Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Rise of the Right

Could it happen here?
It's been said that fascism could be established in the United States just as easily as it has been established elsewhere. The most obvious examples were the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Both dictators came to power after the economies of their respective countries were rocked by inflation and depression. Hitler's rise to power is notable because the German economy had been more devastated in the aftermath of World War I. Italy had at least been on the winning side of that war, but Germany, as the leader of the losing Central Powers, was forced to pay numerous reparations, and the Weimar Republic that replaced the imperial monarchy was an ineffective government in the wake of hyperinflation that reduced the mark to the kind of worthlessness even Latin American currencies never facedd.
The German economy recovered in the mid-twenties, and Germany received help from the United States in paying war reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles (which established the peace after World War I) and established better relations with the Soviet Union. Soon German society became more freewheeling, with an increase in street theater and cabaret culture that led to many excesses. Such liberalization of German mores angered conservatives, as did the new modernist architecture and design coming from the Bauhaus.
Then in 1929 the global economic downturn we know as the Great Depression began. Germany could no longer borrow money to pay its reparations, and the government became unstable. It was in this environment that a coalition government run by the Nazis was established in 1933 with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler decried the direction of the economy and demonized his political opponents, promising to restore Germany's greatness and restore traditional German values.
Fast forward to America in 2009. The economy is in a freefall. Unemployment is skyrocketing . The country is heading toward bankruptcy. Large bailouts are being given to banks, investment firms, and insurance companies. And we're coming out of a period of excessive cultural behavior.
It can't happen here?
I'm not suggesting that we're headed for a fascist-style dictatorship, but given the anger people feel toward President Obama and the hatred being stirred up the kind of right-wing extremists Chris Matthews calls wingnuts, the possibility is there.
And if one of them becomes President, God help us.

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