Seven Days in May

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Seven days in the drought (the “worst the West has seen in 1200 years”) -, war-, and inflation-plagued month of May 2022 were emblematic of US-American fascitization – the self-described “world’s greatest democracy’s” creeping descent into a fascist white and Christian nationalist state beyond previously normative bourgeois democracy and rule of law.

May 2: “Literal Enslavement” and “The Carnage the Supreme Court is About to Unleash”

First came the May 2nd leak of a draft decision penned by one of the nation’s five woman-hating Republifascist Supreme Court Justices and backed by each of those judges. Sam Alito’s draft majority opinion reversing the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and thereby overturning woman’s half century right to an abortion was an open revanchist assault on liberal, humanist, and social-democratic precedent. Alito cited alleged authorities from the 17th and even the 13th Centuries to defend his determination to re-impose the physical bondage of forced motherhood. It suggested that there is no sound constitutional basis for a vast swath of basic human, civil, personal, labor, environmental, and broadly human rights. The nation’s leading law professor Lawrence Tribe put the arch-reactionary draft decision in chilling context:

Don’t believe those who says that ending woman’s right to an abortion will leave society intact….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 [New York Times columnist] Jamal Bouie 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 Tribe 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.”

Never mind that a super majority of the populace has supported Roe v. Wade for the last half-century and continues to do so.

May 14th: An Explicitly Fascist Mass Shooting

Another menacing May day came on May 14th courtesy of an explicit, self-identified fascist. Mass shootings – officially defined as shootings where at least 4 people other than the shooter are killed or injured – are a regular occurrence in the USA. (By the second week of May 2002 there had already been more than 200 U.S. mass shootings in 2022 and nearly 900 such shootings since the beginning of 2021.) These grisly events have long normalized and even banalized in the dominant US media and politics culture, along with the standard joke of a “debate” that follows the gun massacres that get national attention, the Democrats fecklessly calling for some gun control and Republicans saying that “guns don’t kill people, mental illness does.”

To get national attention now, multiple and preferably double-digit body counts are required of mass shootings. That standard was met on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York, after the 18-year-old white male racist and fascist Peyton Gendron posted a manifesto on “replacement theory” – the neo-Nazi notion that the “Jewish” global elite is trying to replace (supposedly superior) whites with immigrants, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and other “inferior” races. “Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had,” he wrote. Gendron tried to livestream his murder of 10 people in a grocery store located in a Buffalo zip code he chose because of its heavily Black composition. He drew inspiration from other young white male US racist mass-killers like Dylann Roof (the neo-Nazi who murdered 9 Black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015) and Patrick Crusius (the fascist who slaughtered 23 people in an El Paso, Texas Walmart he targeted because of its Hispanic customer base in August of 2019) but above all from the New Zealand fascist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand in March of 2019. Gendron’s rambling treatise was largely plagiarized from Tarrant’s fascist and white supremacist manifesto.

The reporting and commentary on the crime was marred by the standard “It Can’t Happen Here” reluctance of media and political authorities to say or write the dreaded “F word.” Following the usual script in big mass-shootings and racist terror attacks, the nation’s bumbling Joe Biden shuffled off to Buffalo to console survivors and make the usual statements against racist hatred and for gun control. Mr. “reach across aisle looking for common ground” Biden left out the fascism problem and the critical role of the fascist Donald Trump and his party and television network (FOX News) in spreading the fascist replacement theory (FRT) that informed Gedron’s hideous act. As the World Social Web Site (WSWS) reported:

‘Biden’s speech in Buffalo three days after a fascist gunman murdered 10 people in a predominantly African-American section of the city was a cowardly cover-up of the role of the Republican Party in promoting the anti-Semitic and racist conceptions that inspired the killer. Over the previous two days, scores of articles appeared in the establishment press documenting statements by Republican officials and pro-Trump media commentators promoting the Replacement Theory ravings of the Buffalo gunman …In the aftermath of Trump’s January 6 attempted coup, which the Republican National Committee has declared “a legitimate form of political discourse,” the support of Republican officials for these conceptions demonstrates that the GOP, one of the two major parties of the American ruling class, is being transformed into a fascistic organization…Yet …Biden managed to omit the words “Trump” and “Republican.” He did not name a single Republican official (Reps. Scott Perry, Matt Gaetz, Elise Stefanik, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and others), media outlet (Fox News) or commentator (Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham) who have and continue to promote the racist and anti-Semitic themes of the “Great Replacement.” Instead, he dissolved the reality of the fascist threat into the disembodied abstractions of “hate” and “evil,” which explain nothing and serve to cover up the actual social and political forces at work.’

