This essay first appeared on Oct. 6, 2022 in Townhall.com.
In August, President Joe Biden accused Republican political opponents of “semi-fascism.” But who, really, is acting an authoritarian manner?
Are Republicans “Semifascist?”
Here is how the American Heritage Dictionary (5th edition) defines “fascism:”
1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
3. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
Fascist regimes sponsor street violence, direct and censor the mass media, regiment the economy, disregard civil liberties, and deploy police agencies against political opponents. Fascist regimes generally are led by a dictator who controls or disregards the nation’s legislature.
Yet the 2016 and 2020 National Republican Party platforms state: “We believe our constitutional system—limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people—must be preserved uncompromised for future generations. We believe political freedom and economic freedom are indivisible.”
This would seem to be the antithesis of fascism.
Next, let’s examine some of the events that led to, and subsequently have defined, Biden’s presidency:
Summer, 2020: Violent and apparently coordinated street mobs trash cities all over the United States, creating unsettled conditions for the fall election. Biden’s running mate endorses the mobs and Biden refuses to condemn them.
Fall, 2020: Officials throughout the country disregard a key federal election statute and manipulate state election rules in ways that help Biden win the presidential contest. National media try to bury the story and defame anyone who expresses concern.
Jan. 20-31, 2021:
Without congressional authorization and in direct violation of Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, Biden largely stops enforcing federal immigration laws.
– Without congressional authorization, the Biden administration issues a rule (in the words of the Supreme Court) to “substantially restructure the energy market.” The court later strikes down the rule for lack of statutory authority (pdf).
– Without congressional authorization, the administration renews an order effectively rewriting every residential lease in the country.
– The New York Post reports close ties between the administration and the racist doctrine known as “critical race theory.”
– Civil liberties violations begin with the indefinite imprisonment—without prior trial—of alleged “insurrectionists.”
Apr. 28, 2021, 6 a.m., EDT: The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is ultimately under presidential control, raids the home of Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Biden’s 2020 election opponent, Donald Trump. The FBI seizes as many as ten personal electronic devices. This sets the pattern for many other FBI raids on Biden’s prominent political opponents.
Jul. 1, 2021: In defiance of a Supreme Court warning, the Biden administration extends the residential lease order once again—which the court soon strikes down (pdf).
Jul. 15, 2021: Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki admits that the administration has been collaborating with social media companies to censor content it disagrees with.
Aug. 4, 2021: Fox News reports close ties between the Biden administration and “critical race theory,” thereby corroborating the earlier New York Post report.
Sept. 9, 2021: Without consulting Congress, Biden announces that he will force hundreds of millions of Americans to submit to government-sponsored vaccination.
Nov 5, 2021: Without congressional authorization, the administration orders all companies with more than 100 employees to fire unvaccinated workers. The Supreme Court later strikes down this order (pdf).
Same date: Without explicit congressional authorization, Biden orders nearly all health care workers to be vaccinated. On a 5-4 vote, SCOTUS allows the order to go into effect, but reserves the right to consider the merits later (pdf).
Nov. 6, 2021: FBI raids home of James O’Keefe, founder of the conservative investigative group, Project Veritas—part of wider FBI campaign against the organization beginning even before the Biden presidency.
Nov. 10, 2021: Without congressional authorization, Biden orders all federal contractors and subcontractors to fire unvaccinated employees. (Some courts have voided this order, but SCOTUS has yet to consider it.)
Feb., 2022: Without prior announcement, the Biden administration creates a “Disinformation Governance Board.”
Apr. 27, 2022: The administration announces the Disinformation Governance Board created two months previously.
May, 2022: Leftists swarm the homes of Supreme Court justices to pressure them to decide a pending case a certain way, events that culminate in an assassination attempt against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Even the pro-Biden Washington Post admits the demonstrators’ conduct is illegal. Yet the administration refuses to enforce the law, again violating Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution. And just as Biden refused to condemn the 2020 riots, he issued no direct statement condemning the assassination attempt.
