with American symbolism.

Then, too, there was Father Coughlin. “I take the road of Fascism,” he said in 1936, before forming the Christian Front,” whose members referred to themselves as “brown shirts.” His virulently anti-Semitic radio program, regularly transmitting claims from the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, reached almost 30 million Americans at its height—the largest radio audience in the world at the time. Those listeners tuned in at the end of 1938 as Coughlin was justifying the violence of Kristallnacht, arguing that it was “reprisal” against Jews who had supposedly murdered more than twenty million Christians and stolen billions of dollars in “Christian property”; Nazism, he said, was a natural “defense mechanism” against the communism financed by Jewish bankers. Coughlin’s weekly newspaper, Social Justice, which had an estimated circulation of 200,000 at its height, was described by Life magazine at the time as probably the most widely read voice of “Nazi propaganda in America.”

But the American leader most often accused of fascist tendencies was Huey Long. As Louisiana governor (and senator), Long imposed local martial law, censored the newspapers, forbade public assemblies, packed the courts and legislatures with his cronies, and installed his twenty-four-year-old lover as secretary of state. Long was a racketeer, but his “Share Our Wealth” program did improve local conditions, building roads and bridges, investing in hospitals and schools, and abolishing the poll tax. His economic populism was also not predicated on furthering racial, ethnic, or religious divisions; he subordinated his white supremacism to his redistributionist political message. “We just lynch an occasional nigger,” he breezily declared when dismissing anti-lynching laws, though he also recognized “you can’t help poor white people without helping Negroes,” and so was prepared for his rising tide to lift all boats. When Long set his sights on the 1936 presidential election, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sufficiently alarmed to inform his ambassador to Germany: “Long plans to be a candidate of the Hitler type for the presidency,” predicting that by 1940 Long would try to install himself as a dictator.

Roosevelt was hardly alone in fearing that Long sought to be an “American Fuehrer”; Long’s political career gave plenty of reason for doubting his democratic bona fides. He inspired Sinclair Lewis’s Buzz Windrip in It Can’t Happen Here, the president-dictator who promises Americans $5,000 a year if they vote for him, as Long had done. But the name Windrip also suggests Rev. Gerald B. Winrod, the “Kansas Hitler” who led the “Defenders of the Christian Faith” and had been touring the nation lecturing on the millenarian role of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini in Biblical prophecy since the late 1920s. That Lewis also viewed the Klan as a fascist movement is clear from an extended denunciation that opens the novel, in which Lewis rips through a genealogy of American proto-fascist tendencies, including anti-Semitism, political corruption, war hysteria, conspiracy theories, and evangelical Christianity, before ending on the “Kentucky night-riders,” the “trainloads of people [who] have to gone to enjoy lynchings.” “Not happen here?… Where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!”

President Windrip himself is “vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.” His fascist regime, driven by Christian nationalism and a desire for ethnic homogeneity, turns both African Americans and Jews into enemies of the state, decreeing that all bankers are Jewish. It Can’t Happen Here suggests that in America, fascism’s most dangerous supporters would be those “who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.” It would be “government of the profits, by the profits, for the profits.” Fascism’s cancerous version of nationalism means that an American fascism will always graft American pieties about individual liberty onto realities of systemic greed, printing “liberate” on flags waved by a huckster.

Dorothy Thompson, the celebrated journalist and anti-fascist campaigner and Sinclair Lewis’s wife at the time, similarly earned the sobriquet of “Cassandra” for prophesying that fascism in the US would look all too familiarly American when it arrived. (Thompson enjoyed the riposte that Cassandra was always proven right in the end.) “When Americans think of dictators they always think of some foreign model,” she said, but an American dictator would be “one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.” And the American people, Thompson added, “will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of ‘O.K., Chief! Fix it like you wanna, Chief!’” A year later, a Yale professor named Halford Luccock was also widely cited in the press when he told an audience: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’” And Luccock went on: “The high-sounding phrase ‘the American way’ will be used by interested groups, intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, tear gas and shotguns, denial of civil liberties.”

A few years later, Thompson wrote again in similar terms, saying she was reminded of what Huey Long himself had once explained to her: “American Fascism would never emerge as a Fascist but as a 100 percent American movement; it would not duplicate the German method of coming to power but would only have to get the right President and Cabinet.” FDR’s vice president, Henry Wallace, issued his own warning. “American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he wrote in The New York Times in 1944, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.”

