(Part 1 of 3)
From: Chip Berlet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Buchanan & Fascism: A Serious Look
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 10:23:45 -0800 (PST)
Some of the issues being raised in connection with Pat Buchanan are complex. Guilt by association is not an appropriate standard by which to judge a public figure. Yet there are serious questions about whether or not some aspects of Pat Buchanan's philosophy can be seen as promoting racism, antisemitism, sexism, and homophobia, even when he and his campaign aides are genuinely willing to condemn these phenomenon. There are many questions not being asked, or being answered in ignorance.
What is the difference between reactionary racial nationalism and far right race hate groups?
Why did Bill Bennet once say that Pat Buchanan flirts with fascism?
Why does Buchanan think the "Goals 2000" education reforms and Outcomes Based Education are part of a secular humanist conspiracy?
Why does Buchanan seem so conservative on social issues but support "Big Government" when it comes to protectionism and trade?
What does fascism look like as a mass movement?
The answers to these and other questions can be found in this text file.
======================================================== Selected excerpts from the book Eyes Right!: Challenging the Right-Wing Backlash, (Anthology). Chip Berlet, ed. Boston: South End Press, 1995. =========================================================== For a collection of the full text of these and other articles: URL http://www.publiceye.org/pra/ Select the Gopher, then pick the Reports menu. ===========================================================
As the United States slides toward the twenty-first century, the major mass movements challenging the bipartisan status quo are not found on the left of the political spectrum, but on the right.
It is easy to see the dangers to democracy posed by far right forces such as armed militias, neonazis, and racist skinheads. However, hard right forces such as dogmatic religious movements, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism also are attacking democratic values in our country. Antidemocratic sectors of the hard right are distinct from traditional conservatism and political libertarianism, although they share some common roots and branches. Antidemocratic sectors of the hard right are distinct from traditional conservatism and political libertarianism, although they also share some common roots and branches.
The best known sector of the hard right--dogmatic religious movements--is often called the "Religious Right." It substantially dominates the Republican Party in at least 10 (and perhaps as many as 30) of the 50 states. As part of an aggressive grassroots campaign, these groups have targeted electoral races from school board's to state legislatures to campaigns for the US Senate and House of Representatives. They helped elect dozens of hardline ultraconservatives to the House of Representatives in 1994. This successful social movement politically mobilizes a traditionalist mass base from a growing pious constituency of evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, pentacostal, and orthodox churchgoers.
The goal of many leaders of this ultraconservative religious movement is imposing a narrow theological agenda on secular society. The predominantly Christian leadership envisions a religiously-based authoritarian society ; therefore we prefer to describe this movement as the "theocratic right." A theocrat is someone who supports a form of government where the actions of leaders are seen as sanctioned by God--where the leaders claim they are carrying out God's will. The central threat to democracy posed by the theocratic right is not that its leaders are religious, or fundamentalist, or right wing--but that they justify their political, legislative, and regulatory agenda as fulfilling God's plan.
Along with the theocratic right, two other hard right political movements pose a grave threat to democracy : regressive populism, typified by diverse groups ranging >from members of the John Birch Society out to members of the patriot and armed militia movements; and White racial nationalism, promoted by Pat Buchanan and his shadow, David Duke of Louisiana.
The theocratic right, regressive populism, and White racial nationalism make up a hard right political sector that is distinct from and sometimes in opposition to mainstream Republicanism and the internationalist wing of corporate conservatism.
Finally, there is the militant, overtly racist far right that includes the open White supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, Christian Patriot s, racist skinheads, neonazis, and right-wing revolutionaries. Although numerically smaller, the far right is a serious political factor in some rural areas, and its propaganda promoting violence reaches into major metropolitan centers where it encourages alienated young people to commit hate crimes against people of color, Jews, and gays and lesbians, among other targets. The electoral efforts of Buchanan and Duke serve as a bridge between the ultraconservative hard right and these far right movements. The armed milita movement is a confluence of regressive populism, White racial nationalism, and the racist and antisemitic far right.
All four of these hard right activist movements are antidemocratic in nature, promoting in various combinations and to varying degrees authoritarianism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, nativism, racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, demagoguery, and scapegoating. Each wing of the antidemocratic right has a slightly different vision of the ideal nation.
