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We’ve been taught that fascism is a foreign-born ideology that spawned the political aspirations of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. In reality, fascism has had a long history in America and has been resurrected by people who believe that power guided by good intentions can do no harm. They are ignorant of history and human nature. We don’t have to go abroad to find examples of fascism. The political philosophies of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are textbook examples of fascism in action. Do you find this hard to take? Here’s what Jonah Goldberg says on the subject in his book Liberal Fascism (2007):

Wilson revered [Otto von] Bismarck as much as Teddy Roosevelt or any of the other progressives did. . . . Bismarck’s motive was to forestall demands for more democracy by giving people the sort of thing they might ask for at the polls. His top-down socialism was a Machiavellian masterstroke because it made the middle class dependent upon the state. The middle class took away from this the lesson that enlightened government was not the product of democracy but an alternative. . . . As Wilson put it, the essence of progressivism was that the individual “marry his interests to the state.”[1]

The type of fascism that was being promoted by these early American “Progressives” is what we might call today “smiley-face-fascism” in that there are no jack-booted troops marching through the streets or calls for the suspension of habeas cor__pus,[2] something Abraham Lincoln did. Otto Von Bismarck’s social policies are very much like what is being made policy today by legislative fiat without any regard to the Constitution. Fascism relies on an evolving moral order and an evolving Constitution. “On the campaign trail in 1912, Wilson explained that ‘living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of Life . . . it must develop.’”[3] This is the politics of “change” for the sake of change, which in reality becomes a top-down power grab based on the political “science” of evolution.  “All that progressives ask or desire,” Wilson argued, “is permission—in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the constitution according to the Darwinian principle.”[4]****

Once there is no need of God, there is no longer an operating system of fixed laws. Man becomes god collectivized in the State. To use Hegel’s phrase, “the State is god walking on earth.” All the attributes of the God of the Bible are imputed to the State, including security. William L. Shirer, in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, writes that Bismarck’s policies gradually made the German people “value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.”[5] Between 1883 and 1889 Bismark put through a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries at the time. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though it was organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. Sound familiar?

Hitler took full advantage of the German state of mind and Bismarck’s early progress in turning the nation into a model of socialist reform. Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf, “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.”[6] It was Hitler’s social security policies and promises that got him elected to office.

Hitler was not alone in his admiration of Bismarck and what he was able to accomplish. FDR borrowed Bismarck’s socialist agenda and created what is now known as the Social Security System. Bismarck said that “the State must take the matter in hand, since the State can most easily supply the requisite funds. It must provide them not as alms but in fulfillment of the workers’ right to look to the State where their own good will can achieve nothing more.”[7] Roosevelt and his admirers agreed. P. J. O’Brien, writing in Forward with Roosevelt, links Bismarck’s social policies with those of Roosevelt: “[The quotation by Bismarck] might have been lifted out of a speech by President Roosevelt in 1936, but the Iron Chancellor uttered it in 1871.”[8]****

Some people understood the implications of what Roosevelt was attempting to do. “Roosevelt was branded as an agent of the Reds [Communists] for voicing similar opinions.”[9] The State became the savior of the people, and the social policies of the New Deal became holy writ:

There’s a massive confusion at the core of our politics. Against all evidence, everyone expects government to guarantee economic growth and higher living standards. It can’t. Even the New Deal failed to pull the nation out of the Depression. World War II did that by boosting factory production. But the expectation of government as economic miracle worker is deeply entrenched, and politicians pander to it. For the past three decades, presidents have used the language of economics to rationalize deficits and, in the process, reward their supporters.[10]

Wars, of course, are anomalies and should not be used as standards for economic policy. World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the war in Iraq have done much to hide the negative effects of government spending on the overall economy. Coupled with military spending, government social programs expanded beyond anything FDR could have imagined. Our nation, contrary to liberal social spenders, is not reaping the excesses of the ReaganBush years. We are reaping the whirlwind of the massive interventionism of New Deal liberalism that even Conservatives are afraid to criticize for fear of being thrown out of office.

