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Fascism in America?

Davidson Loehr and Charles Derber see fascism in contemporary American politics.
By Tom Stites
Winter 2005 11.1.05

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'America, Fascism, and God' and 'Hidden Power'

Two new books offer probing moral critiques of our nation’s political landscape--and find the ingredients of fascism in plain sight. Both authors, one the outspoken minister of a Unitarian Universalist church, the other a prolific political economist, challenge liberals to embrace a moral vision or be irrelevant.

On the Sunday after the 2004 election, the Rev. Dr. Davidson Loehr preached “Living Under Fascism” to his congregation at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas. Once his sermon was posted on the church Web site it started drawing the attention of major bloggers--and so many people wanted to read it that it crashed the church’s computer. This drew the attention of Chelsea Green, which has now published America, Fascism, and God, a volume of thirteen sermons that ground political themes in liberal religious thought--including “The Fundamentalist Agenda,” which appeared in UU World (Jan./Feb. 2004).

Loehr is a big-chunk thinker and a clear and vigorous writer. He hammers a theme that is challenging to UUs--that liberals, religious as well as political, cannot prevail without a moral and religious vision. Liberals, he writes in his fascism sermon, “need to grow beyond political liberalism, with its often self-absorbed focus on individual rights to the exclusion of individual responsibilities to the larger society. Liberals will have to construct a more complete vision with moral and religious grounding.”

Hidden Power, Boston College sociology professor Charles Derber’s tenth book, expands on his ground-breaking analysis of the five regimes of post-Civil War American history first put forth a year ago in Regime Change Begins at Home. He then explores ways the Third Corporate Regime, which he defines as beginning with the election of Ronald Regan in 1980, is showing cracks that could lead to its collapse--and offers ways that readers can help this along.

The first two corporate regimes were supplanted by liberal ones--the Progressive Regime and the New Deal Regime. Derber warns that unless liberals find a way to prevail the Third Corporate Regime could give way to “fascism lite.” Such a regime, unlike the classic fascist regimes of the 1930s, would preserve “the patina of formal elections and constitutionalism” while effectively suspending many rights.

Derber also says a moral vision is crucial if liberals are to regain power: “Regime change requires that the debate about morality be broadened from abortion and other hot-button items on the Evangelical Christian agenda to the central moral issues of social justice and human rights. Corporate morality is stripping ordinary Americans of medical care, good education and a living wage, and creating wars that violate our own moral codes and Constitution.”

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