It Can Happen Here, Even Today!
By Steven Barto, B.S., Psy.
Fascism. There’s a word that can damper a party or tear a friendship apart real fast. I have tried many times over the last few years to hold rational conversations with friends and family about the dangers of Liberalism and Fascism. I’ve tried to open their minds to the current leftist ideology that is actually fascist in nature—it is not the conservative party! In fact, it never was. There is a very loud and powerful propaganda effort running rampant in America. The players in this deception include a few giants that would have given David and his sling and rock a run for his money. They include liberal television anchors, reporters, editors, and writers; Hollywood moguls and many of our favorite actors; novelists and magazine writers; publishers of today’s public school textbooks and educational aids; high school teachers and administrators; college professors, deans, and presidents of most secular universities. How’s that for a tough band of opponents?
Any discussion of American Fascism typically gets log-jammed. Liberals are growing in numbers in all walks of life. The vitriol that poisons most of their discussions cause those of us on the conservative right to be rather reluctant to engage them despite the serious fallout from allowing America to slide down the slippery slope to progressive politics. There is an interesting correlation between rhetoric from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the hyperbole of today’s militant atheists during debates with Christian apologists like Ravi Zacharias, Dinesh D’Souza, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, John Lennox, Ken Ham, J.P. Moreland, and others. Invariably—in both of these arenas—the liberal, progressive, atheist side resorts to bad information, propaganda, name-calling, and smoke-and-mirrors.
The phrase, “It can’t happen here” comes from Sinclair Lewis’s novel of the same name (1953). It tells the story of a fascist takeover of America. Although it’s been called a “terrible reading experience,” it remains one of the most important books ever published in this country. The irony, of course, is that when we take a hard, honest, non-partisan look at America’s recent past, it did happen here. Our tale of woe begins with the administration of our twenty-eighth president, Woodrow Wilson. Although we’ve seen attacks on the administrations of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, a close look at America’s political past shows that state-sanctioned brutality, the stifling of dissent, loyalty oaths, and enemies lists happened at the hands of liberals. Self-described progressives (and American socialists) led the pack in the push for a truly totalitarian state. They shouted accolades from the rooftops, questioning the patriotism, intelligence, and decency of every opponent of Liberalism and Socialism.
Fascism “Over There” and “Over Here!”
Fascism is essentially the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state. Mussolini put it this way: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State” (italics mine). In fact, Mussolini coined the phrase “totalitarian,” which he intended to be not tyrannical in nature, but humane, focusing on assuring every citizen is “taken care of,” especially through equal “contributions” to everyone. He wanted every class and individual to be folded in to the larger whole. No individualism whatsoever. Closer to home, the first true nationwide operation of this kind was not in Russia or Italy or Germany. It was in the U.S. under what some historians call the twentieth century’s first dictator: Woodrow Wilson.
When presented with this charge, liberals claim it is preposterous and outrageous. Then they change the subject. Well, let’s look at the evidence. More dissidents were arrested and jailed in a few years under Wilson than under Mussolini during the entire 1920s. Wilson resorted to more violence in pursuit of civil liberties in his last three years in office than Mussolini did in his first twelve. He established a more effective propaganda ministry than did Mussolini. Wilson unleashed hundreds of thousands of badge-carrying goons on the American people and prosecuted a vicious campaign against the press. He did not act alone. Wilson’s “fascists” were called “progressives.”
These progressives were the real social Darwinists as most understand the term. They believed in “eugenics,” and thought the state, through a “brave new world” philosophy, could create a pure race—a society of “new men,” who were far superior to the ordinary Joe. They were publicly hostile to individualism. They began using religion as a political tool, but the true “religion” was politics. They believed America’s checks-and-balances was antiquated. This was the underlying mechanism by which Wilson attempted to drag America toward a social Utopia. Progressives were quite angered by the various amendments to the Constitution that established individual rights for Blacks and other minorities. The obvious double-edged sword of this ideology is (i) African Americans and other minorities would likely suffer further losses under disenfranchising public policies; and (ii) the rights of every American citizen would be subrogated to the state in pursuit of fairness.
What About this Man Named Wilson?
It’s been claimed that part of Woodrow Wilson’s national appeal is his being the first American president to have earned a Ph.D. Surely, that’s what the U.S. needed—a brilliant, well-educated man in the Oval Office. He earned an undergraduate degree in politics and history at Princeton University. After graduating, he enrolled at the University of Virginia to study law, intending to one day enter the arena of politics. He dropped out after becoming desperately homesick, and enrolled at Johns Hopkins University where he earned a Ph.D. in political science and history. He penned The State, an 800-page volume on the theory of government, wherein he refers to social contract theory.
