The four major American political factions are progressivism, neoliberalism, conservatism, and fascism. Below, I will examine our current political crisis through the lens of these four factions and three of their defining values: social, fiscal, and procedural.
In a perfect democracy, voters’ preferences would determine elections. In America, those with money to spare can shape the preferences of others, and those preferences have to pass through inequitable voting laws and procedures to determine whether or not they will be counted. How did we get here?
Before Trump, for decades American politics were dominated by neoliberalism and conservatism. Neoliberals are generally socially liberal, meaning welcoming of foreign people and ideas, fiscally conservative, meaning their economic policies generally result in the protection of the current distribution of wealth, and what we might call procedurally conservative, meaning protective of current laws and norms related to elections and governance. In contrast, conservatives are generally socially conservative, meaning fearful of foreign people and ideas, fiscally extremely conservative, meaning their economic policies generally result in the transfer of wealth from the masses to a select few, and procedurally anti-democratic, meaning they are willing to chip away at our democracy in pursuit of the two previous agendas. They do this, for example, by reducing representation or access to voting for citizens who they determine are unlikely to support them.
Enabled, in part, by conservative erosion of our democracy, fascists took control of our federal goon 2016. Conservatism may rise again after Trump, but in 2020, the only outcomes for voters and donors to choose between are a neoliberal or fascist federal government. In addition to being fiscally extremely conservative, fascists are generally extremely socially conservative, meaning fearful of and violent towards foreign people and ideas, and procedurally extremely anti-democratic, meaning they aggressively hack away at our democracy in pursuit of the previous two agendas.
Presently, neoliberals and progressives are generally working together to take power away from fascists. In addition to generally being socially liberal, progressives believe that capital concentrated in the hands of a few is the biggest obstacle to improving quality of life for all. As a result, they are fiscally very liberal, meaning the economic policies they support would aggressively pursue more equitable distribution of wealth. And they are generally procedurally very democratic, meaning supportive of aggressive measures for pursuing the ideal of democracy, untainted by inequitable representation, voting access, and political campaign financing.
If Biden wins and Democrats take the senate, our country will again be run by neoliberalism. Progressives and neoliberals, strongly disagreeing on economic policy, will resume taking aim at each other, competing for money and votes. However, the threat of fascism will remain. After decades of conservatives and fascists hacking away at our democracy, neoliberals will need to evolve and become procedurally very democratic. Progressives and neoliberals will need to work together to undo the damage to our democracy and reduce the paths to power for future fascists. If this does not happen, our fragile democracy may not survive.
All who want democracy to triumph over fascism should ask themselves, how can I use my position to resist fascism?
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