(To make matters worse, the Buffalo shooting took place at the same time as significant mass abortion rights demonstrations against the Alito draft decision were occurring in cities and towns across the nation. The depressing massacre ate up the news coverage on the evening of May 14th and the following day, pushing the remarkable and inspiring women’s rights upsurge off the top of its rightful place atop the weekend news cycle.)

May17: A Fascist Military Candidate and His Putschist Buddy in “The Crucible of Democracy”

Three days after the Buffalo massacre and seven days before the next big U.S. mass shooting (see below), the virulent, gun-mad Christo-fascist Doug Mastriano won the Republican gubernatorial contest in the large and regularly contested state of Pennsylvania, the state that American historian Andrew Shankman calls The Crucible of Democracy – home to some of the most radical and democratic tendencies in the early U.S. republic. Mastriano ran and won as a full-on paranoid-style fascist ready to employ his thirty years of military service and his fundamentalist Christian faith in service to a vengeful, anti-liberal and anti-Left God. A former mid-level US and NATO military strategist, Mastriano is a leading proponent of Trump’s Big Stolen Election Lie and a January 6th Insurrection attendee. After the 2020 election, Mastriano, in his role as a state senator, joined with two other far right legislators to introduce a resolution to let the Pennsylvania legislature appoint delegates to the Electoral College instead of following the results of Pennsylvania’s popular presidential vote. He is “so MAGA,” Salon’s Heather Digby Barton notes, “that even Donald Trump was afraid to endorse him — until it became obvious that Mastriano was going to win.”

Interrupted by his hauntingly creepy laugh and peppered with reference to his three decades in the military, Mastriano’s acid victory speech opened with scripture and made chilling reflections on his past frustrations with the officially apolitical status of the US military. Mastriano attacked Covid-19 public health measures, transgendered rights, “leftist” and “extreme” media, the “radical socialist” Democrats, environmental regulations, unions, gun safety measures, public schools, property and income taxes, and abortion rights. Mastriano likened his Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro to the “oppressive regime of [formerly Stalinist] East Germany, where your freedoms will be stolen away.” Mastriano’s denunciation of Democrats’ supposed “far left” and “extremist” attack on “freedom and liberty” even included the bizarre charge that Democrats want to “kill babies after birth.”

For Ivan Raiklin, a committed far-right putschist and one of Mastriano’s longtime military-political comrades, Mastriano’s victory was a welcome shot in a far-right war to take over the federal government. As Philadelphia Enquirer columnist Will Bunch wrote:

‘For the last 18 months, a veteran Army intelligence officer, former Green Beret, and lawyer named Ivan Raiklin has traveled the United States and become an internet phenomenon through his obsession with one cause: undoing President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and restoring President Donald Trump to the White House based on false claims of widespread voter fraud. In December 2020, the Virginia-based Raiklin penned a memo, widely circulated on the far right, titled “Operation Pence Card,” urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject Biden’s electoral votes from key states on Jan. 6. He warned, according to Reuters, “of conspiracies involving Pence, intelligence agencies, big tech, China, and the postal service,” and urged Trump to activate the emergency broadcast system. And Raiklin hasn’t let up since the failed coup attempt.

But on Tuesday night, there was nowhere in America more important for Ivan Raiklin to be than in Pennsylvania — to stand alongside and congratulate his former military comrade and fellow “Big Lie” conspiracy theory proponent Doug Mastriano, as the state senator won a landslide primary victory to become the Republican nominee for governor. Raiklin posted a short clip of himself congratulating Mastriano, a 58-year-old retired Army colonel who wore an Operation Desert Storm cap and a tie emblazoned, “With God all things are possible.” With a piano slowly bashing out “America the Beautiful” from the victory party in Chambersburg, the newly minted nominee told Raiklin that “we’re going to send a message to the United States of America that things are changing in Pennsylvania” …The Virginia activist then looked into the camera lens and added: “Twenty electoral votes as well.” Mastriano’s moment with Raiklin went viral online thanks to Democrats raising alarm bells about what a Republican victory in November might mean for the future of the American Experiment and its most fundamental tenet: that a democracy is led by those who receive the most votes.’

