A friend recently sent me an article that has been floating around the internet for a while—in fact, I’d seen it previously. But for some reason, re-reading it crystallized several themes I’d been mulling over.

            The article itself was a reprint from Free Inquiry magazine. Lawrence W. Britt had undertaken to define the term “fascist” by making a comparative study of seven regimes that are widely acknowledged as considered examples of fascism: Nazi Germany, of course, but also Fascist Italy, Generalissimo Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile and Suharto’s Indonesia. From his study, he “distilled” fourteen recognizable patterns, or characteristics, that were common to all seven regimes. Those were:


  • Continuing expressions of nationalism
  • Disdain for human rights
  • Intense propaganda targeting enemies and scapegoats
  • Militarism
  • Sexism (including homophobia)
  • Government control of mass media
  • Obsession with national security (where any questioning of tactics is considered unpatriotic)
  • Joinder of religion and government
  • Powerful corporations protected by law
  • Labor rights suppressed
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Obsession with crime and punishment, and glorification of police
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections


            Needless to say, America (even under Bush-Cheney) is not a fascist state, nor even close, although in several of these areas over the last few years our movement has been toward, not away from, the elements Britt describes. No, I think the reason this list of danger signals struck me with particular force when I read it this time was because of the timing involved.

            Just the week before, the New Jersey Supreme Court had ruled that “denying commited same-sex couples the financial and social benefits given their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate government purpose.” The Republicans responded with what I can only characterize as glee; given their gloomy electoral prospects, the New Jersey decision was a gift, and they immmediately elevated their already shrill attacks on the “homosexual agenda.”

            Can we spell “scapegoating”?


            This was just one more example of the unrelenting attacks on the gay community that have become almost reflexive on the part of the Republican party. Here in Indiana, in the last, heated days before the midterm elections, we saw vicious ads suggesting that Congressmen who had failed to vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage didn’t “share Hoosier values.” In Washington, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, one of the more “colorful” members of the GOP, moved to block Senate consideration of a Bush judicial nominee, because—hold on to something—she actually attended a public ceremony in which two lesbians pledged their commitment to one another. This was evidently so heinous that Brownback was willing to deviate from his oft-repeated insistence that every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote, and put a “hold” on the nomination. There are so many other examples, they are too numerous to catalog.

            I can’t help being nostalgic for the Republican Party I used to know. When I ran for Congress as a Republican, in 1980, my positions in support of gay rights created virtually no comment. I was considered a typical, conservative Republican—too conservative for many other Republicans, who voted instead for Andy Jacobs, my Democratic opponent. Today, that Republican Party no longer exists. I miss it—and I don’t recognize the party that has taken its place.  

            Reading Britt’s article reminded me why I left. Too many of the positions trumpeted by today’s version of the GOP are positions uninformed by the history he recounts, held by folks who don’t understand where such positions can lead.

            If we aren’t eternally vigilant, it could happen here.