Sullivan: Conservatives are Fascists

Andrew Sullivan quotes, approvingly, from a reader email:

What American ‘conservatism’ has become fits closely within the definition of fascism: an intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the ‘nation’ on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria, accompanied by an unquestioning loyalty to (male) authority, enshrined in family leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, and especially, the leader of the nation, who is seen as embodying the Nation. Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance. Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals. Diplomacy, compromise, negotiation, are all identified with (feminine) weakness. The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

While I share some of Sullivan’s frustrations with the direction the Republican Party and the American conservative movement are heading, this is, quite simply, absurd. He’s both too smart and too knowledgeable about history and political philosophy to believe this nonsense.

Taking the above in order:

. . . intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the ‘nation’ on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria . . .

First, by definition, membership in a nation is exclusionary. Matt Rosenberg‘s short description of nations as “culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, which share a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience” is pithy and consistent with most established uses. Certainly, in the United States, we have expanded the definition to include belief in certain core values and have removed the racial component given our multi-ethic heritage.

The idea that we’re moving in the opposite direction is not supportable by the facts. President Bush, the presumed object of Sullivan’s vitriol*, has gone out of his way to promote the idea that Islam is a Religion of Peace and to mention all the great religions whenever he mentions Christianity in major speeches. His immigration policy is incredibly permissive and race-neutral.

. . . accompanied by an unquestioning loyalty to (male) authority, enshrined in family leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, and especially, the leader of the nation, who is seen as embodying the Nation.

Huh? All presidents, going back to George Washington, have taken on the mantle of Head of State and serve as the symbolic leader of the Nation. That comes with the territory.

Yes, this president, his advisers and water carriers are too prone to play the Wartime Leader card and act under the assumption that the Commander-in-Chief hat applies outside the narrow scope of directing the military. Bush isn’t the first president to do that, though; indeed, every wartime president that I can think of did much the same.

But get real here. We’re talking about the natural “invitation to struggle” for political power within the very narrow boundaries of a checks and balances system with rather strict separation of powers that has been institutionalized for 118 years. This isn’t the totalitarian fealty demanded by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, and Hussein. To paraphrase a great philosopher, it ain’t the same ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same sport.

Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance.

Well, of course it is. We live in an era of polarized political discourse and that creates a sense of partisanship as a team sport. That’s true on the Left as well. Have you ever read DailyKos? Or watched the Democratic primary in Connecticut last cycle?

But, again, comparisons with Fascism cheapens the oppression suffered by people who lived under its tyranny. Aside from political appointees, who have always been chosen on partisan basis, government employees are hired without regard to partisan loyalties. Indeed, it is illegal to even ask about their political beliefs. Outside the government sector and jobs within think tanks and partisan/ideological organizations, there is no Party ID one must show to get a good job.

Come to think of it, there’s not even such a thing as a Party ID card in this country. Howard Dean and Mel Martinez would be hard pressed to prove they were members of the parties they chair.

Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals.

Oh, please. Yes, we’re at war and we’re using military power in an attempt to protect ourselves from fanatical terrorism. But Fascism uses violence as the preferred means of accomplishing domestic goals. That’s a rather significant distinction.

Whether the war in Iraq, or a militarized approach to counter-terrorism more generally, is a prudent policy is debatable. And debated it is, with zero interference from the government, by the way, unless one counts name calling by minor apparatchiks.

Diplomacy, compromise, negotiation, are all identified with (feminine) weakness.

When has that not been the case? Those most passionate about politics have always thought anything less than 100 percent success amounted to failure. Nonetheless, elected leaders have merrily gone on negotiating, exercising diplomacy, and making compromises because that’s what the reality of our political system demands.

The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

Like wartime presidents before him, including Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, and LBJ, Bush has pushed the envelope on his power in the name of national security. I don’t like it and don’t think the urgency or political necessity existed to do so in most cases.

Again, though, it’s bizarre to suggest that this is tantamount to “(violent) action” or that there was even a move toward “(violent) action” to achieving domestic political aims. It didn’t happen and isn’t about to happen. Aside from some fringe groups, which have always existed, there is simply no appetite for that. Our political culture resolves conflicts through peaceful protests, lobbying, lawsuits, campaigning, and a lot of bitching and moaning.

Sullivan and I are among thousands of Americans who freely go online and criticize the administration’s policies for any comers to see and sign our name to it without the thought crossing our mind that we’ll be dragged from our beds in the middle of the night and silenced. Until that changes, we should dispense with the “Fascism” silliness.

UPDATE: Sullivan posts a response, agreeing that the email’s cry of fascism “pushed the envelope” but that “the Bush administration’s doctrine of executive power, its disregard for the rule of law, its politicization of the Justice Department, its indefinite abridgment of habeas corpus, its deployment of torture against detainees, including an American citizen, are cause for serious concern.” I largely agree; our few differences are of degree rather than kind.
_______

*Given that the “reader email” is Sullivan’s version of William Raspberry’s taxi driver, I’ll dispense with treating the quote as something other than Sullivan’s idea.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Who isn’t fascist by the standards that Mr. Sullivan is raising? Certainly the British, Dutch, French, Danes, Swedes, Iranians, Indonesians, and Mexicans do since all of those countries have or are considering linguistic and/or ethnic or racial criteria for “membership in the ‘nation’”.