The theocratic right's ideal is an authoritarian society where Christian men interpret God's will as law. Women are helpmates, and children are the property of their parents. Earth must submit to the dominion of those to whom God has granted power. People are basically sinful, and must be restrained by harsh punitive laws. Social problems are caused by Satanic conspiracies aided and abetted by liberals, homosexuals, feminists, and secular humanists. These forces must be exposed and neutralized.
Newspaper columnist Cal Thomas, a long-standing activist in the theocratic right, recently suggested that churches and synagogues take over the welfare system "because these institutions would also deal with the hearts and souls of men and women." The churches "could reach root causes of poverty --a lack of personal responsibility," Thomas wrote, expressing a hardline Calvinist theology. "If government is always there to bail out people who have children out of wedlock, if there is no disincentive (like hunger) for doing for one's self, then large numbers of people will feel no need to get themselves together and behave responsibly."
For regressive populism, the ideal is America First ultra-patriotism and xenophobia wedded to economic Darwinism, with no regulations restraining entrepreneurial capitalism. The collapsing society calls for a strong man in leadership, perhaps even a benevolent despot who rules by organically expressing the will of the people to stop lawlessness and immorality. Social problems are caused by corrupt and lazy government officials who are bleeding the common people dry in a conspiracy fostered by secret elites, which must be exposed and neutralized.
Linda Thompson, a latter-day Joan of Arc for the patriot movement, represents the most militant wing of regressive populism. She appointed herself "Acting Adjutant General" of the armed militias that have formed cells across the United States. Operating out of the American Justice Federation of Indianapolis, Thompson's group warns of secret plots by "corrupt leaders" involving "Concentration Camps, Implantable Bio Chips, Mind Control, Laser Weapons," and "neuro-linguistic programming" on behalf of bankers who "control the economy" and created the illegal income tax.
The racial nationalists' ideal oscillates between brutish authoritarianism and vulgar fascism in service of White male supremacy. Unilateral militarism abroad and repression at home are utilized to force compliance. Social problems are caused by uncivilized people of color, lower-class foreigners, and dual-loyalist Jews, who must all be exposed and neutralized.
Samuel Francis, the prototypical racial nationalist, writes columns warning against attempts to "wipe out traditional White, American, Christian, and Western Culture," which he blames on multiculturalism. Francis's solutions:
"Americans who want to conserve their civilization need to get rid of elites who want to wreck it, but they also need to kick out the vagrant savages who have wandered across the border, now claim our country as their own, and impose their cultures upon us. If there are any Americans left in San Jose, they might start taking back their country by taking back their own city....You don't find statues to Quetzalcoatl in Vermont."
For the far right, the ideal is White revolution to overthrow the corrupt regime and restore an idealized natural biological order. Social problems are caused by crafty Jews manipulating inferior people of color. They must be exposed and neutralized.
The Truth at Last is a racist far right tabloid that features such headlines as "Jews Demand Black Leaders Ostracize Farrakhan," "Clinton Continues Massive Appointments of Minorities," and "Adopting Blacks into White Families Does Not Raise Their IQ," which concluded that "only the preservation of the White race can save civilization....Racial intermarriage produces a breed of lower-IQ mongrel people."
There are constant differences and debates within the right, as well as considerable overlap along the edges. The relationships are complex: the Birchers feud with Perot on trade issues, even though their other basic themes are similar, and the theocratic right has much in common with regressive populism, though the demographics of their respective voting blocs appear to be remarkably distinct. These antidemocratic sectors of the hard right are also distinct from traditional conservatism and political libertarianism, although they share some common roots and branches.
All of these antidemocratic tendencies are trying to build grassroots mass movements to support their agendas which vary in degrees of militancy and zealousness of ideology, yet all of which (consciously or unconsciously) promote varieties of White privilege and Christian dominion. These are activist movements that seek a mass base. Across the full spectrum of the right one hears calls for a new populist revolt.
Many people presume that all populist movements are naturally progressive and want to move society to the left, but history teaches us otherwise. In his book The Populist Persuasion, Michael Kazin explains how populism is a style of organizing. Populism can move to the left or right. It can be tolerant or intolerant. In her book Populism, Margaret Canovan defined two main branches of Populism: agrarian and political.
Agrarian populism worldwide has three categories: movements of commodity farmers, movements of subsistence peasants, and movements of intellectuals who wistfully romanticize the hard-working farmers and peasants. Political populism includes not only populist democracy, championed by progressives from the LaFollettes of Wisconsin to Jesse Jackson, but also politicians' populism, reactionary populism, and populist dictatorship. The latter three antidemocratic forms of populism characterize the movements of Ross Perot, Pat Robertson, and Pat Buchanan, three straight White Christian men trying to ride the same horse.
