Tom Wolfe used to say “The dark night of fascism is always descending on America, and always landing on Europe.”
He is referring to dire predictions, bubbling up every few years, of an American fascist movement which never in fact arises, while our admired cousins across the sea seem to stumble into some form of totalitarianism every other generation or so.
There is another saying, often attributed to either Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and waving a cross.” Except that prediction would have been made c. 1935, and still no luck.
America is a fortunate country, fascism is unlikely here. It helps that we are the inheritors of English common law and are too big and diverse to take collectivism seriously. (Our occasional collectivist political experiments are all marked by cynicism, dishonesty, corruption and incompetence.) Part of it is just dumb luck: the collectivist impulse is concentrated on the American left, which is anti-military. The nationalist and militant impulse is concentrated on the American right, which abhors collectivism, and it seems the twain never shall meet.
I think I’ll come up with another saying: we Americans are always on guard against violence from the right, and are always getting hit from left.
Of course, “always” is an exaggeration. There is such a thing as right wing political violence: before 9-11, the most successful terrorist attack on American soil was the Oklahoma City Bombing carried out by some anti-government types. Ironically, there are occasional eruptions of violence from what is called the “Pro-life” movement.
But when you add up acts of domestic terrorism, the vast majority comes from the left, there are three reasons for this.
First, the Left is currently aligned with the Democrats, and the Democrats have always used intimidation and the threat of violence as part of their ground game, from the Teamsters and KKK to race riots. The common thread between 19th and early 20th century Southern whites and Irish industrial workers in Northern cities rioting against blacks, and late 20th century blacks rioting against Asians, Jews, and the police, is that they are all Democrats, a party for whom exploiting racial tensions has been stock and trade since they fired on Fr. Sumter.
Second, the Left is collectivist, and intimidation is essential to maintaining unity. For example, Labor Unions are always pushing for the government to make union membership mandatory, and to make ballots in union leadership elections public, not secret, in order to intimidate people into voting a certain way. Secret ballots of course are essential to freedom and Democracy, and Labor Unions can’t have that.
Third, the American Left, especially since the 1970s, has been heavily influenced by Marxism, either directly or second hand, and violence against the superstructure, the cultural standards and institutions that make up civil society, has always been essential to Marxist practice.
So fascism, that is militant collectivism, is unlikely in America, but we do have our fair share of violent collectivists.