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Batavick: Be wary of direction winds of change are blowing

There has been much wailing, gnashing of teeth and finger-pointing during the local debate over the white privilege movement. Some have even seen the seeds of Marxism in a simple plea for understanding and tolerance. The problem with these critics is that they have focused on the wrong "-ism" and are pointing in the wrong direction.

This country has far less to fear from becoming Marxist than from being under the boot of fascism, a new variant of a scourge that many of us hoped had been consigned to history. It threatens our Constitution and Judeo-Christian values, and the trouble signs are rampant in today's headlines and the nightly news.

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In 2003, the political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt examined fascist regimes throughout history and identified certain defining characteristics common to each. Let's take a look.

Fascists preach hyper-nationalism. Today this can be seen in Vladimir Putin's Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey and Donald Trump's America First movement. This slogan and Trump's heavy reliance on flag symbols pervert patriotism and compromise our membership in the family of nations.

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Fascists are fond of using scapegoats to rally supporters. For Trump, these are Mexicans, Muslims, the press, Democrats, our intelligence agencies and any other of his favorite whipping boys. During the campaign, Wall Street was consistently scapegoated, but Trump has changed his tune since appointing so many Goldman-Sachs executives to his cabinet and advisory staff.

Fascist regimes build up and glorify the military at the expense of the domestic agenda. The Trump/Paul Ryan budget slashes spending for health care, Medicaid, special education, school lunches, Meals on Wheels, food stamps, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services while boosting the Pentagon's budget by $54 billion.

Fascists have their own version of the truth. There are multiple websites that track the number of Trump's false and misleading claims. He was an early supporter of the bogus birther movement, and has pioneered the use of fake news tweets and "alternative facts."

Fascists attempt to squelch and control the mass media. Trump has called the press the "enemy of the people." He barred certain members of the press from his campaign rallies, and asked former FBI Director James Comey to forgo the "Russian thing" in favor of going after administration leakers and reporters with whom they were talking.

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Fascists develop close and simpatico relationships with big corporations. Trump and Congress have been systematically rolling back consumer protections against big banks and credit card companies, compromising internet privacy in favor of the likes of Comcast and Google, and loosening clean water regulations for the coal industry and mileage standards for Detroit.

Fascists favor cronyism, often putting members of their own families in positions of power. Enough said.

Fascists seek ways to enrich themselves at the expense of the national treasury. Trump insists on weekly vacations at his own resorts where he charges the Secret Service for rooms, meals and even the rental of golf carts.

Fascists have a disdain for intellectuals and the arts. Trump has admitted to not reading books, and his budget severely diminishes spending for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR.

Fascist states are male dominated. Seventeen of Trump's 20 cabinet level positions are men, and the Senate has an all-male committee deciding the future of health care, in particular women's health.

Fascists are obsessed with crime and punishment. Trump's attorney general is deporting "Dreamers," and has reinstated tough penalties for low-level drug offenders. The vice president achieved national renown by signing a religious freedom law that discriminated against the LGBT community.

Fascists manipulate elections by indulging in the spread of fake news and smear campaigns. The newly appointed special counsel should get to the bottom of the Trump staff's purported complicity with the Russians in this regard.

Fascists suppress voter turnout and redraw political district boundaries. The Republican Party has a bad record in this regard, and Trump's Voter-Fraud Commission threatens to exacerbate the problem.

Don't get me wrong. I am not branding the Trump regime fascist, but merely pointing out that if we have any worries at all about the direction of this nation, they shouldn't involve hoary, old Marxism. Instead, we should be concerned about which way the winds of change appear to be blowing, and keep a wary eye.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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