The Fascist-Curious Right

Salazar, Orban, and the yearning for an American Caesar

Let’s start with this: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has had it with the bogus Cyber Ninja election audit and is openly defying the latest subpoena from the state senate.

“It is now August of 2021,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers (R) wrote in a letter to the Senate on Monday. “The election of November 2020 is over. If you haven’t figured out that the election in Maricopa County was free, fair, and accurate yet, I’m not sure you ever will.

“The Board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land. Please finish whatever it is that you are doing and release whatever it is you are going to release.”

Republican State Senator Wendy Rogers responded this way:

She is apparently quite serious about the “solitary confinement” thing.

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This is, of course, weapons-grade nutbaggery. But maybe we need to take it seriously, because something genuinely odd (and disturbing) is happening on the right.

Ideas that would have been unthinkable just moments ago are now being normalized and, if anything, the drift toward authoritarianism seems to be accelerating. This includes the explicit embrace of the idea of an American dictator — an American Caesar. Literally and seriously. (This is not a parody.)

As I’ve mentioned before, the publication that unironically calls itself American Greatness likes to think of itself as the “intellectual” home for MAGAWorld.

Despite its dalliance with raw racism, and a fetish for sedition, American Greatness’s roster of contributors includes such right-wing luminaries as Victor David Hanson, Seb Gorka, David Harsanyi*, Conrad Black, Roger Kimball, Mark Bauerlein, Josh Hammer, Ned Ryun, Dennis Prager, and Salena Zito.

It recently published an endorsement of military coups by a retired military guy with close ties to TrumpWorld.

But now its fetish for coups has morphed into a yearning for even more robust measures. “To survive today’s leftist threat,” argues author Christopher Roach, “we need to be committed to acquiring and using power in the service of a counterrevolution.”

This new “Great America” agenda means that we should be more like Portugal.

In an article titled, “The Salazar Option,” the magazine celebrates the decades-long reign of Portugal’s fascist-adjacent dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

Roach is not the first American conservative who has had a fascination with the Portuguese dictator. When a mediocre biography, Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die, was published, Joshua Tait recalls, the book “about the man at the heart of an alleged ‘dictatorship without a dictator’” was “enthusiastically covered in The American Conservative and First Things.”

William F. Buckley Jr. once republished one of Salazar’s speeches in National Review, but the continuing hagiography of the dictator was too much for some of his successors at the magazine. In a piece headlined “Airbrushing Brutality, One Falsehood at a Time” earlier this year, a National Review writer noted that the dictator “was not a ‘model’ leader, despite the claims of a bizarre effort to whitewash his history.”

The Polícia de Vigilância e de Defesa do Estado (PVDE), established on the model of the Gestapo and later reorganized into the PIDE, terrorized the citizenry of Portugal for the entire duration of Salazar’s reign.…

One can’t really discuss the Salazar regime in this respect without mentioning the hellscape of Tarrafal, a prison camp built in the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde in 1936 to hold the dissidents who defied Salazar. Thirty-two people died in Tarrafal, which had a reputation for particularly depraved forms of torture.

As Tait notes, Salazar’s regime, known as the Estado Novo, which was overthrown in in 1974, was a grim failure. Over time it “deteriorated into a bloated state characterized by inefficiency, nepotism, repression, and poor education. Internal critics condemned it. Commissions compiled massive public grievances and were summarily buried.”

But desperate times require desperate historical revisionism. Roach sets the mood this way:

The forces of the aggressive, secular Left are not going to let any of us retreat into our own enclaves. They will hunt down every last private clubpizza shop, and bakery out of mere spite. They will steal your kids and destroy your life.

For anyone opposed to society’s fast-changing rules, you can expect the Branch Davidian treatment.

The alternative? Roach looks back with nostalgia at the 1926 coup that overthrew Portugal’s First Republic and replaced it with Estado Novo.

But it is precisely its authoritarian brutality that appeals most strongly to American Greatness. For Roach, the repression is precisely the point:

[The] Estado Novo and its supporters did not treat its enemies with kid gloves. They were not limited by self-defeating notions of “principle.” Hostile and revolutionary elements—whether domestic Communists, fascist syndicalists, internal political factions, or international high finance—were treated as equal potential dangers. The common good and the survival and flourishing of the nation were the lodestars of the government.  

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The New Right’s passion for actual dictatorship is even more explicit in a recent production from the Claremont Institute. As JVL noted yesterday, you should definitely bookmark this piece from Damon Linker, “The intellectual right contemplates an 'American Caesar’.”