As the fascist coup plotter Ivan “Pence Card” Raiklin knows very well, the Pennsylvania governor appoints his or her own Secretary of State, the official in charge of administering elections in a critical swing state. As Bunch noted, “the Mastriano threat to Democracy goes well beyond Pennsylvania.”

Mastriano’s victory and Raiklin’s celebration of it might fall short of the plot of the 1964 movie Seven Days in May, which portrayed an attempted right-wing military coup in Washington, but it was plenty dystopian in its own real-life way.

May 19th: “God, Homeland, Family” – A “Conservative” Pilgrimage to Hungary

Another unnerving May development received nowhere near the attention it deserved: the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a leading US political organization strongly linked to the MAGA wing of the Republican Party and the biggest pro-Trump political group in the country, held its annual convention not in the United States (which it absurdly claimed to see as under the control of the “radical left”) but in Hungary, a distant Eastern European nation ruled by the right-wing authoritarian and fascist[1]Viktor Orban. Orban, who coined the phrase “Make [Country X] Great Again,” stands atop an “illiberal” (newspeak for fascist) 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. Hungary has repeatedly been visited and praised by the United States’ most widely viewed cable news talk show host, FOX News’ Tucker Carlson, the white nationalist propaganda chief who has spent years poisoning millions of white minds with FRT. CPAC’s choice of Hungary as a conference site was ominous though unsurprising to analysts and activists who had followed Carlson’s trips to and obsession with Hungary, where he has taped his nightly FOX show.

The CPAC program’s agenda in Budapest was adorned with the lovely slogan “God, Homeland, Family.” It highlighted panels on “preserving Western civilization,” waging revanchist culture wars, advancing traditional gender norms and sharply restricting immigration. The Guardian reported that he conference:

“Feature[d] [the Black female fascist] Candace Owens, described as ‘Trump’s favorite influencer,’ video messages from Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Santiago Abascal, president of Spain’s [fascist] Vox party, and Zsolt Bayer, a pro-Orbán pundit who formerly called Roma people ‘animals,’ referred to Jewish people as ‘stinking excrement’ and used racist slurs for Black people during the BLM protests.”

Orban kicked off the festivities with talking points straight out of the 21st century “late fascist” political playbook. “Progressive liberals, neo-Marxists dazed by the woke dream, people financed by George Soros and promoters of open societies … want to annihilate the Western way of life that you and we love so much,” Orban told his fawning American guests on May 19th. “We must coordinate the movement of our troops as we face a big test, 2024 will be a decisive year,” he said – a not-so veiled reference to the next US presidential election. “We must reconquer the institutions in Washington D.C. and Brussels.”

George Conway, a lapsed former elite member of the white nationalist homeland party – a Republican activist who lost his demented wife to the sick fascist cult surrounding Trump – went on CNN to express disbelief that things had actually to this with the Republican right. He sputtered that the “conservative” organization “headed toward full fascist” – a very rare use of the dreaded and supposedly “extreme” F-word in mainstream media.

May 22: Trump Shares for “Civil War” 

On Sunday, May 22, Trump used his anti-social media platform bearing the Orwellian name Truth Social to repost a suggestion from a user called “MAGA King Thanos.” The user had commented on the screenshot of a tweet from El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, the young authoritarian who once described himself on Twitter as “the coolest dictator in the world.” “The most powerful country in the world is falling so fast,” Bukele wrote in his tweet, “that it makes you rethink what are the real reasons. Something so big and powerful can’t be destroyed so quickly, unless the enemy comes from within.” The post Trump shared included “MAGA King Thanos’s” comment on Bukele’s tweet: “Civil war.”

“Nothing to see here,” poor George Conway tweeted in response. “Just a former president of the United States sharing a social media post advocating or predicting civil war in the United States. No biggie.” Conway might have added that the notion of a great nation being brought down by liberal and left “enemies within” is a standard part of the fascist political narrative going back to Mussolini and Hitler.