Jun. 22, 2022: FBI agents stop former Trump lawyer John Eastman, frisk him, seize his smart phone, and force him to open the instrument for their inspection, likely violating the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
Jun. 24, 2022: The Supreme Court rules that abortion policy is a state rather than a federal issue, thereby returning to nearly 200 years of pre-Roe v. Wade precedent (pdf).
July 8, 2022: Without approval of Congress, Biden orders use of federal power to undercut the court decision and state abortion restrictions.
Aug. 3, 2022: Without approval of Congress, Biden issues an order threatening federal action against heath care providers who obey state abortion laws of which he disapproves.
Aug. 8, 2022: The FBI raids Trump’s home. Agents rifle the premises for nine hours.
Aug. 9, 2022: The FBI stops Congressman Scott Perry (R.-Pa.), a Trump ally, and confiscates his cell phone.
Aug. 24, 2022: Facing public protest and ridicule, the administration dissolves the Disinformation Governance Board.
Same date: Without consulting Congress and in defiance of the Constitution, Biden directs his Department of Education to impose an estimated $379 billion in student loan obligations on the taxpayers (later scaled back somewhat).
Sept. 1, 2022: Flanked by armed troops on a stage flooded with red and black, Biden delivers a tirade claiming his principal political opponents “threaten the very foundations of our republic” and “do not respect the Constitution.” He signals that attacks on dissenters will accelerate.
Sept. 8, 2022: The wider sweep begins: The FBI serves broad subpoenas and search warrants on several dozen prominent Trump supporters.
Sept. 9, 2022: The Washington Examiner further details extensive censorship of social media.
Same date: The New York Times reports that the Biden administration has subpoenaed former Trump associates Brian Jack and Stephen Miller and other Trump aides.
September 13, 2022: The FBI stops Mike Lindell, a prominent Trump supporter, and seizes his cell phone.
Sept. 21, 2022: The New York Post outlines a whistleblower complaint by FBI agent Steve Friend. The complaint details how the agency has overused SWAT teams against Biden’s political opponents and prioritized political harassment over fighting serious crime.
Sept. 23, 2022: Between 25 and 30 FBI agents raid the home of pro-life activist Mark Houck, arresting him for an unarmed altercation that allegedly occurred outside an abortion clinic a year earlier. “After nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children,” Houck’s lawyer said.
Sept. 28, 2022: Thirty former FBI agents support Friend’s charges.
This list—which as many readers know is merely a partial one—provokes several reflections:
First: To say that all Americans, irrespective of party, should be concerned about the Biden’s administration’s actions is an understatement.
Second: Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book “Liberal Fascism” identifies the common roots shared by both fascism and American “progressivism.” Both stem from the view that centralized bureaucracies rather than individuals acting through markets should direct society. That is why many early 20th century “progressives” admired fascism’s founder, Benito Mussolini. And although fascism and “progressivism” took different paths, they retain certain affinities.
At some level these affinities may explain the otherwise-bizarre red and black backdrop for Biden’s Sept. 1 harangue against “MAGA Republicans.” This color scheme is a fascist favorite, appearing in the insignia of the Spain’s Falange, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Germany’s Nazis, and various Celtic Cross groups.
Third: We all grumble about the Supreme Court, but its record in this crisis, while not perfect, is somewhat reassuring. The court’s rulings against some of Biden’s most serious overreaches displays the value of an independent judiciary.
Fourth: Experience with authoritarians suggests that the administration’s conduct will grow worse after the 2022 elections. If voters allow Biden’s party to retain control of Congress, it will encourage more bad behavior. But if voters repudiate the Democrats and Biden’s authoritarians sense the end is near, then they may push the pedal to the metal.
Finally: The United States has had good Presidents, bad Presidents, and many in between. But we have never had one quite like this before.