Not Fascism Exactly, But a Herrenvolk Democracy


When I want to go somewhere, I look at a map—these days, of course, it’s a map on my iPhone. I may learn that my destination is close at hand and easy to reach. Or, I may discover bad news: the place I want to go is far away, and there is a big obstacle in the way, like a nine-car crash on the interstate. This is bad news. But the right response is not to denounce the map and the mapmaker. The proper response is not to imagine that the destination is close by, and there are no obstacles—and to set out on my journey based on those pleasingly false assumptions. No, the thing you have to do is, first, understand the obstacle, and second, figure out how to avoid it and still reach your destination.

It is in that spirit that I suggest you approach Adam Serwer, White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it:

America has always grappled with, in the words of the immigration historian John Higham, two “rival principles of national unity.” According to one, the U.S. is the champion of the poor and the dispossessed, a nation that draws its strength from its pluralism. According to the other, America’s greatness is the result of its white and Christian origins, the erosion of which spells doom for the national experiment.

People of both political persuasions like to tell a too-simple story about the course of this battle: World War II showed Americans the evil of racism, which was vanquished in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act brought nonwhites into the American polity for good. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 forever banished the racial definition of American identity embodied in the 1924 immigration bill, forged by Johnson and Reed in their crusade to save Nordic Americans from “race suicide.”

The truth is that the rivalry never ended, and Grantism, despite its swift wartime eclipse, did not become extinct. The Nazis, initially puzzled by U.S. hostility, underestimated the American commitment to democracy. As the Columbia historian Ira Katznelson writes in Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time(2013), the South remained hawkish toward Nazi Germany because white supremacists in the U.S. didn’t want to live under a fascist government. What they wanted was a herrenvolk democracy, in which white people were free and full citizens but nonwhites were not.

The Root of All Evil, The Root of Fascism

mussolini quote

This afternoon’s scripture reading comes from Saint Paul:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

One important kind of evil engendered by the greed of the plutocrats is the evil caused, time and again, when they embrace the demagogue, in the vain hope that they can control him.

There are two suggested readings on that topic today.

Jonathan Chait, An Insider Book Tries to Praise Trump, But Instead Exposes His Corruption

Trumponomics is a damning exposé of the corrupt bargain between Donald Trump and the party’s wealthy insiders. The odd thing is that the book is not intended as an exposé at all, but as an auto-hagiography written by three Republican policy entrepreneurs who helped win Trump over and shape his program, and are so lacking in self-awareness that they earnestly believe they are defending both Trump and his partners.

I encourage you to read the whole post. It is the mother and father of all takedowns.

This afternoon’s other recommended read is Jens Kruse, What an Obscure German Novel Taught Me About Dictators, which recounts how blind faith in normality and human decency can dampen timely resistance, and bring about disaster.

This Song is for You, Hans

Hans hears “America First” and thinks “Deutschland über alles.“  And so do we all.

After today’s abomination of an inauguration speech, Aardvark takes cold comfort in this thought: a cleverer fascist would probably do a much better job of concealing his hand.

In addition, there’s the widespread revulsion that followed the speech.

That said, it CAN HAPPEN HERE. I don’t think it will, in the end, but it can.

We need our friends in Europe to keep on reminding us of the lessons of history.

And so, Hans, this song is for you.


P.S. To add to the footnote in my last post, here’s an additional shoutout to Aardvark’s readers in Israel, Ireland, and Canada.