    Has violence been the first recourse of American policy more under Republicans for the last, say, 25 years than under Democrats? I think that it can be argued reasonably that we’ve been too quick to deploy the military or that our guns have been pointed the wrong way but I don’t think it can be reasonably argued that “violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals”.

    In particular I haven’t noticed either Republicans or Democrats in this country rioting in the streets, smashing windows, or setting fire to Congress. However much we would like to.

    The only thing that the email quoted by Mr. Sullivan demonstrates is that the truth value of the following equation

    Fascists = people I don’t like

    has become nearly complete.

  2. James Joyner says:

    “Fascists = people I don’t like” has become nearly complete.

    Indeed. Sullivan is better than that, though. He’s got too much intellectual talent at his disposal to resort to such idiocy.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Fascist? Heck, we can’t even make the trains run on time. It’s more like a banana republic.

  4. Was James, not is. Andrew went full tilt Bozo some time ago. A clever, smart, erudite Bozo, but Bozo nonetheless.

  5. Andrew’s “Christianist” slur didn’t catch on so he had to resort to using something more understandable even if just as inaccurate.

  6. Eneils Bailey says:

    “While I share some of Sullivan’s frustrations with the direction the Republican Party and the American conservative movement are heading,”

    Care to make a comment on where the democrat party/socialists is heading?

    “we should dispense with the “Fascism” silliness.”

    Statements like this are not silliness to the democrats. These are hardcore beliefs, manufactured in part because “so-called Republicans/Conservatives” respond to them in great detail and want to win a debate with a deranged fool.

    “Never submit to a debate with a fool, he will wear you down with an abundance of ignorance, and win because of experience.”

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    Overall I find Sullivan to be an idiot. Note that many conservatives (Malkin, et. al.) are really pissed off at Bush for his support of a guest worker program and granting some sort of amnesty/”path to citizenship” for illegals already here. Does that fit Sullivan’s charaterization of facism? Hardly. Then there was the whole Dubai thing as well. Add on other things by Bush that suggest he is more like a liberal than a conservative and we see that Sullivan’s claim is completely vacuous.

    Does Sullivan have intellectual talent? Maybe, but to then turn around and write something as insipid as this just can’t be squared with such a claim. One thing here is not like the other.

  8. Michael says:

    Fascists = people I don’t like” has become nearly complete.

    I guess he wanted something to match the “Liberals = people I don’t like” meme that seems to prevalent on the right. However, I’ll be the first to say that we don’t need to match ignorance with ignorance.

    Care to make a comment on where the democrat party/socialists is heading?

    Seriously though, how long has the right been branding Democrats as “socialists”? You can’t say this “fascist” label hasn’t been a long time coming.

    And can we stop with the “Democrat party” already? It’s juvenile and just makes you sound like somebody worth ignoring.

  9. LaurenceB says:

    James,
    I agree that the “fascism” label goes too far.

    Steve,
    Sullivan is not an idiot. Oh, and he didn’t “write something as insipid as this”. It’s reasonable to take Sullivan to task for uncritically publishing an outlandish email from a reader, but it’s just absurd to criticize Sullivan for his reader’s writing. Only an idiot would do that.

  10. James Joyner says:

    it’s just absurd to criticize Sullivan for his reader’s writing

    This wasn’t in his comments section it was something he chose to highlight uncritically as a standalone blog post. His one line of comment on the post amounted to, “Heh, indeed.”

  11. Eneils Bailey says:

    “Seriously though, how long has the right been branding Democrats as “socialists”? You can’t say this “fascist” label hasn’t been a long time coming.”

    Sorry, I can’t respond. I assert my previous statement.

    “Never submit to a debate with a fool, he will wear you down with an abundance of ignorance, and win because of experience.”

  12. Bithead says:

    Sullivan is not an idiot

    He fools a lot of folks, that way.

    Oh, and he didn’t “write something as insipid as this”. It’s reasonable to take Sullivan to task for uncritically publishing an outlandish email from a reader, but it’s just absurd to criticize Sullivan for his reader’s writing. Only an idiot would do that.

    Until one considers closely thehistory of Saint Andrew the Incontinent, that is.

    What you say may in fact apply to other people.

    However, most people who have read him at all in the past would not assume he’d be posting such a letter, had he not considered it closely and agreed with it.

    Now, if you like to provide us all with a reference to where he DISagrees with the conent of the letter he’s posted, please do.

  13. Matthew J. Stinson says:

    Ah, old excitable Andrew, he who uses “readers” call people names. It’s a good Fisk, James, but is it really worth pointing out this late in the day that Sullivan’s lost in the forest without a trail of breadcrumbs to guide him home?