May 24th: Uvalde, Guns, and the Amerikaner Killing Field

A sixth day in May reflecting the fascitizing madness of Amerika came in the form of another assault rifle mass slaughter when a deranged Hispanic teenager murdered 19 elementary school children and 2 teachers in the small, majority Hispanic southern Texas town of Uvalde. As the national media discussion engaged in the usual “guns versus mental illness” debate and focused on why the local police force waited 40-plus minutes to enter the classroom and take out the shooter, New York Times columnist Charles Blow reminded readers that the Republifascists’ (not his word) white-supremacist replacement madness and related paranoid-style fear of supposedly left and totalitarian big government provided the basic underlying context for the nation’s lethal saturation with firearms, including military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 in the first place – and for why it was so absurdly difficult to pass meaningful gun control and gun safety measure in 2020s America:

“The Republican Party has turned America into a killing field. Republicans have allowed guns to proliferate while weakening barriers to ownership, lowering the age at which one can purchase a weapon and eliminating laws governing how, when and where guns can be carried. They have done this… by promoting fear and paranoia. They tell people that criminals are coming to menace you, immigrants are coming to menace you, a race war (or racial replacement) is coming to menace you and the government itself may one day come to menace you. The only defense you have against the menace is to be armed. If you buy into this line of thinking, owning a gun is not only logical but prudent. It’s like living in a flood plain and buying flood insurance. Of course you should do it. The propaganda has been incredibly, insidiously persuasive. As Vox pointed out last year, ‘Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms…’”

“But once you accept the dogma that a personal arsenal is your last line of defense against an advancing threat, no amount of tragedy can persuade you to relinquish that idea, not even the slaughter of children and their teachers in their classrooms. Even if you think that shootings like the one in Texas are horrendous, you see yourself and your interests as detached from them. You didn’t do the killing. Your guns are kept safe and secure, possibly even under lock and key. You are a responsible gun owner. The person who did the killing is a lunatic.”

“Republicans carry this logic in Congress. They offer thoughts and prayers but resist reforms. They offer the same asinine advice: To counter bad guys with guns, we need more good guys with guns. They seem to envision an old-school western in which gunmen square off and the ranger always kills the desperado. They want to arm teachers, even though most don’t want to be armed. Personally, I can’t imagine any of my elementary-school teachers with a gun in the classroom trying to fend off a gunman. That’s not what they signed up for” (emphasis added).

This was a chillingly dead-on reflection, even if Blow (and/or his editors) shared the standard liberal refusal to properly frame the supposedly “conservative” Republicans and their “replacement” lunacy as fascist. Consistent with Blow’s analysis, mad calls for arming teachers were a recurrent theme in speeches given at the national convention of the nation’s powerful and fascist gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, which met in Houston behind a banner advertising “14 Acres of Guns and Gear” just two days after the Uvalde atrocity. The insane demand for gun-toting grade-school teachers – sounding crazier than usual after an incident in which heavily armed police proved incapable of intervening against a teenager murdering small children – came from no less of a fascist than Trump himself. As the orange-hued Nazi spoke, denouncing “the existence of evil in our world,” hundreds of diverse gun reform protesters stood across from white male NRA members who wore AR-15 t-shirts and mocked the tears and rage of those calling for gun sanity.

(Trump and other right-wing neofascist Republicans pretend to be horrified by the hundreds of mass shootings that plague the American “homeland” annually, including dozens of school shootings. The truth is they are quite okay with the slaughter. They secretly embrace the butchery, which they use to blame the other, supposedly “radical Left” party for advancing “carnage” and collapse, to call for ever more extreme forms of white nationalist police statism in the name of “law and order,” and to argue for the arming of, well, everyone, including kindergarten teachers. Consistent with these perverse and Hobbesian aims, the current Republifascist majority Supreme Court is poised not only to end abortion right but also to roll back gun laws limiting “open [gun] carry” in the same state where ten Black people were just slaughtered with an assault rifle by a young fascist – New York.)

