Are we just fascists waiting for our turn with the hammer?
Lately, Democrats have taken to labeling President Donald Trump as a fascist. If they were really concerned about fascism, we’d likely see them clamoring to devolve federal power to the states or demanding heavy limitations of Trump’s regulatory capacity. They might find a surprising number of Republicans willing to join them about now.
The truth is that they just want the hammer back.
The unrelenting focus of their attacks isn’t the power Trump now commands but rather the fact they’d prefer someone else to control it.
“Federalism” is a term too many of us have forgotten, but America was designed to operate with states serving as the locus of most government power. More importantly, our founders didn’t anticipate the states being carbon copies of each other – quite the opposite, in fact.
If California wants to legalize recreational marijuana, radically increase taxes to provide public health care and subsidize interpretive dance responding to the heteropatriarchy, principles of federalism suggest that we should let them.
When Alabama wants to prohibit cities from removing monuments, penalize illegal gambling and create a state constitutional right to firearms training, it might seem strange to some, but it ought to be up to Alabamians.
But what about the Democrat in Alabama or the conservative in California? Don’t we need a federal hammer to enforce the rights of political minorities? It’s a common refrain of aspiring fascists. It’s simply misplaced.
The Constitution, as applied by the courts—not the Federal Government—is the proper arbiter of whether states exceed their broad authority in ways that violate the inalienable rights of citizens.
But that federal hammer is just so tempting.
Whether it’s the coercive power of federal spending, federal laws, federal regulation or simply an abusive expansion of federal authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, everyone sees the opportunity to wail away at the other side they perceive as ruining America’s Americanness.
In truth, tolerance and liberty are more interchangeable than most of us want to admit. We simply aren’t in love with either of them as much as we claim. We champion liberty as long as we like the outcome. We extol tolerance except for socially unpopular beliefs. For liberty to mean anything, we must tolerate its exercises in ways we personally reject. Doing so is a hallmark of free people, not a sign of weak personal conviction.
If our answer to the Barack Obama administration or the Donald Trump administration is to wield the vast power of federal government in an opposing direction that affirms our worldview, we’re little more than aspiring fascists waiting for our turn.
If we want to put down fascism, we must begin with putting down the hammer.
Image by Paket