This begins always with the assumption that there exists, outside of and above the laws of men, a Law of Nature. Hobbes conceived this Law to include “justice,” “equity,” “modesty,” “mercy.” All [of] its chief commentators considered it the abstract standard to which human law should conform. Into this Law primitive men were born. It was binding upon their individual consciences; but their consciences were overwhelmed by individual pride, ambition, desire, and passion, which were strong enough to abrogate Nature’s Law. That Law, besides, did not bind men together.
With the above “undercurrent” in mind, Wilson began moving beyond narrow academic writing in favor of more popular commentary, generally geared toward enhancing his political profile. High among his political philosophy was support of progressive imperialism, with subjugation of the “lesser” races. He boldly stated that lesser members of the state should be brought under domination or control—in Wilson’s mind this was to be accomplished by conquest. It is said that Wilson was infatuated with political power during his undergraduate years at Princeton. Wilson’s worldview reminds me of Lord Acton’s famous observation: power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Wilson later stated in Congressional Government, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”
While president, Wilson argued that he was the right hand of God and that to oppose his policies was to thwart divine will. He seemed to take the side of power (for power’s sake), believing that power was bestowed upon whoever was truly on God’s side. He bought into this concept so staunchly that during his senior year at Princeton, in the first of his many published articles, he strongly advocated for America changing its government to a parliamentary system. He was clearly looking for a way to cut down on the means by which the will of political rulers could be monitored and held in check. In fact, Wilson wrote, “The President is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution, but only because the President has the nation behind him and Congress has not.”
Remarkably, the likes of Wilson thought the ever-expanding power of state leaders was natural and inevitable; the increase in state power could be likened to an unavoidable evolutionary process. No doubt, Wilson and the others had Rousseau and Hobbes in mind regarding human pride, ambition, desire, and passion, and how such attitudes and obsessions were a detriment to state’s rights. Wilson felt it was now time for the state to ascend to the next level. He wrote, “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand” (italics mine). Certainly, we see here the concrete evidence that Wilson believed the U.S. Constitution should be an evolving document. In fact, he said the Constitution must evolve as needed or be tossed into the trash can. Essentially, progressives wanted the freedom to interpret the Constitution according to Darwinian principles, but they’d never admit that in public. There is an obvious deference to relativism in such a viewpoint.
The so-called “social gospel” promoted the idea that the state was God’s right arm, and was the means by which the entire nation and world would be redeemed. This approach to governance would, by default, cause one’s home, private thoughts, public opinions, indeed everything, to belong to the organic body politic. The home could no longer be seen as a private island, separate and sovereign unto its owner. Such wild governmental overreach is at great odds with Thomas Jefferson’s axiom that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible. Wilson’s conclusion was also diametrically opposed to Jefferson—America, in Wilson’s mind, “is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.”
How Did it Happen Here?
The consensus today is that the rise of Fascism in Europe transpired on a completely independent track. The going wisdom was America’s multicultural melting-pot national and cultural differences were too great; that America was not like Europe, so Fascism simply could not develop in the United States. But wait! Progressivism and Fascism have always been international movements that drew participants and supporters from the same intellectual wellspring regardless of nationality. Many Americans attended pro-socialist universities in Europe, then returned to American business and industry, government and academia, with a loaded agenda. From the 1890s to World War I, it was believed that Progressivism was fighting for dominance in America.
Otto von Bismarck, one of the first progressives to step into the limelight in America, proposed “top-down socialism.” He said, “Give the working-man the right to work as long as he is healthy; assure him care when he is sick; assure him maintenance when he is old.” It was twenty-five years later when Woodrow Wilson, the political scientist turned politician, said Bismarck’s “welfare state was an admirable system; the most studied and most nearly perfected in the world.” Wilson’s idea that society could be molded and shaped to the will of social planners and politicians was formed during his studies at Johns Hopkins. The method used by Bismarck to assure eventual establishment of a nanny-state was to give the massed what they wanted (well, sort of). In effect, the intention was to make the lower- and middle-class dependent on the state. Wilson said the core of Progressivism involved convincing the citizens to marry their interests to the state.
