Is Florida Senate Candidate Marco Rubio Headed Down The Path To Fascism?
58 year old Dennis Mahon is a former resident of the Kansas City area, where he was imperial dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He ran for alderman in Northmoor, Mo., on a platform that included keeping the town white. He and his twin brother, Daniel, were arrested and charged with mailing a parcel bomb to a Scottsdale diversity office in 2004. His attorney, Robert Fagan, says his client is a "(military) veteran and a contributing member of society." A third man, Robert Joos, was also arrested in connection with the case and the Indiana home of Tom Metzgar, founder of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), whose website describes him as "converted from minister to Free Thinker, reborn from right-winger to racist."
All 4 of these misfits could easily have been a chapter in Dave Neiwert's stunning new book, The Eliminationists-- How Hate Talk Radio Radicalized The American Right. The book isn't so much about Hate Talk Radio per se as it is about the gradual transformation of mainstream conservatives to full blown fascists and all the steps that lead in that direction. Recently, over the course of a few days I made a very different kind of journey; I flew from L.A. to Hong Kong to Bangkok and on to Bali. The Eliminationists was my traveling companion.
I looked to Neiwert's careful definitions, historical examination and brilliant analysis to shine a light on something that has been bothering me all week. On the surface the casual tweet from Florida Republican, an unabashedly right-wing politician campaigning for the open U.S. Senate seat from that state against heavily favored mainstream conservative Charlie Crist, was just a harmless paen to the right-wing stalwarts at the NRA, part of the coalition he hopes will help him overtake Crist. I've been following Rubio in Twitter since he signed up and he'd never used the NRA hash tag before. And on this tweet he did:
But there was something more to it that has been bothering me. Many Republicans refer to Rubio as "our Obama," presumably because he's young, wrote a book and is from a minority group; he's Cuban-American. The former Speaker of the Florida House brags about his affiliation with the Bush wing of the GOP but his current campaign is reaching out to appeal to Republicans even more extreme and further to the right than that. He's gone from someone championing a reduction in property taxes and shrinking the state government to someone apparently advocating violence in Iran. As I read deeper and deeper into The Eliminationists I kept seeing the specter of Marco Rubio in a conservative movement that has become, in Neiwert's words, "a precursor to fascism." And Neiwert is very careful to warn off his readers from mixing up mainstream conservatives and fascists. He points out that "right-wing rhetoric-- particularly the eliminationist kind-- is so innately violent, and moreover permissive about the use of violence, that it has the effect of promoting a general environment in which violence is accepted and even glorified." Earlier he defined classical fascism in a way that made me wonder if young Mr. Rubio, growing up, at least politically, around so many full-fledged Cuban fascists, might be headed down a path that is anathema to everything most of us value as Americans.
Fascism was explicitly antidemocratic, antiliberal, and corporatist, and it endorsed violence as a chief means to its ends. It was "revolutionary" in its fervor, yet sought to defend status quo institutions, particularly business interests. It was also, obviously, authoritarian.
I'm not saying Rubio is far along the road as, say, Ann Coulter, a full fledged fascist transmitter-- way beyond the pretense of conservatism-- who wrote in the National Review, as a Contributing Editor, that "[w]e should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
In fact Rubio might not even be as far along as defeated Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman, a far right fanatic-- currently a vicious Hate Talk Radio host in Houston-- and militia movement stalwart, who appears to have been involved with the catastrophic bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, although he was never charged as a participant.
Earlier today I talked a little about my visits to Afghanistan in terms of tourism and Obama's miscalculations there. Now I want to recall how I marveled at the deeply ingrained Afghan gun culture when I was there in 1969 and again in 1971. I had never seen anything like it before-- not even in Texas. I used to write letters home explaining that you would no sooner expect to see an Afghan man walking along without a gun than you would expect to see an American walking along without his trousers. I remember often seeing pairs of grizzled old Afghan men walking along holding hands, each clutching an ancient long gun in the other hand. And 1969 was a relatively peaceful time in Afghanistan's turbulent history.
Before driving to Afghanistan, I spent a couple months in Iran, primarily in Tabriz, Tehran and Meshed. Iran is a nation that prides itself-- and rightly so-- as one with a rich cultural heritage and a firm claim to being one of the word's longest surviving civilizing forces. The Iranians are as proud of their civilization and the Afghans are proud of their xenophobia and barbarism. In Iran you never see someone with a gun other than a policeman or a soldier.
Rubio bemoans this and seems to think that if the Iranian demonstrators only had some guns they could have swept the tyrants of Tehran away. When Bush and Cheney held sway in Washington I used to wonder if maybe the Second Amendment fanatics had a point. Of course that would lead me to remember that no matter what armaments civilians have-- even in Texas-- the government has more deadly ones. Certainly if the Iranian demonstrators would have carried guns and shot up the police, the Supreme Leader would have responded with tanks. Or does Rubio thinks civilians ought to have the right to own tanks as well?