Totalitarianism: centralized control by an autocratic authority; the state is supreme–the individual must totally submit to an absolute state authority and to the interests of the whole.
Authoritarianism: favoring blind submission to authorities, favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people. So no labor unions, no strikes, power lies with corporations, police, government.
I’ve included the definition of authoritarianism again in this post, because of the elements that totalitarianism and authoritarianism have in common: control by a leader or an elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the people.
Fascists don’t believe in individual liberties. Fascist states don’t have anything like the American Bill of Rights, which spells out the rights of citizens in relation to the government. The state comes first. Always. Everything and everyone is organized to support to goals of the state. Hence no freedom of speech, no rights to opposing opinions, no democratic elections, no free press. North Korea is an example of a totalitarian/fascist state, and so are theocracies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
In a theocracy the leaders’ holy book is the supreme authority, not the laws made by the people. In America the Religious Right is using Trump’s presidency to increase the power of their religion (in this case Christianity) in all domains of public life (dominion theology). They have managed to get a Supreme Court ruling that says that a Christian employer can deny health insurance for an employee if it covers birth control; they are trying to get laws passed that will allow store owners to refuse service to gays if their brand of Christianity could not bear that; they have been fighting for prayer in public schools for decades, as well as including/keeping Creationism as part of the Science curriculum.
During Obama’s presidency gays got equal rights and the right to marry, and under Trump, or rather, under the Religious Right exploiting him, that’s being rolled back. In the United Nations, on the Human Rights Council, America recently did not oppose the death penalty for homosexuality. Because the Bible says it’s wrong. Trump now has a weekly Bible study in the White House and the list of lawmakers who have claimed that for them the word of God trumps the laws of the land, who base their judgments of modern social issues strictly on the literal words of the Bible, who rely on their scientific knowledge even, on the Bible, is too long to even think about actually mentioning here. My point is that a lot of American Christians would love nothing more than a totalitarian state, as long as it’s a Christian theocracy.
America’s authoritarian and totalitarian streak has been there from the beginning–just ask Native Americans and African Americans. Native Americans were mostly killed and the rest were forced to submit completely to white Americans’ rules; their land was taken, they were corralled into reservations in the least desirable areas and they had no rights–they were completely powerless in the face of the colonists. And it doesn’t get more authoritarian than slavery, which was the fate of most African Americans before the Civil War. Not only did they not have any rights and were they powerless, they were actually treated as property, like cattle or machinery. Many White Supremacists would like to go back to that system of oppression.
The Religious Right and White Supremacists are pretty open about their desire for a totalitarian and/or authoritarian government, whether they fully understand that themselves or not. They are typically not strong believers in individual rights, except for the right to bear arms. Most are also easily offended by any perceived disrespect of the American flag, which represents American values like democracy, equality, freedom, etc., so there’s some cognitive dissonance there. As for democratic elections, I already mentioned in the previous post that a poll showed that the majority of Trump voters wouldn’t have a problem with him staying in power beyond his term limit and that the Russian interference in the election is clearly a non-issue for most of them.
So the above-mentioned groups openly promote totalitarian elements of government, but there are certain elements already in existence. For all the chest-beating about America being the land of the free, the greatest democracy in the world, and on and on and on, one could argue that, as in countries run by authoritarian regimes, the power here lies with a small elite that is not constitutionally answerable to the people. I’m talking, of course, about the big political donors. The reason so many people are disillusioned with politicians is that they never do what they promise, and that’s because ultimately their re-election depends on their donors, not on their constituents.
The voters can be made to believe anything if you can throw enough money at them in the form of advertising and rallies. The donors determine the actual agenda, and the donors are people like the Koch brothers and the large corporations, who aren’t even secretive about the fact that they make their political donations dependent on lawmakers’ votes on certain issues. How many of the bills that are introduced in Congress are even written by congresspeople? How many are written by the donors or their lobbyists, and the congressman or -woman just puts their signature under it? And everyone knows this.
As in the definition of authoritarianism mentioned at the beginning of this post, in America a large amount of power lies with corporations and with government that–even though elected–does not necessarily do what’s in the best interests of the people. In the previous post I already discussed the power of the police.
So the idea that America’s democracy is so strong and the desire for democracy so strong in the American people that fascism could never take hold here is baloney, in my opinion.
The next post will be about violence and intimidation.