In Edward Bellamy’s widely read socialist fantasy novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887, a Rip Van Winkle character goes to sleep in the year 1887 and awakens in the year 2000 to discover a changed world. His twentyfirst century companions explain to him how the utopia that astonishes him emerged in the 1930s from the hell of the 1880s. “That utopia involved the promise of security ‘from cradle to grave’—the first use of the that phrase we have come across—as well as detailed government planning, including compulsory national service by all persons over an extended period.”[11] Bellamy’s fiction became much of the world’s reality in twentieth-century socialism. Bellamy believed that “human nature is naturally good and people are ‘godlike in aspirations . . . with divinest impulses of tenderness and self-sacrifice.’ Therefore, once external conditions are made acceptable, the Ten Commandments become ‘well-nigh obsolete,’ bringing us a ‘second birth of the human race.’”[12] Bellamy managed to mix the perversions of socialism, secularism, and New Age philosophy into one impossible world.****

Consider Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924). His two political heroes were Lincoln and Bismarck. His choice of Lincoln was not because of the 16th president’s racial policies. In fact, Wilson “fervently believed that giving blacks the right to vote was ‘the foundation of every evil in this country.’”[13] The pro-Ku Klux Klan Birth of a Nation (1915) was the first film shown in the White House during Wilson’s administration.[14] Wilson’s 1902 History of the American People, which praised the Ku Klux Klan of the post Civil War era, is quoted extensively throughout the film. Many of the movie’s title cards were excerpts from Wilson’s book.****

What Wilson admired about Lincoln was his “ability to impose his will on the entire country. Lincoln was a centralizer, a modernizer who used his power to forge a new, united nation. . . . Wilson admired Lincoln’s means—suspension of habeas corpus, the draft, and the campaigns of the radical Republicans after the war—far more than he liked his ends.”[15] Wilson “loved, craved, and in a sense glorified power.”[16] In the hands of good people, it is believed, power is incorruptible. In his book Congressional Government, Wilson admitted, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”[17] Of course, he believed that with his good intentions, the use of unbridled power was a good thing for everyone. Power is often most dangerous in the hands of those who want to do “good,” because they believe their intentions to help the less fortunate are righteous and just.****

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. The goal is to destroy it. When Boromir fails to avoid the ring’s power, he dies. Even Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person has the ability to resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. That is one of the great themes of the series.

There is no panic in the Obama administration as the nation watches the Stock Market’s freefall. His advisors believe they can legislate the nation out of the crisis because they have the good intentions and power to do so. In years past it might have taken months before markets responded to legislation and economic policy, and it might have taken years to see the full effect of bad policies. This is no longer the case. No one is buying the “stimulus” as sound economic policy. How will the new fascists respond? That’s a question I’m afraid to answer.

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[1] Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Random House, 2007), 96. [2]A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another’s detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error.”
[3] Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 88. [4] Quoted in John G. West, Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest (Seattle, WA: Center for Science and Culture, 2006), 61. [5] William L. Shirer,The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 96, note.
[6] Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 96, note.
[7] Quoted in P. J. O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt (Chicago: John C. Winston Co., 1936), 84. [8] O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt, 85. [9] O’Brien, Forward with Roosevelt, 85. [10] Robert J. Samuelson, “Rhetoric Over Reality,” Newsweek (March 1, 1993), 31. [11] Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), 93. [12] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Washington, DC: Regnery/Gateway, [1983] 1989), 190. [13] Quoted in Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [14] “Three closely related events sparked a KKK resurgence in 1915: The film The Birth of a Nation was released, mythologizing and glorifying the first Klan. Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of the rape and murder of a young white girl named Mary Phagan, was tried, convicted and lynched near Atlanta against a backdrop of media frenzy. The new Ku Klux Klan was founded in Atlanta with a new anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic agenda. The bulk of the founders were from an Atlanta-area organization calling itself the Knights of Mary Phagan that had organized around the Frank trial. The new organization emulated the fictionalized version of the Klan presented in The Birth of a Nation.”
[15] Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [16] Walter McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 128. Quoted in Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [17] Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, [1908] 2002), 105–106.