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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US Republicanism, fascism and executive dominance « Previous | |Next »
December 26, 2007

I know little about Rudolph Giuliani, one of the current Republican candidates, apart from him having been the very successful mayor of New York City. He appears to be the frontrunner to be the next Republican presidential nominee. He's a social liberal in a socially conservative Republican Party and he appears to have surrounded himself the extremist foreign policy team with an unquenchable quest for "Forever War."

Giuliani is seen by the old American Right as a fascist and the image cover of the current issue is a pretty controversial one. I find it hard to see how Giuliani being a liberal Republican---“I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-gay rights”--makes him a fascist.


The American Conservative represents the traditionalist, anti-war and paleoconservative voice against the dominance of what it sees as a neoconservative media establishment. So it is opposed to President Bush's interventionist foreign policy as well as his immigration and trade policies.

Paleoconservatism refers to an anti-communist and anti-authoritarian right wing movement based in the United States that stresses tradition, civil society and classical federalism, along with familial, religious, regional, national and Western identity.It is critical of social democracy, which is often referred to as the therapeutic managerial state.

Why then is Giuliani seen as a fascist?

Tom Piatak's article in the magazine is of little help. Pitak says:

By demonstrating how unimportant social conservatives had become to the GOP, Giuliani’s nomination could well transform American politics. Millions of Americans vote Republican in spite of the party’s economic views, not because of them. There is no doubt a Giuliani candidacy would alienate many of these voters, pushing some to their ancestral Democratic home, some to a possible pro-life third party, and some to stay home on election day. Those who remain in the GOP would be part of a party that viewed the war on terror as the premier social issue, as Jonah Goldberg has argued it now is. Quite a descent from 1980.

That may be so, but fascism it does not make. However, Glenn Greenward's article in the magazine does. It refers to Giuliani as the authoritarian mayor with the ultimate challenge to impose order on New York city that was widely assumed to be ungovernable. Greenwald says that America in 2008 presents an authoritarian president with the ultimate fantasy: the ability to wield more power than any other human being in the world, with the fewest real limits in modern American history. He then adds:
A President Giuliani would inherit an office bestowed with such dark powers as indefinite detention, interrogation methods widely considered to be torture, vast warrantless surveillance authority, and an impenetrable wall of secrecy secured by multiple executive and judicial instruments. Set all of that next to a submissive and impotent Congress and an equally supine media—to say nothing of the prospect of another terrorist attack to exacerbate every one of those factors—and it is hard to imagine a more toxic combination than Rudy Giuliani and the Oval Office.

Greenwald's argument is that the US political landscape has now tilted so heavily in favor of unchecked presidential prerogatives that a newly elected, shrewd, and inherently aggressive Giuliani, whose certainty about his own rightness is matched only by his contempt for those who disagree, could easily run roughshod over any attempts to constrain his actions.

He adds that during the nomination campaign Giuliani has enthusiastically endorsed virtually every one of the most controversial Bush/Cheney assertions of presidential power. He wants to keep Guantanamo open and mocks concerns over the use of torture, even derisively comparing sleep deprivation to the strain of his own campaign. He not only defends Bush’s warrantless surveillance, but does not recognize the legitimacy of any concerns relating to unchecked government power.Giuliani has confirmed that he believes that the president should have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, and detain them with no review of any kind.

So the fascist image is warranted is it not?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:03 AM | | Comments (11)


that's a striking image. But they got the wrong guy. It should be George W. Bush. He's the authoritarian who stands on excutive dominance and has a contempt for liberal democracy.

Gary, In Guiliani's case it probably is not; fascism is a strong word; but his governance will be indistinguishable from Bush/Cheney and it will be based on Schmittian conservatism ie executive rule.

He is a poor candidate IMO.

yes I agree. But this is one side of American conservatism calling the other side fascist. The strong words indicate that the tensions within American conservatism are running deep and strong. You also have former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) taking on the Washington Republican elite. Things are falling apart.

i see that Fascism is making a bit of a comeback amongst American conservatives. The National Review crowd are also getting in on the act.

Perhaps fascism is too pure a term for what a "President" Giuliani would put in motion.

He definitely has the "strong man" notion of how things should be run. His record as a New York City mayor shows evidence of that. However, he certainly isn't as ideologically focused as Bush's Administration has been.

Giuliani is even more corruptible in the old-fashioned, straight-ahead corruption of Tammany Hall's sweaty palms-greasy bills type of influence peddling. The Bernard Kerik affair shows he is happy to conduct back-room deals and is arrogant enough to think that he can get away with it.

Can't the Republicans just pick a staid, (semi) respectable old codger like John McCain?

Gary, Then again modern American conservatism has never been short of using hyperbole to absurd lengths. Different parts of the republican party got cut out over the last few years when they disagreed with the Bushies or the evangelicals. They have not been shy of eating their own when they want to.