Of the hundreds of hard right groups, the most influential is the Christian Coalition led by televangelist and corporate mogul Pat Robertson. Because of Robertson's smooth style and easy access to power, most mainstream journalists routinely ignore his authoritarianism, bigotry, and paranoid dabbling in conspiracy theories.
Robertson's gallery of conspirators parallels the roster of the John Birch Society, including the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. In Robertson's book The New World Order, he trumps the Birchers (their founder called Dwight Eisenhower a communist agent) by alluding to an anti-Christian conspiracy that supposedly began in ancient Babylon--a theory that evokes historic anti-Jewish bigotry and resembles the notions of the fascist demagogue Lyndon LaRouche, who is routinely dismissed by the corporate media as a crackpot. Robertson's homophobia is profound. He is also a religious bigot who has repeatedly said that Hindus and Muslims are not morally qualified to hold government posts. "If anybody understood what Hindus really believe," says Robertson, "there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality."
Robertson's embrace of authoritarian theocracy is equally robust:
"There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world. How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy money changers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?"
Despite its successes, the hard right felt that Reagan lacked a true commitment to their ideology. In 1988, during Reagan's second term, some key New Right leaders, including Weyrich, Viguerie, and Phillips, began denouncing Reagan as a "useful idiot" and dupe of the KGB, and even a traitor over his arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union.
Under the Bush Administration, this branch of the right wing had less influence. It was this perceived loss of influence within the Republican Party, among other factors, that led to the highly publicized schism in the late 1980s between the two factions of the New Right that came to be called the paleoconservatives and the neoconservatives.
Patrick Buchanan, who says proudly, "We are Old Right and Old Church," emerged from this fracas as the leader of the paleoconservatives. (The term neoconservatives, once restricted to a small group of intellectuals centered around Commentary magazine, came within this context to refer to all conservatives to the left of the paleoconservatives, despite substantial differences among them. For example, traditional neoconservatives like Midge Decter were concerned with a perceived deterioration of US culture, while the conventional conservatives at the Heritage Foundation were concerned almost exclusively with the economy.)
The paleoconservatives' America First policy supports isolationism or unilateralism in foreign affairs, coupled with a less reverent attitude toward an unregulated free market and support for an aggressive domestic policy to implement New Right social policies, such as the criminalization of sodomy and abortion.
The paleoconservatives are also more explicitly racialist and anti-democratic than the neoconservatives, who continue to support immigration, civil rights, and limited government.
After the election of Clinton, the New Right alliance eventually collapsed. That became clear during the Gulf War, when Buchanan's bigotry was suddenly discovered by his former allies in the neoconservative movement. Neoconservatives who championed the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan contras were offered posts in the Clinton Administration. And Barry Goldwater, toast of the reactionaries in 1964, lambasted the narrow-minded bigotry of the theocratic right, which owes its birth to his failed presidential bid.
The 1992 Republican Party convention represented the ascendancy of hard right forces, primarily the theocratic right. The platform was the most conservative ever, and speakers called repeatedly for a cultural war against secular humanism.
John C. Green is a political scientist and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute at the University of Akron in Ohio. With a small group of colleagues, Green has studied the influence of Christian evangelicals on recent elections, and has found that, contrary to popular opinion, the nasty and divisive rhetoric of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Marilyn Quayle at the 1992 Republican Convention was not as significant a factor in the defeat of Bush as were unemployment and the general state of the economy. On balance, he believes, the Republicans gained more votes than they lost in 1992 by embracing the theocratic right. "Christian evangelicals played a significant role in mobilizing voters and casting votes for the Bush-Quayle ticket," says Green.
Green and his colleagues, James L. Guth and Kevin Hill, wrote a study entitled Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988. They found that the theocratic right was most active--and apparently successful--when three factors converged:
*** The demand for Christian Right activism by discontented constituencies.
*** Religious organizations that supplied resources for such activism.
*** Appropriate choices in the deployment of such resources by movement leaders.
The authors see the Christian Right's recent emphasis on grassroots organizing as a strategic choice, and conclude that "the conjunction of motivations, resources, and opportunities reveals the political character of the Christian right: much of its activity was a calculated response to real grievances by increasingly self-conscious and empowered traditionalists."