“The liberty of democracy is not safe
if the people tolerate the growth of
private power to a point where it
becomes stronger than their democratic
state itself. That, in its essence, is
fascism–ownership of government by an
individual, by a group.”
FDR spoke those words during the 1940s when the world’s safety and peace were threatened by fascism. World War II was the crucible by which the world’s fate would be decided. Thank God, democracy won out. But FDR knew the cataclysmic danger Nazism presented. All Americans acutely felt the threat that fascism posed, and we knew that, for true democracy to survive, we had to fight the threat, not only abroad but here at home. So far removed from those dangerous yet unifying times, Americans today have a hard time comprehending that the threat is still with us. Only now it comes from within. There is a small group of wealthy men, mostly white, middle-aged and Republican, who are trying to own the government. To bend democracy to their benefit and theirs alone. They despise the poor, minorities, women, homosexuals…in fact, anyone who is not white, middle-aged, male and unimaginably wealthy is abhorrent to them. They are sometimes invisible or unrecognizable, because they don’t come at us with the SS, a blitzkrieg, or the Luftwaffe, like Hitler did, but their intent is just the same–control of the government. Maybe it is capitalism itself which is the enemy, for the capitalist system closely mimics the fascist model FDR decried. A powerful few at the top own the government.
“Nonsense,” say my conservative acquaintances. “We all have a say in democracy.”
“Some have more say than others,” I reply. “Just ask the Supreme Court. The ultra-rich can buy as much of the government as they like now. They can spend the kind of money on candidates and elections that the little guy cannot. They have inordinate influence over the processes of government.”
“Then get rich yourself and buy your own congressmen,” the conservative says. “It’s America; anyone can get wealthy.”
“That is not possible under our system,” I say. “That’s like saying we can all win the lottery. That can’t happen. Only one person wins the lottery. The capitalist system works only if there are a privileged few at the top and many at the bottom. For every billionaire, there are hundreds of millions of poor people. For every one person at the top, there are hundreds of millions at the bottom. Capitalism does not allow for every man to be a king. Only a few. And the rest of us are at the mercy of the few. That’s how capitalism works.”
“Then get rich yourself and rule the country,” says the right-winger.
“Democracy should not be about the richest ruling. It should be about every person having a say,” I respond.
“That’s democracy; that’s not capitalism,” says the conservative. And therein is the conundrum. Capitalism and democracy are mortal enemies. One thrives at the suppression of the other.
What would FDR think of America today? He would be outraged by the ultra-rich using their immeasurable wealth to buy Congress, mostly by pouring money into Tea Party coffers, but also by buying the truth. Fox News is their propaganda arm, spewing lies and misinformation daily. On the radio, like Goebbels once did, Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck, and other propagandists sway the uninformed and stir the worst fears of the common man. It’s an old formula.
We can still vote, but even that privilege is being manipulated by Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression. Like the Nazis, these people are ruthless and will not stop until they own everything. If their America comes to pass, we will see widespread poverty, the proliferation of sickness and disease, the end of public assistance, Social Security, public education, health care for the old and needy, and an intolerant, gun-riddled age of violence.
It is not an international war; it is a domestic war. A war where one side has all the wealth and most of the politicians, judges and weapons. Still, we must be fight on as FDR and brave Americans did when we defeated another form of fascism decades ago. If for no other reason than to honor the memory of one of our wisest presidents.