There are many strains of thought and culture in this very large country of ours, like various strains of music found in a symphony. One of those strains happens to be fascism, and we need to come to terms with it.
The fact that we are the birthplace of modern democracy does not make us immune from the fascists among us and their fascism. If we define fascism by a few common markers, we can see how fascism has dogged the American ethos for generations.
While the idea of America is an egalitarian rule by majority, fascism is rule by an authoritarian strong-man. America supports human and civil rights; fascism rejects them and rules by authoritarian fiat. America believes in the equality of all people; fascism scapegoats minority people, declaring them the enemy of the common good. America believes in discussion and consensus-building; fascism resorts to violence as a political tool to impose its will. America has no desire for empire; fascism believes empire is its destiny.
The American civil war was much about fascism, wrapped around slavery. When you consider the nature of the Confederacy, it neatly fits the definition of a fascist régime: authoritarian government, eschews human and civil rights, scapegoats and oppresses a minority, employs violence to impose its will, has design on empire. So it should be no surprise that we find people in 2016 who embrace a particular strain of fascism – it is part and parcel of our history.
Fascism is rising again in America in the form of a presidential candidate. He gives voice again to anger, the will to dominate, an unquenchable need for security, a willingness to resort to violence as a political tool, and a desire for empire. Empire is always based on greed, and its two tools are theft and slavery. The last time we allowed fascism to rise among us, 1.8M people were dead by 1865, and it took us over 100 years to recover politically, economically, and morally. In fact, we are still trying to recover from it. We cannot make this same mistake again.