    That said, I’m amused (sort of) by the goofiest “observation” of Sullivan’s “reader,” which you didn’t excerpt. Namely, the tired old “Southern Strategy meant the GOP became a party of evil white Southerners” canard, a smear happily endorsed by Sullivan, as if George W. Bush carries the mantle of George Wallace while he’s bending over backwards to endorse the McCain-Kennedy de facto amnesty bill.

    The sad thing is, if the GOP’s main problem were a nasty case of Evilcon infestation as some would have us believe, it would be a lot easier to purge those elements and save the party from itself. (Buckley et al did it to the Birchers before, after all.) However, the real problems — numbing, tone-deaf incompetence and pro-big government cynicism — simply cannot be handled within the span of a couple election cycles.

  14. LaurenceB says:

    It’s very generous of you to stand up for your co-blogger. Did Sullivan’s “insipid” writing convince you that Sullivan is an idiot? Just wondering.

  15. LaurenceB says:

    Bithead,
    I am perfectly willing to accept that Sullivan agrees with the letter-writer. I’ve already said so. I’m just not willing to accept that the letter-writer’s writing skills should reflect on Sullivan. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  16. James Joyner says:

    I’m just not willing to accept that the letter-writer’s writing skills should reflect on Sullivan.

    I don’t believe anyone was criticizing it for grammar or style.

  17. Michael says:

    Sorry, I can’t respond. I assert my previous statement.

    Well, thanks for deciding to insult me rather than dispute my reasoning. I’ll take that to mean you couldn’t find any way of saying I’m wrong.

    You strategy is an excellent way to never loose a debate. It’s also an excellent way to never learn anything.

  18. LaurenceB says:

    James, I suspect Steve read your post and mistakenly assumed you were quoting Sullivan. He didn’t bother to click the link. That’s an easy mistake to make – we’ve all done it before. Your headline probably didn’t help.

    Then Steve critiqued the content (not the grammar or the spelling) as “insipid” and mistakenly assigned it to Sullivan. He screwed up. It’s an easy mistake to make and I probably wouldn’t have called it on him, but since he went out of his way to call someone an “idiot” in the same comment, I couldn’t help myself.

    ‘Nuff said.

  19. David Harris says:

    Seriously though, how long has the right been branding Democrats as “socialists”? You can’t say this “fascist” label hasn’t been a long time coming.

    I hardly think “socialist” carries the same connotation as “fascist.” The front-runner for the Democratic nomination has long been championing socialized medicine, for goodness sakes.

    I think Dr. Joyner did a great job debunking the extremely loose analogies between the current administration and fascism. I think you’d have a harder time proving that prominent Democrats don’t have a large socialist plank in their platforms.

  20. Eneils Bailey says:

    Michael,

    “Well, thanks for deciding to insult me rather than dispute my reasoning. I’ll take that to mean you couldn’t find any way of saying I’m wrong.

    I would venture to say, I have probably forgotten more good things than you have ever ignored.

    You are probably a good person, but in my humble opinion, terribly misguided in your politics. This is not a debate about making demons out of people because they disagree with you.

    It is about using innate and learned intellectual capabilities, unaffected by emotions brought on by a political adherence to ideas that only be re-enforced by continually speeding to a destination that can only be reached with a tank full of emotions.

    Your emotions and opinions are valid only to those who believe as you do, so are mine.

    The challenge for both of us, is to stand before people, profess our beliefs, and the see who responds.

  21. James Joyner says:

    Steve critiqued the content (not the grammar or the spelling) as “insipid” and mistakenly assigned it to Sullivan. He screwed up.

    How is it a mistake? If I quote someone, let that quote stand as the substance of my post, and then add nothing but a one-liner agreeing with the quote, feel free to presume that I agree with the substance of the quote and to criticize it as if I wrote it myself.

  22. Bithead says:

    I don’t believe anyone was criticizing it for grammar or style.

    James;

    You perhaps better than some will understand that my own writings are strewn with typos and enough style points to make government school English teachers cringe. I’ve long since decided that’s simply part of the deal, and as such I’m not about to be critical of someone else’s writing on that score.

    As I’ve said frequnetly enough, it’s always about the IDEAS, with me… and that’s so in this case, as well. You’re quite right, in short; the idea, not the style was the issue.

    How is it a mistake? If I quote someone, let that quote stand as the substance of my post, and then add nothing but a one-liner agreeing with the quote, feel free to presume that I agree with the substance of the quote and to criticize it as if I wrote it myself.

    Exactly so. And as I’ve suggested, given Sullivan’s history… it’s pretty much a given… which I note even LaurenceB stipulates.

  23. Bithead says:

    Who isn’t fascist by the standards that Mr. Sullivan is raising? Certainly the British, Dutch, French, Danes, Swedes, Iranians, Indonesians, and Mexicans do since all of those countries have or are considering linguistic and/or ethnic or racial criteria for “membership in the ‘nation’”.

    I wonder a bit at the idea this is coming up incidental to a bill which will make ‘legal’, in one swelled foop, half a billion illegals… and that those who oppose this miove, are also being labeled ‘facist’.

