AFRICANGLOBE – In 1935, with Hitler and Mussolini forging a historic alliance in Europe and the world sliding toward war, Sinclair Lewis published the satirical novel “It Can’t Happen Here
Oh, yeah — Happy New Year, everybody! Now let’s get back to fascism. When the “Corpo” regime installed by tyrannical President Buzz Windrip in “It Can’t Happen Here
I’m not the first person to observe that the New York police unions’ current mini-rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup. Indeed, it feels like an early chapter in a contemporary rewrite of “It Can’t Happen Here
There’s no doubt that the NYPD crisis has disturbing implications on various levels. Amid a national discussion about police tactics and strategy, and the understandable grief following the murders of two NYPD officers, it amounts to a vigorous ideological counterattack. In effect, many cops (or at least their more intransigent leaders) want to assert that law enforcement is a quasi-sacred social institution, one that stands outside the law and is independent of democratic oversight. Sometimes this is taken to ludicrous and literal-minded extremes, as in a recent column by Michael Goodwin of the New York Post celebrating the NYPD and the United States military as “Our angels in a time of danger and cynicism.” (Without realizing it, Goodwin was buttressing the conclusions of James Fallows’ must-read Atlantic article about the way American society has become disconnected from the military and sanctified it at the same time.) As Salon columnist and veteran New York reporter Jim Sleeper has noted, this tendency also makes clear how little the tribal, insular culture of big-city policing has changed, even in an era of far greater diversity.
We still don’t know where this confrontation between de Blasio and his cops will lead, or how it will be resolved. (So far, the city has been peaceful – and nobody on my block got a parking ticket all week! So it’s win-win.) But I’d like to strike a counterintuitive position and insist that it’s important not to overstate the threat, or to give an arrogant blowhard like Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch more importance than he merits. My fellow Irish-Americans will recognize Lynch as a latter-day example of the small-minded bigots and “begrudgers” too common in the tribe. But set him against Joe McCarthy and Father Coughlin, and he barely registers on the historical scales of infamy.
In the final analysis I don’t find Lynch and his minions especially terrifying, for exactly the same reasons I don’t find Sen. Ted Cruz especially terrifying. Both may dream of a Corpo America, in which dissent is crushed with an iron fist and our glorious national destiny is reclaimed from the appeasers and multiculturalists and pantywaists. But they lack the political finesse or rhetorical subtlety to make it happen. Ultimately, the real dangers may be closer at hand, and more difficult to see.
With both the disgruntled NYPD leadership and the so-called intellectual leader of the Tea Party, the appeal to fascism – no, excuse me, to “patriotism” and “true Americanism” – is just too blatant, and their rejection of democracy too obvious. Many people inclined to feel sympathy for the police, and skittish about the street protests of recent weeks, were dismayed to see cops turn the funeral of a murdered officer into a petty political confrontation, against the wishes of the dead man’s family. It was, or should have been, a moment of mourning and contemplation, when the city and the nation were poised to reflect on the uniquely difficult lives of police officers, who so often bear the brunt of policies they did not create and attitudes they cannot realistically be expected to escape.
Instead, Lynch and his followers got buffaloed into a political protest that may have served the ends of right-wing strategists, and galvanized the Fox News audience, but is exceedingly unlikely to improve the lives of NYPD officers and their families. Ted Cruz is a craftier character than Lynch, no doubt, but his entire career has been self-serving political theater meant to enhance his star status and thrill his zealous core of followers. He is widely disliked within his own party for his pattern of ideological overreach and political blunders, and many conservatives will never vote for him. He’s not remotely qualified for the role of Buzz Windrip or Huey Long, who had enormous popular appeal and campaigned on a platform of Mussolini-like public handouts. Republican apparatchiks will do everything possible to stop Cruz from becoming the party’s 2016 presidential nominee; if he wins the nomination anyway, he might well lose 40 states in the general election.[/sociallocker]