Gary, Being pedantic as usual,in my opinion anyone who associates with the NR "world"-view at this time in HIS-story is utterly deluded about quite literally everything.


They are all apologists for the psychopathology (of the "normal") described by Giogio Agamben and many others, including Morris Berman.


And they are all very much supporters and boosters of ALL the various pathologies described and pointed to in this reference.


It's just the old tension between conservatism and liberalism, same as in this country. On the party level, its the Right's version of the ALP, when the left and pragmatist right fall out. But perhaps we live in what is actually a one-party state run alternatly by one of two right wing factions?
The Right united for a while in both countries in the ripening stages of the wind down of Keynesianism, when people decided to find out if, indeed, the old statist setups were what was denying satisfaction.
Now, we know.
Keynesanism was just a fall-guy for unscrupulus oportunist interests with no more understanding of the underlying fundamentals of conservatism and liberalism, or sense of moral vision as to the uses and abuses of government, than the old statist careerists with social democracy.
Australia is America writ small, and soon a Democrat centrist will be in power there too, appearing to wind back (yet another) now-discredited ideology.
Since the Democrats, like New Labor, are as much careerist as those they replaced, in the fullness of time the new supposedly centrist ascendancy will eventually falter. They will keep the worst of the old system (think of Gillard and the Barbara Bennett decision), as did the Thatcherist types before them, and end up looking like Tony Blair.
In the end, the conservatives and neoliberals, but only out of out of utter desperation, will finally put aside their quarrels and we'll have a by-now villainous and tired looking Rudd replaced by some Turnbull type, who can sell h (er)is "new "program as a feasible alternative.
Same in America; maybe in eight years.

On the subject of fascism, this time the overt variety, one sees they finally got Benazir Bhutto.
What a pitifully dysfunctional world.

Rational Psychic,
re your 'Can't the Republicans just pick a staid, (semi) respectable old codger like John McCain?'

Maybe because McCain is the Republican candidate most closely linked to the White House agenda in Iraq, and Bush and Iraq are on the nose amongst American voters. Michael Tomasky in the New York of Books observes that the Republican Party is still in the hands of three main interests: neoconservatives; theo-conservatives, i.e., the groups of the religious right; and radical anti-taxers, clustered around such organizations as the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

Each of these groups dominates party policy in its area of interest—the neocons in foreign policy, the theocons in social policy, and the anti-taxers on fiscal and regulatory issues. Each has led the Bush administration to undertake a high-profile failure: the theocons orchestrated the disastrous Terri Schiavo crusade, which put off many moder-ate Americans; the radical anti-taxers pushed for the failed Social Security privatization initiative; and the neocons, of course, wanted to invade Iraq.Three failures, and there are more like them. And yet, so far as the internal dynamics of the Republican Party are concerned, they have been failures without serious consequence, because there are no strong countervailing Republican forces to present an opposite view or argue a different set of policies and principles.

The Republican Party and the conservative movement are now one and the same.

Paul Krugman in The Conscience of a Liberal (reviewed here) introduces the information about Ronald Reagan and the National Review as evidence for his argument that modern movement conservatism in the US is at its deepest core most fundamentally about, and built on, race.He says:

Today leading figures on the American right are masters of what the British call "dog-whistle politics": They say things that appeal to certain groups in a way that only the targeted groups can hear—and thereby avoid having the extremism of their positions become generally obvious.... Reagan was able to signal sympathy for racism without ever saying anything overtly racist.... George W. Bush consistently uses language that sounds at worst slightly stilted to most Americans, but is fraught with meaning to the most extreme, end-of-days religious extremists.

let's hope that movement conservatism is marginalized, and that hard-line conservatives become once again no more than a faction in a more heterogeneous GOP.

Paul, is it just the same old tension between conservatism and liberalism? Here is Andrew Sullivan on John Cain in an opinion piece in The Times:

McCain is the only Republican eager to address climate change. Faced with a Republican base furious about illegal immigration, he stuck to his view that illegal immigrants needed to be assimilated and even defended a bill that he authored with Ted Kennedy, the Democrat senator, to achieve this. He also bravely said that America does not need to torture prisoners and that the war in Iraq can be won. As the candidate of honour, he also became a candidate of hope – especially in Iraq. He has seen his numbers surge recently in New Hampshire and, if he can prevent Romney getting momentum, he still has a chance to pull it off.

As mentioned about Michael Tomasky in the New York of Books observes that the Republican Party is still in the hands of three main interests: neoconservatives; theo-conservatives, i.e., the groups of the religious right; and radical anti-taxers, clustered around such organizations as the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.he adds:

Presidents respond to the constituencies that put them in office, and a Republican president elected in 2008 will have been put in office by the factions that control his party. There is no reason to expect that he will defy those factions.

At this stage it still looks as probable that the Republican candidate, whoever it turns out to be, is doomed to defeat by the Democrats.