Sinclair Lewis wrote an important novel in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here. In the fictitious book, based on the threats at the time of fascism taking root in the USA, we see how this virus spread. As with Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America we see how Charles Lindbergh’s leadership in the America First movement of the 1930s planted the seed for what has NEVER subsided. That being simply the growth of a Proto Fascist mindset that resonates well today in 2020 Make Amerika Great Again ( for the super rich! ) Sadly, nothing ever real changes in the minds of some people… only the faces.
In David Talbot’s 2007 study of the Kennedy brothers during JFK’s administration, aptly entitled Brothers, we see the forces of Proto Fascism at work. JFK inherited the Joints Chiefs of Staff from the Eisenhower administration, with General Curtis LeMay and General Lemnitzer leading the way for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. History now tells us what those in the ‘ Know’ knew since our U-2 flights over the Soviet Union in the mid to late 1950s: The Soviets were much weaker than us when it came to missile strength. The Joint Chiefs unanimously recommended such a pre-emptive attack, knowing full well that some of our cities would be severely damaged as we totally destroyed their entire country. JFK is said to have walked out of that meeting, saying to someone with him ” Those guys are really crazy!”
What was also going on during those less than three years of JFK’s presidency, was a far right wing movement to infiltrate our military. This revealed itself to the leadership in the field by many ‘ Born Again Commie Haters’ like General Lucius Clay, hero of WW2 and the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade. In October of 1961, as Talbot tells us, General Clay precipitated a nerve wracking confrontation with the Soviets at the Berlin Wall. Our tanks and their tanks stood facing each other like the ‘ Gunfight at the OK Corral’ of western lore. Right before the **** would hit the fan, JFK, through a back channel arrangement his brother Bob had with the Russians, got the other side to agree to a mutual withdrawal. Meanwhile, far right wing forces here at home, like the John Birch Society, had been calling Eisenhower, hero of WW2, a ” Dedicated , conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”. Men like ‘ Off the reservation’ Major General Edwin Walker announced on many occasions that the JFK administration was stocked with ” No win Ivy Leaguers and confirmed Communists”. Throughout our domestic and foreign US military bases leaflets and films were offered to our personnel on a regular basis, ALL sounding the trumpet for a final war with the godless Soviets. When Arkansas Senator Fulbright took to the Senate floor to contradict far right wing forces like South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, the other side called for hearings when General Walker was relieved of his command in Europe. Things got testy, especially when Defense Sec. McNamara was called to testify. Dozens of white suburban housewives wearing Stop Communism tags swarmed him and joined 250 spectators in booing him.
Years before those aforementioned hearings, Senator Fulbright, in one of his speeches on the Senate floor, warned of a future ‘ Military Coup’ … Isn’t that what happened in November of ’63? Hadn’t the French right wing generals attempted something like that earlier in 1961 against DeGalle’s plans to grant Algeria their independence? Few students of our jaded political history recall what happened a year later, in 1962, when Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Dallas with his wife. He was there to support the Democratic Party candidates for the upcoming midterm elections. Johnson and his wife were attacked , once again by white suburban women, calling him and his wife, and JFK ‘ Nigger Lovers and Commie Lovers’ . It is said that Johnson and his wife had to be ‘ spirited out ‘ of the hotel they were staying in, as if they were fugitives from a chain gang.
Now we are in the middle ( beginning? I pray not) of a terrible pandemic. It threatens our economy along with the health of millions, especially the elderly and infirmed. What needs to be understood is what history reveals when right wing movements gain momentum during tough times, as with Germany during their terrible economic depression in the 1920s and early 30s. Why? Because right wing movements always find scapegoats to satisfy the rage of the many. We are already seeing this administration, and those who believe in Trump’s convoluted logic, pushing to reopen our nation’s businesses. Yet, because of the utter incompetence and ‘ Pandemic denial ‘ by he and his administration, NOTHING EFFECTIVE was begun during January, February and parts of March. No stocking or manufacturing of masks, ventilators, hand sanitizers; NO sending of federal funds to strengthen our hospital systems and first providers; NO quarantine efforts and shutdowns in the early stages of this Pandemic USA . All of the above are reasons why this economy has NOT been reopened by now. Imagine if Trump acted as the Chinese did, and jumped all over the spread of this virus early on. He didn’t! So, his base, the ones demanding a totally OPEN economy, may very well march in lockstep as this Proto Fascist movement strengthens.
My fears, as a student of history, are REAL! We have a possible Army of citizens who may be easily influenced to join such a demagogue led movement. The anger and the frustration of many out of work and out of bread ( the kind you eat AND the kind you spend) people can be the very fodder used by the actual super rich who helped create such movements. As with Germany in the late 1920s, and with Amerika just a few short years ago, frustrated and angry working stiffs got directed to go against their economic interests by propaganda masters. They blamed ‘ Big Government’ and supported the super rich who controlled government for their own selfish interests. We who ‘ Know better’ need to influence our fellow working stiffs about what we all not only need, but deserve! And it sure ain’t Fascism!