In 1998 the American author Richard Rorty issued a grim prediction that the Neoliberal era that began with Reagan would eventually lead to the rise of American Fascism. The model of allowing multinational corporations and Wall Street to all but write legislation would lead to a lack of good-paying jobs and ever lower tax receipts for the government, which would eventually create enormous deficits. The Neoliberal era would gradually undermine itself by offshoring too many of the well-paying jobs and making it almost optional for corporations to pay tax. Increasingly, the government would have trouble funding itself and demand for consumer goods would fall off due to the decreasing purchasing power of the average citizen.
In his book “Achieving Our Country” he foresees the rise of a crypto-Fascist like Trump who delights in insulting Blacks, Latinos, gays, lesbians, liberated women and other hated symbols of liberal values. This person would channel voter frustrations against the most vulnerable members of society. The schoolyard bully would rise to national power on a wave of voter resentment. This kind of Fascist demagogue has risen before in many places and they usually use the same playbook. They emerge at a time when the working poor are suffering as a result of the greed and mismanagement of the ruling elite. That’s what happened in 1930s Europe, 1960s Indonesia and 1990s Yugoslavia.
After all, we are now over 7 years on from the financial meltdown caused by the greed of Wall Street investment bankers (and disingenuously blamed on ‘Big Gummint’) and the economy has never really recovered for most people. In Europe, many countries still have smaller economies than they did in 2007! We have reached a point where a majority of the population on both the Left and Right realize that government is rigged in favoured of corporations and billionaires, but in such a situation there emerges an opportunity for a demagogue such as Trump to emerge and direct legitimate anger against vulnerable scapegoats, namely minorities. In other words, he is a kind of hijacker trying to stoke and direct populist passions for personal gain. Rorty saw all of his coming in advance, so it is worth quoting his book at some length. Its relevance to the events of today is shockingly prescient.
Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book “The Endangered American Dream” is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel “It Can’t Happen Here” may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.