This Happened Here: A Draft Dystopian Movie Script

Photograph Source: mathiaswasik – CC BY 2.0

Imagine this as a draft dystopian script for a Netflix series or a Hollywood movie:

An orange-hued ex-United States president who was accurately described as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” by the world’s leading intellectual runs free, with no serious threat of meaningful prosecution after he tried to overthrow the government and cancel an election he clearly lost. His election cancellation efforts included an attempted putsch – an assault on the legislative branch as it prepared to certify the ex-president’s defeat – was coordinated with fascist paramilitaries and thugs and elected members of the president’s party inside Congress. The attempted coup was easily predicted by observers who had paid attention to the wannabe dictator’s open contempt for democracy and the rule of law and to his recurrent embrace of political violence as a legitimate tool for staying in power.

The aspiring fascist strongman sat atop the most powerful and dangerous state in world history for four years, his tiny fingers on a giant nuclear arsenal, causing no small anxiety for his top generals. In his last year in power, he actively opposed medical science and public health recommendations to criminally deny and spread a deadly pandemic. He tried to enlist the national U.S. military in the suppression of a Black civil rights protest he absurdly called “Marxist” and accused of trying to “destroy our nation.” He embraced the symbols and legacy of an earlier national secession and Civil War sparked by slaveowners to preserve the life of a vast regional social system based on the enslavement of Black people.

The demented ex-president continues hammering away with the big Hitlerian and Orwellian lie that he won the last U.S. presidential election – that the presidency was “stolen” from him. He has convinced his white nationalist party’s base that this farcical but supremely dangerous falsehood is true. He continues to preposterously refer to the other and nominally in-power major corporate capitalist and imperialist party as “Radical Left” and shares a social media post calling for “Civil War” in his country (hardly the first time he has embraced political violence and appeared to back what he as president spelled as “cival war”). A large share of this base is armed and ready to do far more than merely vote to put him back or some other vengeful and violent fascist in power.

The bitter and demagogic ex-president is his white nationalist party’s front-runner for the next presidential election. His endorsement is craved by many candidates seeking office under the banner of a racist and sexist party that borders on being his personal fiefdom. This fascist, vengefully white nationalist “Amerikaner” party is hard at work passing measures and enacting policies to suppress and dilute votes for the other major capitalist party and indeed to cancel election outcomes that don’t go its way.

Once “conservative,” this party, one of just two politically viable parties in the country, has taken a radical turn towards Christo-fascism. It will soon take control of the nation’s legislative branch, something that will lead to the rapid conclusion of lawmakers’ investigation of the ex-president’s attempt to overthrow the last presidential election. It has nominated a vengeful Christian white nationalist and openly ecocidal pandemicist as its candidate for governor in one of its largest and most politically strategic states. This candidate, a rancorous and violent white man who was present at the attempted coup, proudly embraces changing state and national policy so that a 12-year-old girl raped and impregnated by her father must carry a baby to full term. He and numerous other far-right, fake populist radicals have more than “gestured at the future they want: no rape and incest exceptions to [state and ultimately national] abortion ban[s]; no emergency contraception; no gender-affirming health care for minors; the banning of books; the jailing of librarians; and maybe no public education altogether.” This ferocious fossil fascist hopes to appoint election officials keen to cancel the popular vote in his state if necessary.

Before leaving office, the ex-president and the white nationalist Amerikaner majority in an absurdly mal-apportioned and ridiculously powerful Minority Rule Senate stocked the nation’s absurdly powerful and lifetime-appointed Supreme Court with enough sexist, far-right judges to abolish women’s hard-won constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives. A leaked draft decision penned by one of these woman-hating jurists – a bitter old right-wing white man (like so many in the now fascist party, starting at the top) – is supported by the Court’s hard right majority. It turns longstanding legal opinion on its head by likening the abolition of abortion rights to the overturning of previous Court decisions against slavery and racial segregation. The draft decision clearly targets numerous other hard-won human and civil rights precedents and cites supposed authorities from the 17th and even the 13th Centuries to defend its determination to re-impose the physical bondage of forced motherhood. It sees no solid constitutional basis for a vast swath of human, civil, personal, labor, environmental, and broadly human rights.

The nation’s leading law professor puts the arch-reactionary agenda in chillingly dead-on context in an overseas newspaper:

“The radical change in law and society that [the Court’s anti-abortion ruling] would represent truly has no parallel in the history of the supreme court …As [a leading columnist ] rightly observes, ‘equal standing is undermined and eroded when the state can effectively seize your person for its own ends – that is, when it can force you to give birth.’ Whether or not one compares that compulsion and forced labor to literal enslavement [as the professor does], attempts to minimize the huge retrogression this would represent must be dismissed as little more than shameful efforts to camouflage the carnage the supreme court…is about to unleash both on its own legitimacy and, even more important, on the people in whose name it wields the power of judicial review.”