The subhead puts it into context: “Jan. 6 was a badly planned rehearsal for the real deal.”

[I]n late May, [Michael] Anton set aside nearly two hours on his Claremont Institute podcast ("The Stakes") for an erudite, wide-ranging discussion with self-described monarchist Curtis Yarvin about why the United States needs an "American Caesar" to seize control of the federal government, and precisely how such a would-be dictator could accomplish the task …

The trick, for Yarvin, is for the would-be American Caesar to exercise emergency powers from day one. How? Caesar should run for president promising to do precisely this, and then announce the national emergency in his inaugural address, encouraging every state government to do the same. Taking advantages of "ambiguities" in the Constitution, he will immediately act to federalize the national guard around the country and welcome backup from sympathetic members of the police (who will wear armbands to signal their support for Caesar).

When federal agencies refuse to go along, Yarvin suggests, Caesar (whom he now begins referring to as "Trump") will use a "Trump app" to communicate directly with his 80 million supporters on their smart phones, using notifications to tell them that "this agency isn't following my instructions," which will prompt them to rally at the proper building, with the crowd "steered around by a joystick by Trump himself," forming a "human barricade around every federal building, supporting Trump's lawful authority." Where maybe 20,000 people stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, millions responding to the Trump app would be much more effective — a modern-day version of the paramilitary groups that ensured Lincoln's safety during the hard-fought, dangerous 1860 campaign for president that preceded the Civil War (and the president's subsequent suspension of habeas corpus and shuttering of hundreds of newspapers).  

When Anton asks how Trump-Caesar should respond to Harvard, The New York Times, and the rest of the theocratic oligarchy blaring air-raid sirens about the imposition of dictatorship, Yarvin indicates that it would be essential to "smash it" with one blow. To suggest that Caesar should be required to deal with "someone else's department of reality is manifestly absurd." Going on, Yarvin explains that "when Caesar crosses the Rubicon, he doesn't sit around getting his feet wet, fishing. He marches straight across the Rubicon" and uses "all force available." Once that happens, the whole world can be "remade." 

The podcast concludes with Anton quoting another Claremont writer (Angelo Codevilla) on how Trump dropped "the leadership of the deplorables," which is waiting to be picked up by someone "who will make Trump seem moderate." Yarvin responds approvingly with a quote by Serbian dictator and indicted genocidal war criminal Slobodan Milošević, who said the goal should be that "no one will dare to beat you anymore."

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And, almost as if on cue:

Tucker Carlson will deliver a speech, appropriately titled “The World According to Tucker Carlson,” this coming Saturday at MCC Feszt, a far-right conference in Budapest that is backed by Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Exit take:

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Ronjon keeps digging.

As COVID surges among the unvaccinated, my senior senator tweets out praise and encouragement to one of the most notorious peddlers of anti-vax disinformation.

The reaction has been justifiably harsh.

Wait. There’s more. The Wapo reports:

A Republican senator suggested in a private conversation Saturday, without evidence, that the FBI knew more about the planning before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot than it has revealed so far, according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The comments from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), made after a political event at a Wauwatosa, Wis., hotel, reflect the spread of an unfounded claim that has traveled from far-right commentators to Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to the highest levels of the GOP.

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The tragedy deepens.

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I had some thoughts:

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Quick Hits

Meet John Bennett: The Oklahoma Republican Party’s Very Special Chairman

Speaking of crackpots… Make sure you read this piece in today’s Bulwark:

Bennett is in the news for a bizarre Facebook post in which he asks Oklahomans to call the lieutenant governor and demand a special session of the state legislature be convened to “address private employer vaccine mandates.” Using the image of a yellow Holocaust Star of David, Bennett urged readers to “WAKE UP” asking “Is this sounding familiar?

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Cheap Shots

How it started:

How it’s going:

The conservative Washington Examiner is demanding that its employees become vaccinated — or face a permanent ban from the kitchen and other crucial office areas.

“All Washington Examiner and MediaDC employees will now be required to be vaccinated for Covid-19,” the publication wrote in a Sunday memo to employees obtained by Mediaite. “All employees must submit an affirmative statement proof of vaccination for Covid-19 to human resources no later than August 9.”

Going forward, the memo said, unvaccinated employees “will be required to wear a mask at all times while in the office, to include workstations and common areas.” It added, “Unvaccinated staff members will not be allowed to use the kitchen areas or be present in any conference room or training room,” the memo added.