It should be mentioned that some of America’s key economists made a pilgrimage to Moscow in search of a workable socioeconomic plan to cure America’s ills and make society fair for everyone. Two New Deal economists, Rex Tugwell and Paul Douglas, began to publicly praise the Soviet “experiment.” Tugwell said, “There is a new life beginning there.” Jane Addams believed the Bolshevik movement in Russia was quite impressive, calling it “the greatest social experiment in history.” W.E.B DuBois wrote home to America in Russian while in Revolution Square, stating, “I stand in astonishment and wonder at the revelation of Russia that has come to me. I may be partially deceived and half-informed. But if what I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears in Russia is Bolshevism, I am a Bolshevik!” He later said the Nazis had a lot of good ideas and that the United States had much to learn from Germany’s program of National Socialism. He did, however, later condemn Nazi anti-Semitism.
A Police State in America
It is easy to deny the presence of Fascism in America today because we don’t see overt militarism in the streets. (The exception is the occasional armed soldiers at some of our airports at critical moments or following a terror attack, or at mass events at risk for an eminent threat.) America’s initial reaction to the First World War was mixed. Most supported America’s involvement, and those on the fence at least saw what they called the “social possibilities of war.” Wilson agreed that war typically brings new economic growth as factories back home ramp up to produce supplies, vehicles, weapons, and ammunition. Wilson said, “I am an advocate for peace, but there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war.” Frighteningly, Hitler also held this view, saying, “The war made possible for us the solution of a whole series of problems that could never have been solved in normal times.”
Back in the U.S., the likes of John Dewey thought a world war might force American citizens to give up individual and economic freedoms and “march in step.” In fact, Dewey thought if the war went well (whatever that means), it would likely put the brakes on the prevalence of individualism in favor of state’s rights as the great equalizer. But how much freedom would Americans give up in order to be safe in their homes? (This question has become part of America’s everyday dialog since 9/11. Increased surveillance on U.S. citizens without cause or warrant was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.) War, Dewey believed, could be the catalyst for convincing Americans of the supremacy of public need over private possessions. I was a fan of Spock’s mantra on Star Trek: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” That actually sounds like a socially responsible attitude. But Spock was willing to die in order to contain a radioactive leak on a space ship and preserve the lives of thousands of crew members. When the “many” refers to government and its millions of subjects as a “collective”, and the one is “individualism,” well, that’s an entirely different matter.
Wilson hired Progressive journalist George Creel to head his Committee on Public Information (CPI). This is essentially America’s first true ministry for propaganda. Creel came from a failed career as police commissioner in Denver, Colorado. Quite the pacifist at heart, he had forbidden his cops from carrying night sticks or guns! Creel helped Wilson institute instant public messaging—comprised of about 1,000 so-called Four Minute Men, each equipped and trained by Creel’s CPI to do pop-up four-minute speeches in the streets, the marketplace, at town meetings, in restaurants and theaters. These speeches were aimed at propping up Wilson’s socialist message and tipping the scale toward a collective national conscience. Arthur Bullard (an acquaintance of Lenin’s) came to work at the Wilson White House. He is quoted as saying, “Any citizen who did not put the needs of the state ahead of his own was merely “dead weight.”
In order to oppress the masses, Wilson passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized any public utterances against the U.S. government or its military. This included uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive comments. The U.S. Postmaster General was “deputized” to deny mailing privileges to any publication he thought was violating the Act. At least seventy-five periodicals were banned. Foreign publications were subject to review before distribution. Unacceptable articles included any discussion that disparaged the draft or the impropriety of America’s involvement in World War I. Many of the journals and magazines that were shut down had a very small circulation, but the point was to dispense fear to other larger publications so they would to tow the line or suffer the same fate. Over four hundred publications had been denied privileges by May 1918.
Inevitably, Wilson and his CPI cracked down on individual liberties through the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Under these restrictions, no one was permitted to criticize the government, even in their own homes—violations could earn a prison sentence. In Wisconsin a state official received two and a half years in jail for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood movie producer was jailed for ten years for his film depicting British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution (which took place over 100 years prior). The U.S. Department of Justice arrested tens of thousands of citizens without just cause. The Department established the American Protective League (APL). They were given “secret service” badges and tasked with spying on their neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Members of the APL “intelligence division” were bound by oath to never reveal they were secret police. These operatives read their neighbor’s mail and tapped their phone lines (with government approval). In addition, their “vigilante patrol” cracked down on “seditious street oratory.” America was beginning to resemble a police state.
Vigilantism was encouraged and rarely dissuaded under Woodrow Wilson’s “100-percent Americanism” philosophy. How could it be otherwise, given Wilson’s own warnings about the enemy within?