The draft decision, which has elicited significant but so far inadequate protest, is an open right-wing assault on all liberal, humanist, and elementarily social-democratic precedent. It is opposed by a super-majority of the nation’s population, more than two-thirds of which has backed women’s right to an abortion since it was first established through determined popular struggle half a century ago.

The Court’s white nationalist majority seems determined to unravel the formerly understood rule of law from atop the nation’s reigning Simon Says judicial body in service to an at once partisan and revanchist agenda. It is determined to ram this sick agenda through over and against majority public opinion. As the now emeritus professor says, “don’t believe those who says that ending woman’s right to an abortion will leave society intact.” The “carnage” to follow is distressing to contemplate. Woman- and girl-hating policymakers atop numerous state governments run by the Amerikaner putsch and gun party are already passing bills essentially abolishing legal abortion.

Sadly, many of the nation’s “liberal” politicos and activists, including abortion service and rights “leaders,” do precisely what the professor counsels against: “minimize the huge retrogression” the ruling “would represent.” They surrender in advance to the decision, refusing to mobilize millions in the streets, some even looking forward to supposedly garnering electoral advantage from the coming atrocity.

Meanwhile, it is learned that the activist and fascist wife of one of the high Court’s five far right justices was heavily involved in efforts to subvert and overthrow the last presidential election. Investigators in the legislative branch reveal that she worked behind the scenes to arrange for the certification of fake Elector slates contrary to the popular vote in states that the orange ex-president lost. This notoriously stupid judge and his fellow five white nationalists on the high Court (the fact that he is Black makes no difference here) are in place to rule on behalf of the fascist party’s theft of the next presidential election, planning and preparation for which is well underway across the right-wing major party’s many strongholds.

A leading US political organization linked to the white nationalist party holds its annual conference not in the USA, which it absurdly claims to see as under the control of the “radical left,” but in a distant Eastern European nation ruled by a right-wing authoritarian. The foreign fascist “leader,” who coined the phrase “Make [Country X] Great Again,” stands atop an “illiberal” woman- and gay-bashing party that has turned his country’s nominally democratic institutions – elections, courts, legislatures and parties – into empty facades for one party rule. The supposedly charismatic foreign dictator/president tells his fawning American visitors to return to the US to smash the “radical left” and create a white patriarchal Fatherland modelled on his own regime.

The right-wing US political organization falsely calls itself a “conservative political action conference.” It is now radical and fascist, determined to stick the last nails in the coffin of previously normative bourgeois democracy and rule of law. A lapsed former elite member of the white nationalist homeland party – a Republican activist who lost his wife to the bizarre Orwellian cult surrounding the ex-president – goes on cable to sputter his disbelief that things have come to this. He shudders to comprehend that the “conservative” organization and the major party that it represents are “headed toward full fascist.” (A cadre of US anti-fascists respond to his incredulous despair with a collective “no shit, Sherlock.”)

The Eastern European state has been repeatedly visited and praised by the United States’ most widely viewed cable news talk show host, a soulless and bow-tied racist propaganda chief who has poisoned millions of white minds with a toxic, neo-Nazi narrative claiming that a globalist cabal of elite “liberal” and “radical Left” elites are trying to “replace” supposedly virtuous and hard-working white people with supposedly criminal and indolent immigrants and people of color. As it advances the ludicrous claim that US schoolchildren are being “indoctrinated” to “hate America” by “radical Left” teachers wielding supposedly communistic “critical race theory” (CRT) to pass laws prohibiting honest educational discussion of racial and gender oppression in the nation’s past and present, the white nationalist Amerikaner party proudly promotes ridiculous conspiratorial and neo-Nazi “replacement theory.” It loses not a beat when that far right theory inspires a young white male mass shooter to drive hundreds of miles to slaughter Black people in one of its eastern cities (never mind that Black people came to America as slaves in chains and not as immigrants). The same insane theory sparked a young white male mass shooter to drive hundreds of miles to massacre Hispanic people in one of the “white homeland’s” supposedly immigrant-besieged southwestern border cities nearly three years ago.

Fascist Replacement Theory (FRT) is embraced by the tangerine-tinted ex-president, consistent with his not-so veiled calls for “cival war.”

