Enabling a Fascist Putsch and Empowering a Big Lie

January 6, like December 7 eighty years earlier, will forever live in history as a day of infamy. Yet unlike the foreign military attack on the US base in Pearl Harbor in 1941, the domestic terrorist attack upon the US Capitol in 2021 enjoyed the objective support of nearly one-third of the US Congress and vast sections of the US population. “Stop the Steal”, the rallying cry of the violent mob which invaded and ransacked the US Capitol was officially echoed by 147 members of Congress, all Republicans, later on that infamous day and trumpeted loudly throughout the land for months by none other than the President of the United States and his regime. Fascism in America reared its ugly head almost simultaneously at the top and bottom of the power hierarchy on January 6, 2021. And its decapitation is nowhere in sight.

There was, of course, no realistic possibility that this dramatic and diabolical last ditch effort would succeed. Over 50 failed lawsuits and negative rulings by some 80 different judges have secured the legitimacy and integrity of the November election results in the eyes of the law, but not in the polluted minds of Trump’s enablers in Congress and his rabid followers in the public. In fact, with each successive filed and failed lawsuit, the conviction of a stolen, not lost, election took greater hold of greater numbers of those 70 million citizens who voted for Trump. According to a nationwide survey conducted just prior to the November election, about 65% of the registered voters (whether Republican, Democrat or Independent) all agreed that they trusted the US election system. By late December that trust had risen to 80% among Democrats, but plummeted to 45% and 30% among Independents and Republicans, respectively. Similarly, by year’s end, 90% of Democrats said the 2020 presidential election was free and fair, while only 28% of Republicans agreed. In mid-November 27% of Republican voters said Trump should never concede, whereas by late December 36% held that position. In other words, there is a direct positive correlation between the number of lawsuits filed challenging the election results and the number of Americans, primarily Republicans, who firmly believe that the election was stolen.

So. what was the real purpose of this bizarre parade of DOA lawsuits? It was not to overturn the election results. It was to convince increasing number of Trump supporters to embrace the Big Lie that the election was stolen and that a Biden presidency is illegitimate. The manifest function of these frivolous lawsuits was an abysmal failure, but their latent and real function proved to be a resounding success.

And therein lies the ongoing and growing danger.

At his “Save America” rally in front of the White House, Trump not only openly incited the violence that followed at the US Capitol that fateful day, but more ominously he declared that “today is not the end, it’s only the beginning” and that “for our movement…the best is yet to come”. That movement is a fascist one. He and his enablers in the suites of Congress and his cult followers in the streets of America are hell-bent on creating a fascist America in the future.

The effort and tactic are not without historical precedent. One of the Big Lies effectively used by fascist forces and assorted masters of deceit in Weimar Germany was that of the “dolchstoss”, the “stab-in-the-back” that unpatriotic liberals and a corrupt ruling elite supposedly inflicted upon the German people causing a great nation to lose WWI. Those alternative facts launched by an effective propaganda enterprise helped pave the path toward the Third Reich. That Big Lie then, like the stolen election lie now, resonated among vast sections of an angry and frustrated populace. Stable governments rest upon the secure foundation of the consent of the governed, something that the Biden Administration lacks in the minds of tens of millions of Americans who are absolutely convinced his presidency is illegitimate, and that they were, in effect, stabbed in the back by a rigged election controlled by liberals and traitors. Those behind the “Stop the Steal” effort have officially, as of January 6, lost the battle; but they are more determined than ever to win the ongoing domestic war.

In his antifascist satirical play, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, Bertolt Brecht poignantly portrays the criminal actions of a ruthless Chicago mobster (representative of Hitler) to gain control of the “cauliflower trust” (representative of Prussian landlords) and through crime and deceit expand his protection racket to engulf the whole region, which ultimately fails. This 1941 play ends with the Ui actor dropping his character and earnestly addressing the audience directly with a dire warning: “Let’s not drop our guard too quickly; for the womb from which this barbarism crawled is fertile still”. Now, 80 years later, that warning must be heeded like never before in America, or we are doomed.

Werner Lange is a retired professor of sociology and a lifelong peace activist.