May 26: House Republifascists Above Bourgeois Law

In the final week of May 2022, four House Republicans including Representative Kevin McCarthy (Rf-CA), the minority leader, and the close Trump ally Jim Jordan (Rf-TN) sent letters in which they refused to comply with legally binding subpoenas from the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6th Insurrection. The audacity of this defiance was remarkable. Both McCarthy and Jordan had communicated with Trump during the Attack on the Capitol and may have had advance knowledge of the crime’s commission. Placing themselves above the law, McCarthy and his colleagues rejected the “checks and balances” authority of the very legislative body in which they sat. Never mind that the insolent legislators had important information on an attempted legal and physical overthrow of a US presidential election and an effort to replace the rule of law with the rule of force at the highest levels of the US imperial state.

It was yet another example of how one of the nation’s two major capitalist parties has crossed beyond previously normative bourgeois democratic and constitutional space into “full fascist” (Conway) territory. Much the same could be said about the mid-May revelation that Ginni Thomas, 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 2020 presidential election. She had worked behind the scenes to arrange for the certification of fake Elector slates contrary to the popular vote in states that Trump lost. As numerous commenters noted, this revelation showed that her husband Clarence Thomas should have recused himself from any Court deliberations regarding the 2020 election. He and his fellow five white nationalists (the fact that he is Black makes no difference here) on the Court are in place to rule on behalf of the Republicans’ theft of the next presidential election, planning and preparation for which is well underway across the right-wing major party’s many strongholds.

The “determination to issue these subpoenas was not a decision that the committee made lightly,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the January 6th committee’s vice chair, wrote after McCarthy and his three colleagues decided to treat their Congressional subpoenas as if they had no more meaning than low-priority sticky notes. “But it is absolutely a necessary [decision],” Cheney said. “The sanctity of this body and the continued functioning of our constitutional republic requires that we ensure that there never be an attack like that again.” Noxious though her overall right-wing politics may be, Liz Cheney remains an actual and literal republican, making her a distinct minority within a party that has crossed beyond the previously normative parliamentarianism, constitutionalism, and legalism of the sort that accepts defeat when elections are lost to another major capitalist party.

By all indications, that party seems all but certain to take back the legislative branch this fall, leaving only the executive branch in the hands of the hapless and hamstrung corporate Democrats, the Weimar party of hollow resistance to Amerikaner fascitization. The party newly in the White House has lost Congressional seats in all but two mid-term elections since 1932. Right wing gerrymandering, right-wing voter suppression and the extreme right-wing malapportionment of the US Senate will combine with record inflation and the dismal performance of the bumbling neoliberal baby formula bungler Joe “You Know the Thing” Biden (thanks, Obama) to make a Republican take-back of Congress a nearly foregone conclusion this fall. Buh-bye January 6th committee, hello white nationalist revenge impeachment(s). Longer term, the Democrats are looking at full triple-branch replacement. With the percentage of Amnericans saying the country is “on the wrong track” near historical highs, the executive branch looks takeable by the Amerikaner Party of Trump, DeSantis, Gosar, and Taylor Greene. Theft may not be necessary!

You were warned, my fellow Americans, by myself and numerous others in Refuse Fascism: the dismal inauthentic opposition Democrats will not save you. It’s just not what they are about. Only the power of the vast non-fascist majority, organized in the millions and taking to the streets and public squares and staying there can bring us to a better place. It’s going to take mass popular resistance and disruption: strikes, marches, sit-ins, sit-downs, occupations, work stoppages, social movements and movement cultures beneath and beyond the quadrennial big money major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as “politics” – the only politics that matters.

Perhaps the woman-hating, gun-loving Supreme Court will light the match one of the next four Mondays in June.


1. As Luke Cooper wrote in a sharp 2019 reflection on “Europe’s creeping fascism” in Hungary: “The sheer horror of [classic historical fascism] can…sometimes blind us to the emergence of nationalism and fascism in new forms. If there are no extermination camps, should we therefore be content that the contemporary far right has adapted to, and accepted, democracy and minority rights…Perhaps because of the history attached to the terminology of fascism, many observers are reluctant to describe these developments in such language, preferring instead to label it ‘far-right populism.’ The danger of this linguistic shift is that it can aid the normalization of these new far-right forces into an accepted part of the European political landscape. Twentieth-century fascism did not, after all, begin the journey to the extermination camps by acknowledging this as its goal.” Wise words.

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