It is difficult to come up with hard numbers, but it is estimated that over 175,000 American citizens were arrested during this period for failing to show patriotism in some outwardly observable manner. All were punished to some degree, with many of them receiving prison sentences. Wilson was imitating Europe—striking down individualism and building up collectivism. The war effort was the mechanism through which a hundred million combatively individualistic people could be forced into a “collective” mentality in which the good of the one was sacrificed for the good of the many. Regarding this policy, the Washington Post stated, “In spite of excesses such as lynching, it is a healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior of the country.” This was occurring in the midst of talk about the “moral tonic” the war would provide and how it was the best and most effective cause for all people dedicated to liberal, progressive values. Benito Mussolini was making nearly the same argument. Amazingly, Mussolini had been inspired by many of the same philosophers that helped prop up Wilson’s political ideology—Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, James.
Smoke and Mirrors
When liberals speak of these past events, there are two categories of evildoers: conservatives and “America” writ large. Progressives are never depicted as bigots or tyrants, but conservatives are. As an example, consider that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, and American eugenics, which were thoroughly progressive concepts intended to curb individualism and tailor the citizenry to some left-wing Utopian ideal. Liberals point the finger to the right, stating that America must atone for her sins of the past (reparations for slavery and the like), then set about to establish social justice reform to achieve that end. The Palmer Raids were conducted during the first “red scare” (1919-20) wherein the Justice Department captured and arrested suspected radicals and anarchists.
It’s very difficult to understand why the Progressive Era was not also the Fascist Era.
Progressives were determined to change the very fabric of America through what Richard Ely called the “golden mean” between laissez-faire individualism and Marxist Socialism. They wanted to impose a unifying moral order which regulated individual citizens inside their homes and in the open marketplace. They had a burning desire to blur the lines of class in America at whatever the cost. Utopian ideals would simply have to surmount personal rights. The left-wingers were more than happy to pay the price in pursuit of the perfect society. Individualism was considered a form of barbarism. Progressives were known to refer to the Nazi concept of a “people’s community,” which essentially put the nation’s needs in front of individual citizens. To me, this is nowhere near what can be considered a perfect nation. Moreover, this stance flies in the face of the Bill of Rights contained in the U.S. Constitution, and is against everything our forefathers fought for and established.
Remarkably, and tragically, the greatest shock is that according to a majority of political scientists Wilson’s progressive ideology (with its social biases, demographics, economic policies, and social welfare provisions) fell rather close to Adolf Hitler’s leftist policies on the liberal/conservative continuum. This is the “elephant in the room” that American liberals refuse to acknowledge or discuss. The result is a distorted understanding of political ideology and history in America. This is similar to the “wizard” in The Wizard of Oz who, when Dorothy pulls a giant tapestry aside, says, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” and goes back to manipulating society. Progressivism’s fascist schemes are being flaunted during this year’s run-up to the 2020 primaries.
Bernie Sanders is unabashedly stating he’s for a moratorium on deportation of illegal aliens, welcoming all refugees and those seeking asylum without concern for their background, establishing a “Medicare for All” system through a single-payer national health insurance program, and raising $4.35 trillion over the next decade by cutting the wealth of billionaires in half. Like many liberal Democrats, Warren’s political focus is on consumers rather than the business community. She is a self-appointed overseer determined to destroy any remnant of traditional American small-town values of individual liberty and free enterprise. The result is a pandering and increasingly unreasonable approach to any issue that touches consumers, which inevitably would add friction and cost to the economy. This rhetoric is frighteningly similar to the policies of Woodrow Wilson, and grounded in the European model of progressive socialism.
What happens over the next four to eight years is critical to the future of our beloved country. It’s time to have an honest and respectful debate about how government should address the myriad social problems hanging on the under-body of our nation. God bless the United States of America and her 329 million citizens!
Please feel free to comment in the dialog box below and, more importantly, share a link to this post. I welcome feedback and discussion on the topics I’ve raised. I am presently working on a blog article on Franklin Roosevelt’s “fascist new deal.” I will say this: regardless of whether we all agree on these critical matters at least we can presently discuss them without fear of being arrested and jailed for “seditious oratory.”
 Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (New York, NY: Columbia University Press), 1908, 1961.
 Lewis S. Feuer, “American Travelers to the Soviet Union, 1917-32: The Formation of a Component of New Deal Ideology,” in American Quarterly 14, no. 2, pt. 1 (Summer 1962).
 McGeer, Fierce Discontent, p. 299; “Stamping Out Treason,” editorial, Washington Post, April 12, 1918.