The United States of Lyncherdom, as Mark Twain labeled America. Lincoln versus Douglas. The Chinese Exclusion Act. The Trail of Tears. The internment of Japanese-Americans. The Palmer Raids. McCarthyism. The Surveillance State. At turning points throughout history, as we aspired toward great things, we also witnessed the authoritarian impulse drive policy and win public support. Only by confronting and reconciling this past, can America move forward into a future rooted in the motto of our Republic since 1782: e pluribus unum (out of many, one).
But this book isn’t simply an indictment. It is also a celebration of our spirit, perseverance, and commitment to the values at the heart of the American project. Along the way, we learn about many American heroes—like Ida B. Wells, who dedicated her life to documenting the horrors of lynching throughout the nation, or the young Jewish-American who took a beating for protesting a Nazi rally in New York City in 1939. Men and women who embodied the soaring, revolutionary proclamations set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.
On Fascism is both an honest reckoning and a call for reconciliation. Denial and division will not save the Republic, but coming to terms with our history might.
"To prevent the ravages of fascism, it’s essential to understand its roots in our national character and experience. The twelve lessons in On Fascism draws from American history and brilliantly complement those of Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny."—Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard University, and author of To End a Presidency
"It is comforting to assume our nation is built on a secure foundation that protects our right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' But far from being on solid ground, we are instead walking a precarious tightrope with no net except our better angels. As MacWilliams shows, authoritarian demagogues and a frightening portion of the public have always been willing and eager to tear away the balance pole of reason and push democracy into the abyss. By showing the failures of the past and the present, this accessible, alarming, and insightful work is a much needed reality check and counterweight to the resurgent extremism of our times."—Brian Baird, PhD and former congressman for Washington's 3rd district
"This is a very scary book—and one that every citizen who wants America to remain a democracy needs to read. A University of Massachusetts Amherst expert in authoritarianism, Matthew MacWilliams demonstrates with a rich review of U.S. history how fragile (and still flawed) our system is. And, he convincingly warns that 'Trumpism' has put us on a path toward 'a hollowing out of our Republic that only work and dedication by every citizen can help us avoid."—Morton Kondracke, political commentator and author of Jack Kemp
Reviews from Goodreads
We have met the enemy, and he is us.
The Index of American Authoritarian Attitudes is my tool for estimating the gap between the universal values, beliefs, and attitudes Americans...