  24. M1EK says:

    This so-called “good Fisk” basically boils down to the following:

    Sullivan: X, taken to the extreme and including Y and Z…

    James: Everybody has (mild version of X)! Repeat that sentence two or three times. Barely mention Y and Z.

    For instance, X = “intensely nationalist movement”. Y, Z = “intent on defining membership in the ‘nation’ on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria”.

    James retorts with “everybody defines their nation based on exclusionary criteria…” (a very mild version of ‘nationalistic’), somehow equating citizenship with the much more serious and less defensible criteria explicitly laid out by Sullivan.

    I’m not impressed, frankly. After not reading the original, I’m left MORE likely to believe Sullivan than I would have been at the beginning.

  25. M1EK says:

    I left out, in the example cited above, the “mild version of Y” which is “nations are often defined by common characteristics” – ignoring the fact that those are not defined from above, but rather from the citizenry themselves. In contrast, Sullivan’s version requires that those exclusionary criteria be defined from the top, a very different thing.

  26. M1EK says:

    “The front-runner for the Democratic nomination has long been championing socialized medicine, for goodness sakes.”

    No, they haven’t (regardless of which one you mean). The front-runners do not, in fact, call their health care plans “socialized” – that’s a loaded epithet used by people who don’t like the plans, and only marginally accurate. If anything, declaring the current administration to be engaging in a slow march toward fascism is a heck of a lot MORE supportable than your claim.

  27. LaurenceB says:

    Glenn Reynolds has sure written a lot of stupid things.

  28. Scott_T says:

    M1EK said:
    “The front-runners do not, in fact, call their health care plans “socialized” – that’s a loaded epithet used by people who don’t like the plans, and only marginally accurate. If anything, declaring the current administration to be engaging in a slow march toward fascism is a heck of a lot MORE supportable than your claim. ”

    Dude, you have no idea what the differance between “socialization” of an industry verses a fascist nation?

    The fact is that Dubya doesn’t support the huge pull to the left that the Democratic party seems to be demanding (ie abortion laws, gay marriage, welfare state ideas, nationalize health care, etc). Just because he won’t change his views, and he probably has a vast number of “right” voters that support him on many of these ideas, that’s facist?

    The USA is ruled by the people for the people. If lots (majority) of people don’t support the laws that they don’t like, then it shouldn’t be a law.

  29. floyd says:

    Andrew Sullivan is a gullible dullard with a limited vocabulary, but even he ought to know the difference between jingoism and fascism!

  30. Tano says:

    I think it is true that there is a faction within American conservatism that can properly be seen as going down the fascist road.

    That is all that Sully’s reader claimed. It was not claimed that this characterized conservatism in general, nor, certainly, America. In fact, I think we can take comfort from the correlation between increased fascistic tendencies in part of the conservative movement, and the decline in influence of the conservative movement.

    James’ critique does not cut it. He seems to argue that there is no such thing as nationalism, because nations are exclusionary by definition. This rather flies in the face of history, since there obviously have been political movements in many countries that fetishize the nation, and the fascists do so more than anyone else. And one can certainly see these types of appeals in the fascist threads of modern American conservatism.

    JAmes tries to counter the notion that America is moving in this direction by pointing to the immigration agreement, and to Bush’s comments re. Islam. But this misses the point. The claim was not made about the direction America is moving in, nor was it directed (as James assumes without evidence) at George Bush. It was a statement about a certain thread in conservatism. One need spend no more than five minutes browsing through some popular right-wing blogs to come across the most revolting types of Isalmophobia, anti-Arab racism, and of course, comments about immigrants that would make the hair rise on anyone who lived through the mid-20th century.

    James tries to deny some of the points regarding authoritarian instincts amongst conservatives through misdirection. THere is a difference between being the “symbolic leader of the nation” and embodying the nation. Some of us demur at seeing the president as either, but the former is far less objectionable in any case. Both attitudes do express a willingness to place the “leader” on an exalted plane – an attitude that the American revolution sought to overthrow. And it does seem to me to reflect an authoritarian, hierarchical instinct.

    This is, I think, one of the major divides in our politics. One group, conveniently corresponding (roughly) with Democrats, exalt the notion of democracy – and the inherint political equality of all peoples. The other takes a more republican view, and are mired in the pre-Revolutionary standard view of human society as essentially hierarchical – with a leader atop a pyramid, and everyone finding a place. A democratic interpretation of the American revolution is that the hierarchy is dispensed with, and we construct a society of political equals. The republcian interpretation seems to be that the hierarchy is made dynamic (we all can move up or down), and the leader is elected, but the structure remains the same. The extremists in the conservative movement (the subject of Sully’s email) are those who not only continue to see the world in hiearchical terms, but who support the empowerment of the top of the hierarchy, and thus support an extention of top-down control. Authoritarians. And fascism is certainy looming at the end of that road.

    I agree with James’s implication (if I track him right), that America is resistant to going far down that road, and that the dreams of the authoritarians are not nearly as extreme as Mussolini’s (for example). But the claim was only that some in the conservative movement are heading down that road, and we might presume would go far down that road if they could. I think that is right.

