History may view the Obama presidency as a brief (and failed) neoliberal interlude on the road to American fascism.
The arrival of Donald J. Trump feels like the completion of the cycle I was writing about in the early George W. Bush years.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the moment – though fears are understandably high and not think about the deep-seated anomalies and contradictions in the body politic that have brought America to the cusp of out-and-out fascism.
Even if Trump’s policies turn out in the end to be not as fearsome as he has repeatedly stated – his explicit persona and policy positions take us very far out of the realm of normal democracy.
It has become fashionable lately to excuse George W. Bush for being a ‘moderate’ in comparison with Trump but it should not be forgotten that Bush was the original American fascist; everything Trump or a future would-be authoritarian might do is predicated on the radical innovations Bush introduced in our political style – subverting the constitution and changing the balance between liberty and security in ways that have had permanent impact.
We need to remind ourselves that the early years of the Bush administration felt utterly radical – that the defense of freedom of speech and mobility – of the civility and respect that make a constitutional democracy work – never felt so threatened – never felt more precious and worth saving – as in those years.