July 18, 2019 | Reading Time: < 1 minute

An important question

Are we experiencing a revival of American fascism? Or are we experiencing the chaos that occurs when one political regime gives way to another? That’s what Corey Robin claims in this piece. He and Jack Balkin think of Trump as a “disjunctive president.” As Balkin notes, in disjunctive regimes, the dominant party coalition fractures. Tensions…

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Are we experiencing a revival of American fascism?

Or are we experiencing the chaos that occurs when one political regime gives way to another?

That’s what Corey Robin claims in this piece.

He and Jack Balkin think of Trump as a “disjunctive president.”

As Balkin notes, in disjunctive regimes, the dominant party coalition fractures. Tensions held in check in the early days of the regime slacken during its end days; factions once willing to compromise with each other on their path to power (think of the fusionism that fueled the modern conservative movement) now refuse to cede ground. Presidents elected to manage these unruly forces face a difficult challenge. Desperate to break out of the vise they’re in and sensing the regime’s time is up, disjunctive presidents try to construct a new coalition, one less beholden to the existing poohbahs and players in the party, based on new and unorthodox policies.

Read the rest here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Thanks. JS

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

20 Comments

  1. Buckles on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I totally agree. Then again… Conservatives claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that theirs tend to fall into facial.

    • Buckles on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Fascism. Facials are for liberals.

  2. MarkmBha on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Very good article.

  3. Daniel Pearson on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    You say “a revival of American fascism.” I’m not being facetious but when did that previously occur? FYI, I do believe it is happening now.

    • Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      The 1930s. One of FDR’s great (but unspoken) projects was stopping the rise of American fascism. The New Deal helped quell the anger that he feared, rightly, might take the country down a dark and dangerous path.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Hi Dan, 1900-1939 was a very good time to be a fascist. HIram Evans was the leader of the Klan.

      Image result for hiram evans

      • Daniel Pearson on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

        That’s a good point. I guess I was taking the post literally when I argued back that facism never rose in the U.S.A. I hope that makes sense …

      • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

        I wanted to add the oeuvre of William Graham Sumner, Yale social scientist and one of the 20th century greatest fascists —-> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Graham_Sumner

  4. Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Julia Azari has often made a similar argument for fivethirtyeight.com. It’s an interesting and defensible idea, but I think it’s probably wrong.

    Other disjunctive presidencies have taken happened when both parties at least paid homage to being co-equals in democracy. Carter was disjunctive: the New Deal and Great Society giving way to Reaganism (whatever that is or was). But at least two things were different in that transition: Majority rule still worked, despite the counter-majoritarian structure of our electoral institutions. And Republicans hadn’t yet demonized Democrats. Now I think we’re headed for (possibly permanent) minority rule where the minority party is treated as illegitimate and even dangerous.

    If anything, the present looks a lot like the 1850s. And we know what happened next.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Ed, damn.
      I
      Am
      De-pressed.
      (Cheers, JS)

      • Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

        Right there with you. Very glad, though, that you’re helping bring moral clarity to this awful moment.

  5. rick@allyourscreens.com on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Along these lines, I’d recommend reading the Brenda Wineapple book “The Impeachers.” It’s a recounting of the effort to impeach Andrew Johnson and despite taking place 150 years ago, a lot of the political wranglings & arguments will sound very familiar in 2019.

    I think Donald Trump-for better or worse-is the natural endpoint for a Republican party that has changed massively since the Ronald Reagan years. He’s not a policy wonk and except for a couple of things (like tariffs), he isn’t even all that committed to ideas. He is driven by anger, resentment and a feeling that the rest of the world is filled with elites who secretly make fun of him. He’s tapped into this well of support from other people who likewise feel disenfranchised or under attack.

    Mainstream Republicans seem to believe that the party was go back to its pre-Trump policies once he’s gone. I think they still don’t appreciate what they’ve done by failing to rein him in while they had a chance.

    • Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      What’s so odd/infuriating/frightening is that McConnell, Mulvaney and the rest think they can control the forces they’ve unleashed. As if the dark plutocratic agenda of minority rule will chug along just fine. I don’t think they realize that things could become so unstable that investors basically flee the US, which could, in turn, create a global economic cataclysm that will leave no safe havens.

      This doesn’t lead to peace and prosperity at home.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      I found this essay by Wineapple on why she wrote that book.

      https://www.powells.com/post/original-essays/why-did-i-write-the-impeachers-and-what-did-i-learn

      • rick@allyourscreens.com on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

        That’s a good piece. For anyone wanting a deep dive into the subject, she did an episode on the great Chris Hayes podcast and it’s a subject that really seems to fascinate him, so it’s a really lively & informative conversation.

  6. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I think Corey Robin’s analysis is essentially correct. The old regime started by Reagan is breaking down. The problem/challenge is the this disjunctive presidency is an authoritarian, fascist one that the plutocratic order is happy to use to enforce its own agenda. The regime change will happen but the stakes are much higher. The Democrats must organize greater political will to overcome both the plutocratic regime and the autocratic distortions of the Oval Office occupant.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Balkin suggests that larding the judiciary with conservatives means the old regime is breaking apart, but I dunno. That might be a sign of the old regime gripping the country tighter.

      • Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

        I think your analysis is correct. The judiciary stuffing as Balkin points out is a rear-guard structure the old regime is using to extend their power long after the electoral demographics make it impossible for them to win the presidency or control Congress. To elaborate on my initial comment, the consequences of the old regime of massive wealth inequality and plutocratic control of our political system will eventually lead to a politically effective counter-reaction. The excesses of the Gilded Age eventually lead to the New Deal because the moral and political emptiness of that plutocratic regime was evident. In essence, Trump is today’s Herbert Hoover. The challenge is that this presidency is authoritarian and fascist as well as disjunctive, so the counter-reaction will need to be much more forceful and blunt to succeed because the old regime is very happy to use authoritarian methods to maintain their control. To quote David Frum somewhat, conservatives will give up on democracy before giving up conservatism. Assuming that is true and I certainly do, then we must be as blunt, ruthless, and aggressive as they have been if we want to save our country and democracy the world over.

  7. Carrington Ward on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

    One thing that I don’t hear in the discussion by Robin and Balkin (except for the play on Balkanization) is any discussion of the international environment and the wrenching social impact (and fiscal) of two to three decades of essentially inconclusive war in the Middle East.

    A significant element of our current disjunct is still-extant interventionist consensus in ‘the blob’ in Washington in tension with a much more skeptical view of our role in the world outside the beltway.

    I’d venture that the ‘international element’ tends to highlight the degree to which the ‘fascism or disjunct’ question is contingent: there is — in honor of Kaiser Bill — a dumkopf theory of history that emphasizes the abilty of ill-considered foreign adventures to create fascism, revolution, or ‘disjunct.’ Unfortunately, the only certainty about the outcome is that it tends to be messy and unpleasant.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Thanks for reminding us to include foreign affairs.

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