    “Those most passionate about politics have always thought anything less than 100 percent success amounted to failure”

    This is just not right. Those most passionate about politics, and with the maturity that comes with aging past your teens, understand that in a society in which we accord an equal political voice to all people, that compromise with your fellow citizens is the only path to success. I find it stunning that James can right such a sentence. Just as a touchstone, go back and read about the Founders during the revolution. Were they 100%ers? Were they not passionate?

    James ends by pointing out how far we are from fascism as a descriptor of our political environment. Of course that is right. But that is a strawman argument. The claim was about tendencies within the conservative movement, not about the state of America today. And I think the concern has validity.

  31. Anderson says:

    Agreed with JJ, mostly, but it would be easier to agree had we not seen Republicans cheering for torture at the recent debate.

  32. James Joyner says:

    Tano and M1EK,

    Sullivan’s quote begins, “What American ‘conservatism’ has become . . . .”

    That is not at all qualified. It is not saying “some extremists who call themselves conservatives …” or “some (unnamed) conservative bloggers….” but rather that what follows applies to the broader conservative movement.

  33. Ugh says:

    Anderson – I was going to say that that was likely what prompted Sully to post the reader’s email.

  34. James Joyner says:

    Agreed with JJ, mostly, but it would be easier to agree had we not seen Republicans cheering for torture at the recent debate.

    There are plenty of people, Democrats and Republicans alike, who buy into the Alan Derschowitz torture scenario that was the heart of the question. I’m not one of them, because I reject the premise, but I understand why people would feel differently.

    Again, though, advocating torturing foreign terrorists to save Americans is a few light years away from supporting violence against one’s domestic detractors, which all Fascist governments employed routinely.

  35. Fog says:

    I think some of you are ignoring the elephant in the room. The president has been given the power to strip the legal rights from anyone by simply declaring them an enemy combatant. As long as this is true, then Mr Sullivan has every reason to be paranoid about fascism in the US. And spare me the argument that this power is necessary, and would never be used for political purposes. It will. Maybe not now, but as long as the power exists, it will be used.

  36. glasnost says:

    I had a larger comment, but it was eaten. But if you look closely, James, you’re partially conceding half the danger signs, saying “yes, but” it’s not fascism. It may not be, but that doesn’t mean that fascist tendencies aren’t on the rise among both the admin and more importantly its followers.

    Nativism: see Michelle Malkin, “Reconquenista”.

    Personality Cult:

    Yes, this president, his advisers and water carriers are too prone to play the Wartime Leader card and act under the assumption that the Commander-in-Chief hat applies outside the narrow scope of directing the military.

    So, we agree it’s on the rise. What are we disagreeing about? The intensity?

    Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance.

    Here, you disagree, and you’re wrong. What does the name “Monica Gooding” mean to you? Democrats have apparently been blackballed from the DOJ since the 2004 elections. There have been news reports. Also see the GSA and the “help our candidates win” presentations. This admin has seen the most intense efforts to partisanize the civil service since Ulyssees S. Grant.

    Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals.

    This is the only point you’re right about, the only one of four signs that isn’t on the rise. But even here, the conservative movement wanted the NYTimes prosecuted for leaking an illegal wiretap program, and a NAVY Jag is getting twenty-five years for leaking Guantanamo names. The movement wants obedience enforced harshly.

    The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

    Contempt for the rule of law is not equivalent to violence, but it is a hallmark of revolutionary and fascist movements. In the last month we’ve had Tom Sowell argue for a military coup and Harvey Mansfield argue that the President can and should ignore the law in the WSJ. The movement – the republican base – has contempt for the rule of law.

    We don’t live in a fascist state right now, but the indicators are bad, the trends are in the wrong direction, and the conservative base wants more. That’s what I think Andy would say if asked to qualify. I agree. There’s not fire yet, but there’s smoke.

  37. James Joyner says:

    you’re partially conceding half the danger signs, saying “yes, but” it’s not fascism. It may not be, but that doesn’t mean that fascist tendencies aren’t on the rise among both the admin and more importantly its followers.

    There’s such a thing as reductio ad absurdum, after all. Both Jimmy Carter and Ted Bundy had lust in their hearts but that does not mean Jimmy Carter was on the path to being a rapist and serial killer.

  38. M1EK says:

    JJ,

    “glasnost’s” comments aren’t even close to “reductio ad absurdum”. You do yourself a discredit with such a glib, and obviously untrue, response.

  39. James Joyner says:

    “glasnost’s” comments aren’t even close to “reductio ad absurdum”. You do yourself a discredit with such a glib, and obviously untrue, response.

    They’re the same type of leaps in logic that Sullivan’s peddling. To go from saying that Bush uses partisan considerations to choose political appointees (duh) to “politicizing the civil service” is a non-sequitur. To go from there to fascism is to continue that trend geometrically.

    To say that Michelle Malkin and Thomas Sowell have said some silly things does not prove much about the state of modern conservatism.

