[Ed. – How about that for an allusive quadruple play: Mussolini to Long to Windrip to Cruz! It takes a special kind of dark-matter worldview to come up with that one. I’m awestruck.]
With both the disgruntled NYPD leadership and the so-called intellectual leader of the Tea Party, the appeal to fascism – no, excuse me, to “patriotism” and “true Americanism” – is just too blatant, and their rejection of democracy too obvious. Many people inclined to feel sympathy for the police, and skittish about the street protests of recent weeks, were dismayed to see cops turn the funeral of a murdered officer into a petty political confrontation, against the wishes of the dead man’s family. It was, or should have been, a moment of mourning and contemplation, when the city and the nation were poised to reflect on the uniquely difficult lives of police officers, who so often bear the brunt of policies they did not create and attitudes they cannot realistically be expected to escape.
Instead, [Patrick] Lynch and his followers got buffaloed into a political protest that may have served the ends of right-wing strategists, and galvanized the Fox News audience, but is exceedingly unlikely to improve the lives of NYPD officers and their families. Ted Cruz is a craftier character than Lynch, no doubt, but his entire career has been self-serving political theater meant to enhance his star status and thrill his zealous core of followers. He is widely disliked within his own party for his pattern of ideological overreach and political blunders, and many conservatives will never vote for him. He’s not remotely qualified for the role of Buzz Windrip or Huey Long, who had enormous popular appeal and campaigned on a platform of Mussolini-like public handouts. Republican apparatchiks will do everything possible to stop Cruz from becoming the party’s 2016 presidential nominee; if he wins the nomination anyway, he might well lose 40 states in the general election. …
[T]he Tea Party movement and the not-entirely-fictional American fascism of [Sinclair Lewis’s] “It Can’t Happen Here” all have the same philosophical roots. It’s not just about race, although America’s racial divisions play an inescapable and central role. (In Lewis’ novel, Windrip’s movement seeks to suppress blacks and Jews, and revoke female suffrage.) At root it’s also not about police-state policies and tactics, even if those might seem to be the desired outcome. (Tea Partyers claim to oppose those things, with varying degrees of sincerity — except when Muslims or other varieties of dark-skinned immigrants are involved.) Rather, these worldviews rest on the idea that America is not defined by its democratic institutions, but by a mystical or spiritual essence that cannot be precisely described — but is understood far better by some of its citizens than by others. If those attuned to this patriotic frequency overwhelmingly tend to be white males, that is not evidence of racism (they might say) but of the clarity and selflessness of their political vision.