Like the major party he stands atop – one of just two viable political organizations in the American Fatherland – the ex-president is in bed with a white-nationalist gun lobby and industry that has saturated the nation with firearms in the name of “freedom.” The Shooter Lobby and the cancerous firearms business have helped turn the nation into an Armed Madhouse with a vast stockade of military-style assault weapons that are repeatedly employed in on ongoing macabre epidemic of mass shootings usually carried out by right-wing white males. Homeland children now regularly attend school under the shadow of gun death, with mass shooter drills now part of daily school K-12 school life.

The white nationalist authoritarian party regularly pretends to be horrified by the many hundreds of mass shootings that plague the American “homeland” annually, including dozens of school shootings, but the truth is that it loves the slaughter. It secretly embraces the butchery, which it uses to: blame the other, supposedly “radical Left” party for advancing liberal “carnage” and collapse; call for ever more extreme forms of white nationalist police statism in the name of “law and order’” argue for the arming of, well, everyone, including kindergarten teachers. Consistent with these perverse aims, meant to bring mass slaughter to a point that will help the white nationalist party seize full power in the name of “law and order,” the nation’s highest Court is now poised to roll back gun laws to permit “open [gun] carry” in the same state where ten Black people were just slaughtered with an assault rifle by a young white man who called himself a “fascist.” Other states will follow, turning the nation to even more of an Armed Madhouse than it already is, hard as that is to imagine.

As after every double digit-body count mass shooting – the smaller body counts are now too routine to merit grave national concern – the nation’s liberals double down on feckless calls for “gun control” and “gun safety” legislation. Gun control and even basic gun safety are always shot down in the absurdly powerful, right-wing, and malapportioned national Senate, where the nation’s most reactionary, white, rural and white regions and states are preposterously over-represented. But it’s not just about guns per se. As one activist writes, fascist media and politicos have “convinced millions that they’re facing an imminent threat of being overrun by immigrants, replaced by African Americans, etc. so of course they arm themselves to the teeth, like getting flood insurance on a flood plain.”

Amazingly enough, this nation, where mass shootings (including school shootings that massacre small children) are practically normalized, holds itself up to the rest of the world as an example of “the way life should be.” It also claims to be a shining role model and agent of democracy, even as majority public opinion is close to irrelevant there, trumped by concentrated wealth and power and by an ancient slaveowners’ governance order that vastly overrepresents the nation’s most revanchist sections and jurisdictions. Somehow the autocratic Minority Rule USA feels qualified to fund and equip a war supposedly for “democracy” and against “autocracy” in a different Eastern European nation.

What about the nation’s other major party, the one that the white nationalist party ridiculously calls “Radical Left” and even “socialist” and “Marxist”? It is a thoroughly corporate and imperialist entity that clings religiously to bourgeois-democratic forms and norms (including the rule of law over might and honoring election outcomes that favor the other major party) that the rightmost major party is actively sweeping into the dustbin of history. It has long been assigned the basic ruling class function of keeping the people off the streets and out of the public squares – divided, atomized, and herded sheep-like into savagely time-staggered major party big money candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas sold as “that’s politics” – the only politics that matters. It will never mobilize the masses to fight back against the far-right-drift. It fears the nob and rabble far more than it fears authoritarian white nationalist rule. It is an “inauthentic opposition” Weimar party of passive, hollow, and fake resistance.

This party’s bumbling, gaffe-prone, and incredibly uncharismatic octogenarian president is crippled by his own severe limits, his popularity tanking yet further under the pressure of rampant price inflation. He looks more like a dead old duck with every passing day. He announced his candidacy for White House in a slick campaign video that likened his putschist predecessor and the fascist’s backers to those who “chant[ed] the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 1930s.” Yet despite this not-so-veiled reference to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, the doddering, deeply conservative, and corporate-imperialist president, deeply committed to American “competitiveness” and military might, cannot bring himself to mouth the proper name of the menace that faces his country: “fascism.” The denialism is a common, amazingly durable malady, rarely if occasionally overcome, itself part of the fascitization process. al and mass denial. The following things are commonly said in mainstream US media-politics culture about the new US-Amerikaner fascism: “white-nationalist,” “white supremacist,” “authoritarian,” “totalitarian,” “extremist,” “illiberal,” “autocratic,” “domestic terrorist,” “hate,” “far right,” “racist,” “radical,” “hateful.” Something very rarely said in mainstream US media-politics culture about the new fascism: “fascist.”

I need to write this up in greater detail, suggest some potential actors, and send it off to a movie or tv series producer. I’m thinking it could be called “This Happened Here.” Would I need to add the usual

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).