    To be accurate, Sullivan and “Glasnost” are engaging in something closer to slippery slope argumentation rather than reducio ad absurdum. But Glasnost at least acknowledges that he’s taking early indicators and making logical leaps. Sullivan isn’t even doing that; he’s saying we’ve already taken those leaps.

  40. Tano says:

    Sullivan of course has not made such an assertion. He reprints an email from a reader who seems to overstate the case, at least a little bit. And in so doing Sully provokes a needed conversation – one that at the very least elicits acknowledgement that fascistic lustings may well reside in the hearts of conservatives.

    A needed first step.

  41. M1EK says:

    To go from saying that Bush uses partisan considerations to choose political appointees (duh) to “politicizing the civil service” is a non-sequitur.

    And once again we see you attempting to diminish the offenses of this administration because they’re on your team.

    What Bush has done is not just “use partisan considerations to choose political appointees”. That’s like saying Clinton had a bit of a flirting problem.

  42. Anderson says:

    Again, though, advocating torturing foreign terrorists to save Americans is a few light years away from supporting violence against one’s domestic detractors, which all Fascist governments employed routinely.

    “Light years”? Nope. The “foreign” enemy is identified with the domestic opposition — that’s how it worked in Germany and the Soviet Union (not “fascist” but totalitarian). Cf. the “Democrats are traitors” meme, which has been coyly advanced by Bush and Cheney, not just by Freeper webrats.

    We’re not “fascist” yet, and hopefully won’t ever be — but it’s much easier to imagine than I would’ve guessed on 9/10/01. An economic depression or another 9/11 could have terrible consequences.

  43. Steve Verdon says:

    Oh, and he didn’t “write something as insipid as this”. It’s reasonable to take Sullivan to task for uncritically publishing an outlandish email from a reader, but it’s just absurd to criticize Sullivan for his reader’s writing. Only an idiot would do that.

    Okay, fine, good point. I still consider it stupid and insipid to put that as a blog post uncritiqued.

    Nativism: see Michelle Malkin, “Reconquenista”.

    Yes, but this is NOT one of Bush’s failings, and I’m not entirely sure it is a failing of Conservatives in general. Maybe it is, but Sullivan is going to have to do more than simply barfing up a readers e-mail.

    And in so doing Sully provokes a needed conversation – one that at the very least elicits acknowledgement that fascistic lustings may well reside in the hearts of conservatives.

    And I’d say some liberals too. After all, liberals love the idea of controlling what people eat, smoke, and even drink at times. The lust for power cuts across party lines, IMO.

    We’re not “fascist” yet, and hopefully won’t ever be — but it’s much easier to imagine than I would’ve guessed on 9/10/01. An economic depression or another 9/11 could have terrible consequences.

    You may be right. This was Robert Higgs’ hypothesis, that crisis entails an expansion of government power and that when the crisis passes government retains the power. As crises keep coming the power of government keeps expanding. Not a pretty picture of the future.

  44. Tano says:

    “crisis entails an expansion of government power and that when the crisis passes government retains the power.”

    There seems to be no question that the Bush administration has embodied this phenomenon to the max, and also, strangely, that the self-described “libertarians” have largely assented in that, and joined in the denunciation of the (supposedly) “big-statist” liberals who have been alone in resistance.

    Go figga…

  45. Ugh says:

    The Bush Administration, to this day, thinks it has the power to imprison anyone it claims is an “enemy combatant” without review, hearing, or trial. Congress validated this in the MCA.* Mass arrests (and worse) of US citizens without recourse are another 9/11 away, less if Rudy is elected president.

    Wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, indeed.

    *Yes it likely exempts US citizens, how exactly are you going to prove that when the administration tells the court it has no power of review because you’re not (assuming anyone can even get to court showing you’re missing due to gov’t action)?

  46. G.A. Phillips says:

    It is grandly ironic to here of liberals speak of fascism. Who is it that kills those who it deems unworthy for life, who is it that suppress all but but what they believe in, who is it that regulates everyday life because they know better then the rest of us, who is it that would take away our faith, who is it that teaches only what they believe in,who is it that would take away the freedom of all speech but their own, who is it that rights laws with nontraditional and unconstitutional methods to enact all of the above, just tell me who exactly is it that says if you don’t do it their way that you are not correct or reasonable of tolerant or educated or ……….

  47. Anderson says:

    It is grandly ironic to here of liberals speak of fascism.

    … seeing how we helped wipe it off the face of the earth in 1941-45, Republican isolationists be damned.

  48. floyd says:

    Good job Mr. Phillips !

  49. bains says:

    Seriously though, how long has the right been branding Democrats as “socialists”? You can’t say this “fascist” label hasn’t been a long time coming.

    For as long as Democrats have been championing socialist issues. A more appropriate comparison for you to use would be Democratic Party=communist.

    And can we stop with the “Democrat party” already? It’s juvenile and just makes you sound like somebody worth ignoring.

    No more juvenile that when one demands the cessation of the usage of “Democrat Party.”

