It’s Not Hypocrisy If It’s Fascism
Republicans aren’t simply devout Christians, cowards, or hypocrites. They’re fascists.
Whether it’s pointing out Republican opposition to access to safe infant formula (or childcare, for that matter) while restricting abortion access or their flag-waving, stand for the pledge, support our troops “patriotism” while blocking essential healthcare for veterans, our media, politicians, and public intellectuals have been having a field day discovering “GOP hypocrisy.” The problem is that they’re wrong. It’s not hypocrisy if it’s fascism.
Today’s Republican Party is a fascist party waging an eliminationist war on their perceived enemies. Just like many historical fascist parties, the GOP is committed to white supremacy, patriarchy, and Christian nationalism rooted in myths and lies about the past. While we might reasonably find it odd, for example, that Republicans promote “religious liberty” and Islamophobia or celebrate American history while banning parts of it from being taught, it would be a mistake to conclude that this is some kind of accident. In both cases, these aren’t simple misunderstandings but clear expressions of a particular vision of (white) Christian nationalism that is the bedrock of their fascist movement.
It’s Not Hypocrisy
The recent example of Glenn Thompson, the Pennsylvania Congressman who spoke at his gay son’s wedding just three days after voting against protecting the rights of same-sex couples to marry, illustrates the problem with the “hypocrisy” diagnosis well. On the surface, it seems like a case from Hypocrisy 101—Thompson celebrating a marriage he voted not to protect.
The problem, though, is that it treats Thompson’s behavior individually—an issue of personal morality—behavior that nonetheless only makes sense through his party membership. Remember, House Republicans voted en masse against the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would not only protect same-sex marriage in the event that the Court moved to overturn Obergefell, but also protects interracial and international marriages. Each of these unions are now vulnerable since none, to borrow Justice Alito’s argument overturning Roe, are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition”—a tradition firmly grounded in racism, patriarchy, and misogyny. That fact, by the way, is not lost on prominent fascists like Justice Clarence Thomas or Senator Ted “Cancún” Cruz, both of whom suggested that same-sex marriage should be overturned following the reversal of Roe.
Thompson’s vote against the Respect for Marriage Act reflects a growing Republican commitment to an explicitly Christian version of fascism—Christian nationalism. It’s why, for instance, the flag-waving, hyper-patriotic Republican Party is obsessed with the fascist authoritarian leader of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, who led his own attacks on the LGBTQ community under the banner of “Christian democracy.” What about Hungary, exactly, does this hyper-nationalist party identify so strongly with? What could it be? (it’s the fascism).
Orbán, by the way, headlined the influential Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering in Dallas after giving a speech last month denouncing racial and religious mixing.
This is why we have always fought: we [Europeans] are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race. This is why we fought at Nándorfehérvár/Belgrade, this is why we stopped the Turks at Vienna, and – if I am not mistaken – this is why, in still older times – the French stopped the Arabs at Poitiers. Today the situation is that Islamic civilisation, which is constantly moving towards Europe, has realised – precisely because of the traditions of Belgrade/Nándorfehérvár – that the route through Hungary is an unsuitable one along which to send its people up into Europe.
What about his message attacking religious and racial mixing is so appealing to Republicans? What could it be? (it’s the fascism).
Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t find it confusing and you shouldn’t either.
Thomas Zimmer makes much the same argument that I do here about claims that Republicans are merely cowards. As with their critiques of “hypocrisy,” our pundit class invents convoluted formulas and explanations to avoid the simple and obvious truth: the Republican Party is on board with fascism. Note, for instance, the January 6th Committee hearings which have to date named an enormous number of Republicans in Congress, in the Trump administration, and state level Republican politics who knew a coup was unfolding between late October 2020 and January 6th. How, pray tell, did they respond? By doing absolutely, positively nothing. Why? Well, because the coup attempt was still ongoing. It might have succeeded.
It’s not cowardice. It’s not hypocrisy. What could it be?
The “hypocrisy” label isn’t just wrong—it’s a dangerous claim to make about fascists because it presumes that they’re otherwise reasonable people acting individually in good faith. This means that, if we only present them with the right information, they will relinquish their fascist activities. That simply isn’t the case.
Again, a brief look at Thompson’s record shows how the “hypocrisy” label limits our ability to understand the world around us. Even after the attack on the Capitol orchestrated and directed by President Trump and his supporters had failed, Thompson took the floor to argue against certifying election returns in Pennsylvania, rejecting the very ballots that reelected him to Congress. Hypocrisy? Well, while his position might seem, er, an inconsistent approach to electoral processes, it is pretty goddamn consistent on which election outcomes are “legitimate”: Republican victories. It’s not hypocrisy if it’s fascism.
So what are we to do with these contradictory ideas? With those, for example, who claim as Justice Alito does, that the existence of a secular society threatens “religious liberty”? The plain reading of the words in Alito’s recent claim is oxymoronic. But if you narrow what counts as religious liberty to the practice and encouragement of “traditional religious beliefs”—by which he means a narrow fundamentalist reading of Christian texts invented by enslavers to justify slavery (yes, really)—Alito’s apparent goal of a Christian nationalist state becomes less about intellectual or moral consistency and more obviously about wielding power.
This goal of a racist, fascist Christianity animates today’s Republican Party and just so happens to connect all of its policy preferences from its Islamophobia and (pro-apocalypse) support for the apartheid regime in Israel to its witchcraft-inspired tirades about abortion. And let’s not forget the “blessing of slavery” and “curse of Ham” arguments, or the claims about being “Christian nation.” Recall megachurch pastor Louie Giglio’s racist justifications for slavery:
"We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do. And we say that was bad, but we miss the blessing of slavery, that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and lived in."
Giglio’s “blessing of slavery” language is usually reserved for insiders, those already in the pews of white supremacy, but these ideas are eerily similar to the astonishing “what we owe to our ancestors” claim from the new “American Birthright” fascist curriculum. They are, in fact, Republican orthodoxy.
Make no mistake, it isn’t a religious movement in any sense of the word. It isn’t about individual devotion or morality. Rather, this racist, fascist Christianity is a tool—a way to gain power much like the evangelical Christianity of the 1890s that promoted lynching and spearheaded the revival of the Klan in the 1920s. Then, as now, white conservatives used state legislatures and the Supreme Court to create an apartheid state from the bottom up, a project the Court explicitly endorsed in Plessy (1896) and Williams v. Mississippi (1898).
That Republicans use the same tactics and institutions today to cement white supremacy today that they employed a century ago should give us pause and remind us that it isn’t a problem of ignorance, but of intent. Republicans aren’t simply devout Christians, cowards, or hypocrites. They’re fascists.
What does this mean for us?
We have to stop pretending that people supporting these fascist ideas have good intentions but bad information. That idea is not only wrong—an expression of the persistently white supremacist nature of our systems of knowledge, politics, and public discourse—it’s dangerous.
Assuming good intentions of bad actors empowers them to do enormous harm. Fascist intellectuals know this and, while we’re over here weighing the merits of their cancel culture accusations for the trillionth time, they’re over there banning books, classes, and topics and creating a fascist curriculum.
It’s long past time to stop pretending that this is all a big misunderstanding with otherwise very friendly and well-intentioned white people. We cannot afford to be confused on this point. Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t find it confusing. Members of CPAC don’t find it confusing either. If we continue to feign confusion, we do so at our peril.
[Note: I’ll be taking the week off next week, but when I return, I want us to talk about ways we should respond to the Republican fascist movement through the lens of James Boggs’ “Democracy: Capitalism’s Last Battle-Cry” (beginning on page 64 of the linked pdf).]