Thom Hartmann's piece at alternet.org (reprinted at ringoffireradio.com) is titled "The Sad Truth of Our Politics: It's Basically Turned into a Competition Among Oligarchs to Own Everything. It could still happen here." Not could happen. Is happening. And it has been happening ever since the Powell manifesto - slowly over the last 40 years. I've claimed before and will claim again: we are witnessing the nonviolent overthrow of the American Democracy by American Fascists.
Let's start with a definition.
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is, "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Hartmann quotes FDR's second VP Henry Wallace who, it appears, was prescient. The snippets that follow focus on Wallace's indictment of American Facists and his predictions.
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice-President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"
Vice-President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.
"With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
Vice-President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America:
"If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:
"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
So can fascism happen here?
Speaking indirectly of the fascists Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:
"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power." But, he thundered, "Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"
In the election of 2016, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II.
Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "conservativism." The Republican candidates’ and their billionaire donors’ behavior today eerily parallels that day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
It's particularly ironic that the "big news" is which billionaire is supporting which Republican candidate. Like Eisenhower’s farewell address, President Roosevelt and Vice-President Wallace's warnings are more urgent now than ever before.
The short answer to my question, can it happen here, is "yes." It's been 40 years in the making.
The American public during those 40 years is like the frog in the pot of water. As the water temperature rises ever so slowly, the frog does not notice it's impending demise until, at last, it is boiled.
America is indeed in hot water.