PART’s Perspective: You Can’t Defeat Fascism at the Ballot Box
Many people on the left or progressive end of the narrow political spectrum in the US, perhaps understandably, heaved a sigh of relief at the more-or-less final results of November’s so-called “mid-term” elections. There were expectations of a so-called “Red [Republican] Wave,” and the historical record predicted Congressional and Senatorial losses by the party holding the White House, as happened with Trump, Obama, Dubya Bush and many others, including Reagan. But in fact, the results might almost be considered a “Blue Wave,” since the Democratic Party flipped one Senate seat and may end up in firmer control of the Senate, flipped some GOP-held governorships and did well in state legislative and state-wide races in many closely-divided states. The rejection of MAGA “big lie” candidates by the majority of voters, especially for secretaries of state, is certainly preferable to their election.
But Trump’s immediate announcement of his candidacy for the presidency in 2024 should be a reminder that, although fascism has from time to time come to power at the ballot box (as just seemed to happen in the Israeli election), fascism will not be defeated at the ballot box, especially in as inherently undemocratic an electoral system as exists in the US. Violence-prone elements and individuals on the racist and reactionary right are more likely to act out their grievances and threats now, when they feel stymied and cheated by the elections (again). The Republicans succeeded in taking over the House of Representatives and will name the new Speaker.
This was partly caused by the extreme gerrymander in Florida by De Santis, and by the short-sighted effort of corporate Dems in NY to forestall progressive challengers to incumbents in the primary that resulted in the end in districts favorable to the GOP. But the outcome is not merely a result of gerrymandering, or the concentration of Democratic voters in a few large urban districts. According to the Cook report, there were 53.3 million votes cast for Republicans in the Congressional elections, compared to only 49.3 million voters who favored the Democrats. We need to reckon with the reality of an electoral majority that favors fascist figures and solutions, in particular the large majority of white voters who do so.
This means that fascist figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene will gain outsized prominence and influence. According to press reports, right-wing legislators including Rep. Greene of Georgia extracted a promise that their leaders would investigate Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Justice Department for their treatment of defendants jailed in connection with the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol to prevent the ceremonial ratification of Biden’s election. The Proud Boys and others will be treated like martyred political prisoners.
The increase in armed attacks that has marked the two years since Trump’s loss in Nov. 2020 is likely to accelerate, not diminish, now that the loss has been ratified in a second election. GOP efforts to suppress the votes of people they perceive as unwinnable or “un-American,” are likely to intensify, especially in so-called battleground states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. These will reinforce more naked white and Christian nationalists’ actions and expressions that “real Americans” stand with them. The extent to which the Republican Party has embraced nakedly fascistic candidates, and the likelihood that Trump could win nomination for the third time in the primaries, or that if he lost it would be to Ron De Santis of Florida, who would probably be running to Trump’s right, should sober people up.
But we should also never forget that the Democratic Party is also wedded to big lies and big money. The lie that the “Inflation Reduction Act” will do much to reduce carbon emissions or reduce global heating and its attendant climate catastrophes. The lie that the US sends troops around the world, and imposes deadly sanctions on the people of many countries to “support democracy.” The lie that their party is the party of working people. The lie that the US and NATO have clean hands, and did nothing to provoke war in Ukraine, or to define China as an existential threat. The lie that they could and would have done so much more if not for Mitch McConnell or Joe Manchin. The lie that they are a bulwark for democracy, and the last hope to deter authoritarianism.
Democrats in the main voted for the most massive military spending in world history while pleading poverty on social spending. Democrats have voted to send weapons to intensify and prolong the war in Ukraine, and crushed a feeble progressive caucus effort to call for negotiations. Democrats in the White House slashed welfare, increased the death penalty, promoted mass incarceration and militarized policing, bailed out Wall Street not Main Street, planned the trillion-dollar-plus “modernization” of nuclear weapons, and tried to destabilize or back coups in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Bolivia.
As Anti-Racist Action network understood over 30 years ago, you can’t rely on the cops, the courts or the state to contain or crush fascism. There are elements within the state apparatus, law enforcement, the military and the national security surveillance system that see a fascist “solution” as necessary when the economic and political crises rooted in settler colonialism, racism, exploitation and inequality intensify, as “stagflation” (rising prices, falling incomes) returns, as climate refugees grow even in the US. Millions of people across the country voted for blatantly fascist candidates who are dug into a base in churches, and in carceral, policing and military institutions, and are backed by billionaires. Many millions more — the majority of the potential electorate, in fact — did not vote at all, turned off by the system and the “choices” it offers. Turnout in the “most critical midterm elections ever” was lower than in the last midterms. Only 12 states had a bare majority of eligible voters cast ballots, and of course the population as a whole is much larger than the pool of eligible voters.
We need to build, from the bottom and the base, networks and a culture of solidarity, resistance and liberation, solutions and healing based on mutual aid, respect for indigenous sovereignty and anti-colonial self-determination, and a sustainable and respectful relationship with the earth. None of these can be won at the ballot box either.