Democrat Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff’s mercifully short YouTube video, “Florida’s March to Fascism,” is packed with explosive campaign hyperbole.
Said Duff: “The march to fascism in Florida continues with this new “Don’t Say Gay” bill. For a bunch of people in Florida” – specifically the nearly 60% percent of Floridians who voted for Governor Ron DeSantis during his last campaign, the largest margin in 40 years, according to NPR -- “who claim to be about family values, they are certainly showing the opposite… At this point in Florida, they are practically burning books… The next step in the march to fascism for Florida is to continue on this “Don’t say Gay” bill… What it does is, it takes a small group of people and marginalizes them within the rest of society. Florida puts them in the “other” category… LGBTQ+ kids shouldn’t be used as fodder for the Republican campaign base… Hopefully, in Florida, they get their act together; they start choosing family values over political values, and start getting in step with the real America, who believe (sic) that everybody has an equal right under the constitution.”
Most reasonable people, assuming any are left in a politics in which opponents think it necessary to denounce their political opposites in such lurid terms, may agree that Duff’s strained rhetoric is alarmingly severe.
Is it possible that 60% of Floridians are “fascists?”
Benito Mussolini, the father of Italian fascism, a journalist and socialist, perfectly defined the fatal fascist itch for power when he said that fascism means: “Everything in the state, nothing above the state, nothing outside the state.” What is it, then, in the American political experience that militates against the fascist credo, which places all power in a central authority and is the true enemy of the doctrine of subsidiarity? The United States is a federated, tripartite system of governance – federal, state and municipal – in which there exists robust political organs outside a state that prevents the centralization of power -- the hallmark of fascism.
DeSantis is not a friend of fascism, and even, should be become President of the United States, he could not practice an attenuated fascism longer than eight years. While in office – unless a President is able, Cromwell-like, to dissolve Congress and the Judicial Department – he will not likely rise to the eminence of a Hitler, a Stalin, a Putin, or a Xi Jinping.
One of the blessings of the American system of government is that it foreshortens the careers of excitable autocratic hyperbolists – except in cases in which term-limits are not enforced. In 37 states, some kind of term limit is enforced on governors, according to Ballotpedia. Connecticut imposes no term limits on elected state office holders.
No one has yet asked Duff, who has spent 18 years in the State Senate, whether he favors term limits for members of Connecticut’s General Assembly as a surety against fascism.
The politics of hurdling spittle should be resisted by those who fancy that issues should be decided through reasoned discussion. The idea among incautious Democrats appears to be to get the word “fascism” to waltz around with the words “Republican” or “the right” or Trumpisms such as “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) or “conservative” in the hope that a fascist taint will adhere to words sharing the same space in a defamer’s mouth. It was Cardinal Newman who said in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, very politely, that his critics could throw mud enough, “and some of it will stick – stick, but not stain.” Mud throwing is a detour around an argument that cannot stick or stain.
Parents of very young school children in Florida and Connecticut, however impassioned and boisterous, should not be FBI bait. They have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to send a clear message to politicians and educators. And the message is one that even ponderous pedagogical experts should be able to understand: We, the parents of young school children, are the moral guides and the shapers of the character of our children – not National Education pedagogues or politicians who for decades have successfully averted their eyes from both failing and successful urban public schools.
Duff’s answer to parents concerned about runaway “education” must be sounder than a rhetorical truncheon, and if he wants an A in political science, he should educate himself on the origins of fascism.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.