This piece ran as a newspaper op/ed in August, 2023
It’s important to see things whole, not just in pieces. In the human world, the specific happenings are part of larger dramas.
Think of today’s crisis in terms of layers, each looking more deeply into the forces battling it out for control of the human world. For example:
At the top level, every day brings news of new developments concerning some evident crime of Donald Trump’s (for which he’s being investigated, indicted, soon to be tried).
Taken together, all these specific news items are part of a more comprehensive picture of “the Battle Between Donald Trump and the Rule of Law.”
(It’s clearly a two-sided battle: Even as the system of Justice has been closing in on him, Trump – who’s shown an extraordinary life-long ability to escape accountability — has been attacking the FBI, prosecutors, judges, etc. in an all-out attempt to yet prevail over the Law.)
But of course, Trump is part of something bigger. For nearly eight years, he has been the overwhelmingly dominant figure of the Republican Party – elevated to power by its base, then aided and abetted by its elected leaders.
This battle against the legal order did not begin with Trump. Rather, there was already a wave that Trump succeeding in catching.
Although it’s true that Trump has dragged the Republican Party far deeper into lawlessness, that onetime party of “Law & Order” had begun sinking into lawlessness before Trump entered the political arena. (E.g. the lawlessness embodied in the “Torture Memo” under the Presidency of George W. Bush; and the unprecedented conduct of the Republicans in the Senate (2016) to steal a Supreme Court seat by distorting the “advise and consent” clause to usurp a President’s constitutional powers.)
But the battle is about more than the Rule of Law, for we should see the lawlessness as part of a recognizable, still larger pattern:
- Turning the rage and hatred of their followers against vulnerable groups. (Immigrants, blacks, Muslims, etc.).
- Insisting that the political arena be a place of continuous conflict, rather than cooperation.
- Caring only about power, with marked indifference to the common good.
- Communicating consistently with deceptive and manipulative propaganda techniques (traceable back to Newt Gingrich, Fox News, and Karl Rove). (The Republican Party had already become a Party of the Lie before the takeover of the Party by the most prodigious liar any of us has ever seen. Which is why I spent two years of my life running for Congress in 2012 under the slogan, “Truth. For a change.”)
A “recognizable” pattern: for over the past century, these have formed the pattern of Fascism.
So this Battle – with the American Justice indicting Trump for his various crimes, and Trump fighting the Rule of Law in every way he can – should be understood as one of the arenas of a much more fundamental battle being fought in America: the Battle to determine whether America’s Democracy will survive, or whether Fascism will seize power.
And that is part of a larger – worldwide — Battle. For the threat of Fascism that has arisen in the United States is part of an ongoing global struggle between the democratic way of governing societies and the Fascistic (authoritarian, autocratic, dictatorial) way.
In the past generation, Fascism has advanced against Democracy in an alarming variety of nations:
- The new shoots of democracy in Russia were cut down by the fascistic regime of Vladimir Putin.
- The long-standing democratic system in Turkey has been overtaken by an increasingly fascistic dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- The world’s “biggest democracy” in India has grown increasingly Fascistic under the Hindu Nationalist regime of Narendra Modi.
- South America’s largest nation, Brazil, falling under the control (apparently only temporarily) of the fascistic Yair Bolsonaro.
- And Israel’s robust democracy being now seriously jeopardized by the most fascistic coalition in that nation’s history.
But the most fundamental level is yet further down in the stack, for the Battle Between Democracy and Fascism maps rather closely with what is entirely reasonable to call “the Battle Between Good and Evil.”
If we define the “Good” as “a coherent force that consistently makes the human world better,” and “Evil” as “a coherent force that consistently makes the human world worse,” we can see how those competing systems of power align well with those concepts.
- Democracy is a system in which power is controlled by the people. With Fascism, by contrast, the ruling Power controls the people.
- Democracy creates an open space for Truth to prevail. Fascism forbids unwanted truth in order to control the people through deception and manipulation.
- In Democracy, government serves the common good. Fascism enables an unaccountable few to exploit the many for their own purposes.
It’s no mystery in which of those two systems human beings are more likely to flourish.
Fortunately, in America, the trends and the probabilities look favorable regarding the outcome of the current battle.
- The Forces of the Rule of Law appear to have finally roused themselves to assure that “No one is above the Law.”
- And it looks like America’s fascistic Party is taking a path into the Election of 2024 – nominating the most fascistic leader America has ever produced, whose crimes are being fully exposed — that looks likely to amount to the “road to perdition.”