Wallace’s warning came amid the Roosevelt administration’s misguided prosecution on sedition charges of many of these figures, including Winrod, Pelley, Elizabeth Dilling (of the so-called Mothers’ Movement), and James True (who founded a group called “America First Inc.” and called for an American pogrom). This constellation had orbited around the America First Committee of 1940–1941 and its figurehead Charles Lindbergh, the celebrated aviator who, for a time, lent their conspiratorial anti-Semitism a veneer of legitimacy until he met with disgrace in September 1941 for a speech widely condemned as anti-Semitic and “un-American.” As the United States entered World War II, the meaning of “America First” underwent an abrupt volte-face from patriotic to seditious, becoming a byword for anti-Semitic Nazi sympathies.

That did not stop Huey Long’s former deputy, the Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith—who had built his own political career on denunciations of presumptively Jewish “international bankers”—from running for president in 1944 on a promise to fix the nation’s “Jewish problem.” Smith’s party was called America First.

Now, in 2020, we find ourselves with an America First president. Arguments that Donald Trump can only be understood in relation to the modern conservative movement in America, best framed by the turn to the right under Barry Goldwater or Lee Atwater’s famous Southern Strategy, assume a rupture with American politics of the interwar period that was not necessarily evident at the time. To give just one example, Goldwater was described more than once during his presidential run in 1964, by both his supporters and his critics, as an “America First” politician.

Nor is it only Trump’s critics who see fascist tendencies in his administration’s rhetoric glorifying violence and disregarding the rule of law, democratic processes, and civil liberties; the president and his supporters regularly embrace traditions of American fascism themselves. “America First” was initially the favorite slogan of American xenophobic nativist movements and politics from 1915 to 1941, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s loyalty test, demanding that immigrant “hyphenate Americans” prove they were for “America First,” followed by its use as a rallying cry to keep America out of the League of Nations and from ratifying the Treaty of Versailles. Warren G. Harding also ran on an America First campaign in 1920, even as the slogan was being appropriated by the second Klan, which regularly marched with the legend on banners and used it in recruitment ads. It was invoked on the floor of Congress by supporters of the nativist and eugenicist Immigration Act of 1924. Then it was assimilated by self-styled American fascist groups of the 1930s, including the German-American Bund and the virulently anti-Semitic “America First, Inc.,” before it was adopted by the America First Committee of 1940–1941, when Lindbergh used it to convince Americans that “Jewish interests” were seeking to manipulate the United States into taking part in a European war.

Trump himself has echoed the “Nordicist” rhetoric of interwar Klansmen and American fascists when he said he would prefer more immigrants from Norway and fewer from “shithole” places like Haiti and Africa. He has praised the “bloodlines” of Henry Ford, who circulated the series of articles titled “The International Jew,” which promulgated the Protocols of the Elders of Zion across America during the 1920s. In that same decade, Fred Trump, then a young man (later, father of Donald), was arrested after a brawl involving Klansmen broke out at a Memorial Day Parade in Queens. Donald Trump was reported to own the speeches of Hitler during the 1990s; he denied ever reading them—but then he is also incapable of telling the truth.

And lately, in response to the killing of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation and then the world, Donald Trump announced that he would hold a rally for his supporters in Tulsa—one year short of the centenary of the worst anti-black pogrom in American history, which left as many as 300 African Americans dead, 8,000 homeless, and the city’s black community destroyed. Trump’s rally was to have taken place on June 19, a day known as “Juneteenth” that has come to be celebrated as an anniversary marking the end of slavery in the US and the emancipation of African Americans. For complex historical reasons, the deferral of liberty and the franchise, the belatedness of free and full citizenship under the law, the active suppression of black rights, all resonate in the Juneteenth celebration. (After widespread outrage at the clear provocation, Trump’s rally was postponed a day, to June 20, still in Tulsa. Trump proceeded to take credit for educating the country about Juneteenth.)

Trump is no student of history, but someone around him clearly is. But it is also true that Trump’s thundering ignorance does not mean he doesn’t understand the racist and fascist rhetoric he deploys. We need not argue that he is a mastermind plotting a fascist coup to recognize that Trump has a demonstrable sense of how white supremacism works in America, without ever having troubled to organize his thoughts, such as he has, about it.

And this, too, was how fascism always operated in practice: it was nothing if not opportunistic. What Paxton calls its “mobilizing passions” catalyze fascism, which is propelled, as he notes, more by feelings than by thought. Only “the historic destiny of the group,” matters to fascists, he adds: “their only moral yardstick is the prowess of the race, of the nation, of the community. They claim legitimacy by no universal standard except a Darwinian triumph of the strongest community.” Its “hazy and synthetic doctrines,” combined with its ultra-nationalism and anti-intellectualism, mean that fascism is never a coherent set of ideological doctrines. Force takes the place of ideology, as the fascist strong man performs for his followers their sense of rightful dominance and rage that other groups, in embracing equality, reject their entitlements.