  50. Cornellian says:

    who is it that regulates everyday life because they know better then the rest of us

    Yep, cause it’s not as if conservatives would ever do something like enact the Terri Schiavo law, or argue that growing marijuana in your backyard for your own personal use is interstate commerce, or take the position that a product labeling statute gives the US attorney general the power to declare invalid state laws on assisted suicide, twice approved by the voters of that state in a referendum.

  51. no worries here says:

    The party of Falwell and Hannity are fake-Christian snake oil salesmen, veritable suit-and-tie brownshirts, with a little American flag pin on their lapel, and a yellow ribbon magnet on their H2 to show the full extent of their “support” for the troops.

    Go Cheney yourselves.

  52. quatre says:

    Suspension of habeas corpus, torture, establishment of a gulag, secret spying on citizens, using the justice department as a political instrument and for influencing elections, blatant contempt for and violation of the law, love of war, giving away public assets to corporations, demonization and intimidation of political opposition — that is conservatism?

    Is is fascism. Sullivan was the first serious commentator brave enough to use the correct word, and the boot is coming down on him.

    But, more and more, people will call it what it is — fascism.

  53. quatre says:

    The fact that the American descent into fascism is in its early stages does not mean it’s not yet fascism. The signs are clear, the patterns are confirmed, the intent is obvious. It can now be clearly seen for what it is.

    The right wing is horrified that credible commentators might start calling it what it is. That would impede the fascist project.

  54. Bandit says:

    The irony of commenting on the web about growing fascism is apparently lost on those suffering from paranoid delusions. You’re free to dislike Bush and Cheney as you please but you’re insulting real fascism. If this was real fascism there would be real gulags and you’d be heading for one.

  55. Absent Observer says:

    If this was real fascism there would be real gulags and you’d be heading for one.

    So, Jose Padilla is/isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights?

    And people who protest W are/aren’t regularly removed to “Free Speech Zones.”

    And the Unitary Executive is/isn’t unconstitutional.

    And your definition of Terrorist does/doesn’t include the actions of our Founding Fathers?

    And US Attorneys are/aren’t targeting political opponents?

    And corporation have/haven’t more control of Washington than the citizens have?

    In what way is Bush’s stewardship of the Presidency not leading America toward fascism?

  56. glasnost says:

    To be accurate, Sullivan and “Glasnost” are engaging in something closer to slippery slope argumentation rather than reducio ad absurdum. But Glasnost at least acknowledges that he’s taking early indicators and making logical leaps. Sullivan isn’t even doing that; he’s saying we’ve already taken those leaps.

    Thanks for the clarification, James. I’d agree with your characterization. You’re right: Sullivan didn’t bother to specify that, and that leaves him vulnerable to your critique.

    My point of view on the matter is that to ignore the smoke because there is no fire, is no more accurate than to pretend the fire has arrived. I think you’d find that a reasonable point of view.

  57. glasnost says:

    Oh, but to nitpick:

    To go from saying that Bush uses partisan considerations to choose political appointees (duh) to “politicizing the civil service” is a non-sequitur.

    Here you are mischaracterizing an important part of the DOJ scandal, which is that for the last several years, it’s been alledged, including (I believe) in testimony sworn under oath, that Monica Gooding has been basing hiring decisions for large swathes of career, non-political appointees at DOJ on adherence to conservative ideology as she understands it.

    I think you can understand the difference between that and between standard presidential appointments. Don’t dissapoint me.

    That’s “politicizing the civil service.” It’s not SOP, and it’s not a non-sequitur.

  58. Mike says:

    “And can we stop with the “Democrat party” already? It’s juvenile and just makes you sound like somebody worth ignoring.”

    No more juvenile that when one demands the cessation of the usage of “Democrat Party.”?

    Nice. Insult someone by using an improper name that is generally used as if it were an epithet, and then insult him for objecting. You’re an ass.

  59. Bandit says:

    In what way is Bush’s stewardship of the Presidency not leading America toward fascism?

    Try by the 2006 elections where his party lost the majority in the gov’t. When do you think there are going to be free elections in Cuba, NK or Venezuela?

    So, Jose Padilla is/isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights?

    Isn’t he receiving a trial under due process?

    And people who protest W are/aren’t regularly removed to “Free Speech Zones.”

    As opposed to death camps like in totalitarian countries.

    And your definition of Terrorist does/doesn’t include the actions of our Founding Fathers?

    Which Founding Father blew up a bus full of school kids? Were they fighting for freedom or totalitarian subjugation?

    And US Attorneys are/aren’t targeting political opponents?

    Such as whom? Is Cindy Sheehan in prison?

    And corporation have/haven’t more control of Washington than the citizens have?

    If they did would the Dems be in the majority?

    Sorry but losing an election isn’t tyranny. The sheer idiocy of posting on the internet complaining about fascism is so laughably stupid it’s barely even worth comment.

  60. quatre says:

    Idiocy? Laughably stupid?

    Restore habeas corpus. Close the gulags. Stop the torture. Stop the secret and illegal spying. Stop messing with elections. Honor the Constitution.

