Is the Democratic Party the alternative to fascism, or its enabler?

By Arjae Red
February 9, 2023

Feb. 7 — The Jan. 6, 2021, failed attack on the U.S. Capitol exposed an attempt to overturn the presidential election results and made it undeniably clear that the Donald Trump-led MAGA movement represents a critically dangerous and growing threat of fascism in the U.S.

But it left this question open: Can the Democratic Party really provide a solution to the fascist menace?

Some might answer that the Democratic Party isn’t the ideal alternative but the lesser of two evils. Others would say the Democrats are an inadequate instrument for totally defeating the Republicans and MAGA fascism. Some might even answer that the Democrats actively protects and preserves the conditions of capitalism that allow fascism to fester and grow in the first place.

Although both criticisms of the Democrats are true, the reality is unfortunately even more negative, as was shown in the 2022 elections.

Democrats spent millions of dollars running ads in those elections that boosted far-right, Trump-affiliated GOP candidates against less-rightist Republicans. This reckless electoral strategy aimed at promoting extremist Republicans in that party’s primaries, to select candidates the Democrats believed they would be more likely to defeat in the general election.

Democrats’ tactic promoted ultrarightist program

While this Democratic Party maneuver might have helped win some elections, it reinforced the most pro-fascist elements of the Trumpite program.

One example is the $425,000 ad run by Democrats for the Michigan House District 3 GOP primary. This ad highlighted Republican candidate John Gibbs’ affiliation with Trump and his hard-line, anti-immigrant stance. The ad, critical in tone, called Gibbs “too conservative” for west Michigan and was aimed to attract Republican voters to his Trump-like qualities.

As a result, the ad helped Gibbs defeat the more moderate Republican candidate and then lose to Democratic candidate Hillary Scholten. While the Democrats achieved their election victory, it meant giving publicity and support for Gibbs’ reactionary program, with their help and funding.

In the GOP primary of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, Democrats ran ads promoting Republican candidate Doug Mastriano. They emphasized his expressed desire to outlaw the right to abortion and his attempts to end vote-by-mail and to audit the 2020 presidential election.

Without even pretending to criticize Mastriano, the ad simply read, “If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for. Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?” Most Republican primary voters answered “yes,” and Mastriano won the GOP primary with more than twice the votes of the runner-up.

Consider Dan Cox, the Republican candidate for governor of Maryland. Cox is a climate-change denier, anti-LGBTQ+ bigot and QAnon associate, who challenges the 2020 presidential election results. He has previously threatened to use the state police and national guard to “stand against” the federal government, following the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate.

Cox received a whopping $1.2 million in ad support from the Democratic Governors Association for the Republican primary. He lost the general election, but still it’s easy to picture Cox participating in a fascist coup attempt.

These were three of many similar examples.

Pelosi reveals dangerous tactics

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended this dangerous tactic, saying: “We think that the contrast between Democrats and Republicans, as they are now [after the Democratic amplification of the far-right], is so drastic that we have to win.”

This Pelosi quote says a lot about how far to the right the Democratic Party really is. The Democrats believe they can’t be differentiated from Republicans, except by the artificial propping-up of the most extreme Republicans.

The Democratic Party leadership chose to use the threat of fascist violence to coerce their voter base into supporting them, rather than advocate for policies that attract workers. A campaign, for example, backing Medicare for All, could have attracted the working class en masse and resulted in vote victories, without boosting pro-fascist policies by assuring the most extreme Republicans are the candidates.

The Democrats may have defeated some Republicans electorally with this insidious tactic, but it was no true defeat of the reactionary program. Weakening pro-worker and anti-racist demands of the Democrats’ platform loses support from the working class and oppressed people, and disillusioned voters might just vote for Trumpites or stay away from voting.

There were some abstentions in the 2016 election, after the Democratic Party leadership maneuvered Bernie Sanders, who had attractive social-democratic measures in his program, out of the possibility of being chosen.

But even if Democratic candidates win elections, fascist forces, if they feel emboldened, may attempt to overturn them, as they did Jan. 6, 2021, claiming fraud. By using maneuvers in the primary, instead of fighting for a more progressive program, the Democrats makes it easier to attack the legitimacy of elections.

If it comes down to another attempted coup, the Democrats will not be able to rely on a vote to keep the fascists at bay. Instead, they will be relying on the force of the state. But many police and military personnel have shown they share sympathies with the MAGA coup-base.

There had already been evidence of Capitol Police collusion with the Jan. 6 coup attempt, and there is a long history of far-right militia groups like the Oathkeepers (who played a leading role in the coup attempt) operating side-by-side with law enforcement against anti-racist protesters. Much of the membership of these militias is made up of both active and former law enforcement/military personnel.

Building an anti-fascist movement led by our class

So how does our class truly defeat fascism, not just electorally, but in the streets, where they pose a grave threat?

President Joe Biden’s empty calls to uphold the Constitution and “democracy” through voting blue, that is, for Democrats, mean very little, when his own party is complicit in the rise of the far-right.

Even if the Democrats didn’t engage in nefarious election tricks, that would not make them a viable force to lead the charge against fascism. Their party’s politics fail to confront the contradictions of capitalism that give rise to the festering of fascism in the first place. On issues of foreign policy, the Democrats share the same imperialist agenda as the Republicans; — they are both war parties.

A struggle against fascism must go beyond electoral competition by the Democrats against the MAGA movement and the Republican Party.

Anti-fascists must build resistance outside of the DP Democratic Party and the electoral arena and organize our class along an anti-capitalist political line, independent of both bourgeois parties and all those who attempt to wield the fascist monster against us.