Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obama the Dictator? Part 1: the Claim itself

Note: this series of posts is distilled from a conversation I had online, in which my responses were so over-long and verbose that I realized they'd make better blog posts. Some slight changes have been made to style, but the content is the same.

Claim: Obama is fascist, or close to it


1. Crying "Fascism" is a lazy talking point made by whoever is out of power in US politics.

2. Distinguishing between Obama and Fascists:

2a. Popularity: Obama is charismatic; so were fascists, but the similarities more or less stop there.

2b. Civil Rights violations: I'm a bit disappointed that he hasn't done more immediately for civil rights, but he wasn't in office when Bush and the legislature passed the Patriot Act, from which most rights violations stem. And it was the Bush justice department that allowed for the label of "enemy combatant" to be a loophole out of the law. I believe that current policy is under review, but at any rate it didn't start with Obama (counterpoint: continuing a flawed policy is jsut as bad as creating it)

2c. Involvement in the National Economy is a Fascist Characteristic: Involvement in the national economy, it is no different than that of many, long-standing democratic governments. England, for example, went further and nationalized *as a democracy*. France for decades supported "national champions" on subsidies. But neither of those were fascist moves, in the same way that injecting money into the banks or assuming control of GM isn't fascist. It's statist, but that is the nature of government

3. Defining Fascism
Fascism has a huge component of nationalism and militarism, historically coming from an alliance of the unemployed, veterans, and conservative politically/religiously, and historically all against communist or leftist governments. Obama has no new militarism; he made his name by being anti-war. And while he is certainly on the left, totalitarianism on the left is not fascism; it's communist, it's socialist, or it's totalitarian, but it is decidedly not *fascist*. And most totalitarian features of leftist government are missing here - there have been no nationalizations, and the government is only holding companies temporarily until it can inject taxpayer dollars into stable private institutions. Bush did the same in October, and it's a fundamentally capitalist/centrist move.

4. Being angry about the President when your party is out of power You can disagree with the president. Lord knows every American does it at least half the time. But being charismatic != being fascist, and being the executive does != being a dictator.

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