    Then we’ll stop complaining about fascism.

  61. bains says:

    Nice. Insult someone by using an improper name that is generally used as if it were an epithet, and then insult him for objecting

    No Mike, I was merely pointing out that petulance abounds. To use “Democrat party” is improper, and juvenile. To decry that usage is equally juvenile. But to claim that the usage is an epithet is childish.

  62. Bithead says:

    “the Bush administration’s doctrine of executive power, its disregard for the rule of law, its politicization of the Justice Department,

    Funny how he said nothing about this during Clinton.

  63. quatre says:

    “Funny how he said nothing about this during Clinton.”

    What an incredibly stupid, factless thing to say.

    That’s another element of the rising fascism in this country: Its own false set of “facts” to justify the rightwing and distort and demonize everything else.

    It is because of this distortion and factlessness your betters hold rightwing discourse in such contempt.

  64. bains says:

    Quatre, with your tone, I’d guess your rhetoric is quite convincing to all those who already agree with you.

  65. floyd says:

    Let’s see…..What German party literally translates “national socialist”?? Hint….[known to be fascist]

  66. Michael says:

    I would venture to say, I have probably forgotten more good things than you have ever ignored.

    Heh, couldn’t have put it better myself.

  67. Michael says:

    It is grandly ironic to here of liberals speak of fascism. Who is it that kills those who it deems unworthy for life

    Death penalty

    , who is it that suppress all but but what they believe in

    Gay marraige ammendment

    , who is it that regulates everyday life because they know better then the rest of us

    Terri’s law

    , who is it that teaches only what they believe in

    Intelligent Design

    ,who is it that would take away the freedom of all speech but their own

    Free speech zones

    , who is it that rights laws with nontraditional and unconstitutional methods to enact all of the above

    The Republican congress that held power to write laws for the past decade

  68. Michael says:

    No Mike, I was merely pointing out that petulance abounds. To use “Democrat party” is improper, and juvenile. To decry that usage is equally juvenile. But to claim that the usage is an epithet is childish.

    Hey, why not insult us one more time to prove how mature you are. We’re asking for civility, and while that may be naive on a political forum, it is by no means juvenile or childish.

  69. absent observer says:

    Michael: Hey, why not insult us one more time to prove how mature you are.

    My GOSH, Scarlett! I do say, how your blush must run! The outrage!

    — and Michael was becoming such a good concern troll! —

  70. Michael says:

    absent: That was sarcasm, not concern trolling.

  71. bains says:

    Hey, why not insult us one more time… We’re asking for civility,…

    I’m sorry Mike, I did not realize that you were asking to be treated differently than you treat your political opponents.

    I’d hazard a guess that you take objection to the usage of illegal alien as well…

  72. Michael says:

    I’m sorry Mike, I did not realize that you were asking to be treated differently than you treat your political opponents.

    Examples, please. Otherwise, this is no different than how you talk bad about motherhood and apple pie.

  73. bains says:

    Upthread pal…

    My mom is well, thanks for asking.

  74. Michael says:

    Hmmm, nothing upthread either, so why don’t you post an actual example, apologize, or just shut the hell up.

  75. bains says:

    Civility begets civility Mike. Sometimes being civil is merely keeping ones opinions to oneself – especially if one is prone to expressing those opinions snidely. You want to take offense at another referring to the Democratic Party as ‘Democrat’ Party, fine, you want to object to comparisons of the Dems to socialists, fine. But if you do so in a petulant way, dont be surprised when you get called on it. And whining about doesnt help your hobby horse cause.

  76. floyd says:

    bains;
    Have you noticed that Obama lists his party as the Democrat “party” on his website?

  77. James Joyner says:

    “Democrat” is a perfectly acceptable noun but considered a slur when used as an adjective. One could say “Barack Obama is a lifelong Democrat” but not “Barack Obama wants to be the nominee of the Democrat Party.”

    I think this one is another legacy of Newt Gingrich, although it may go back a bit earlier.

  78. Michael says:

    Civility begets civility Mike. Sometimes being civil is merely keeping ones opinions to oneself – especially if one is prone to expressing those opinions snidely.

    Ah, so civility on a political opinion forum means not expressing political opinions others might disagree with? Or that sarcasm is somehow below the line of civility on the internet?

    You want to tell me my opinions are wrong, fine. You want to do that though sarcasm, more power to you. You want to drop petty insults that add no additional information or perspective on a topic and serve only to inflame emotions, that I don’t find civil.

    For the record, I was never uncivil to you or anyone else on this thread, and you have yet to provide any evidence otherwise.

  79. bains says:

    Ah, so civility on a political opinion forum means not expressing political opinions others might disagree with?

    No, civility means you express your disagreement with… civility. You dont stretch to absurd something some one else said, and you dont try to mis-represent what they have said. Greenwald has already tried that… and failed.

  80. Michael says:

    bains,
    Only I didn’t stretch to absurdity anything that was said. Again, show me where I was uncivil, apologize, or just stop posting.