American fascist energies today are different from 1930s European fascism, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fascist, it means they’re not European and it’s not the 1930s. They remain organized around classic fascist tropes of nostalgic regeneration, fantasies of racial purity, celebration of an authentic folk and nullification of others, scapegoating groups for economic instability or inequality, rejecting the legitimacy of political opponents, the demonization of critics, attacks on a free press, and claims that the will of the people justifies violent imposition of military force. Vestiges of interwar fascism have been dredged up, dressed up, and repurposed for modern times. Colored shirts might not sell anymore, but colored hats are doing great.

Reading about the inchoate American fascist movements of the 1930s during the Trump administration feels less prophetic than proleptic, a time-lapse montage of a para-fascist order slowly willing itself into existence over the course of nearly a century. It certainly seems less surprising that recognizably fascistic violence is erupting in the United States under Trump, as his attorney general sends troops to the national capital to act as a private army, armed paramilitary groups occupy state capitols, laws are passed to deny the citizenship and rights of specific groups, and birthright citizenship as guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment is attacked. When the president declares voting an “honor” rather than a right and “jokes” about becoming president for life, when the government makes efforts to add new categories of ethnic identity to the decennial census for the first time in the nation’s history, and when nationwide protests in response to racial injustice become the pretext for mooting martial law, we are watching an American fascist order pulling itself together.

Trump is neither aberrant nor original. Nativist reactionary populism is nothing new in America, it just never made it to the White House before. In the end, it matters very little whether Trump is a fascist in his heart if he’s fascist in his actions. As one of Lewis’s characters notes of the dictator in It Can’t Happen Here: “Buzz isn’t important—it’s the sickness that made us throw him up that we’ve got to attend to.”

Peter Greene worries that the Espinoza decision is another step in the movement to establish the principle that the public should fund religious schools. He believes this is ominous.

I don’t disagree. That’s why Trump and DeVos celebrated the Court’s decision that all state scholarships for private schools must include religious schools. I was pleased that the Court did not take the final step that would completely eliminate any state bans on funding religious schools. That would have the public pay for thousands of religious schools, as well as ersatz religious schools, of meager or low quality. They left open the future disposition of cases that test the legitimacy of state constitutional prohibition of paying for religious school tuition. This underscores the importance of the 2020 election and of ousting Trump. No more justices who would destroy public education.

Greene begins:

The Supreme Court has, as expected, poked another hole in the wall between church and state; it will weaken public education and open the door to making taxpayers foot the bill for religious discrimination.

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue has further extended the precedent set by Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, a case that for the first time required “the direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church.” Historically, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment has taken a back seat to the establishment clause; in other words, the principle was that the government’s mandate to avoid establishing any “official” religion meant that it could not get involved in financing religious institutions, including churches or church-run private schools.

This has been a big stumbling block for the school voucher movement, because the vast majority of private schools that stand to benefit from vouchers are private religious schools. In fact, where school vouchers have been established, they are overwhelmingly used to fund religious schools.

But for several years, conservative fans of school choice (including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) have been pushing the argument that a religious school is not free to exercise its religious faith if it does not get to share in taxpayer dollars. The wall between church and state has thus been characterized as discrimination against religion, and as conservatives celebrate this decision, they repeatedly characterize it as a blow for freedom. Turns out you can’t be really free without taxpayer funding.

There are a host of problems with the SCOTUS decision and the arguments behind it.

For one, the freedoms that private religious schools wish to enjoy include the right to discriminate. Choicers like to argue that vouchers make families free to choose, but private schools are free to reject students for any reason they choose. Investigations found that Florida’s robust voucher program funnels millions of dollars to schools that reject or expel LGBTQ students and faculty. Because Florida imposes little accountability on its private schools, the Orlando Sentinel also found private schools teaching about the happy co-existence of white owners and Black slaves in the pre-Civil War South as well as how men and dinosaurs once lived together.

For taxpayer dollars to flow to private religious schools, one of two choices has to be made. Either private schools retain their freedom to operate as they please, or they are accountable to taxpayers for living under the same rules as a public school. The former opens up the possibility of students being taught ideologically based falsehoods, even as taxpayers fund schools to which their own children would not be admitted. The latter means that private schools would trade a financial windfall for a loss of autonomy, maybe even have to accept some of Those Peoples’ Children in their private school. Sometimes we forget that the wall between church and state was also meant to protect the church; when you mix religion and politics, you get politics.