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George Pyle: ‘Our Mussolini’ looks to his Blackshirts

(Andrew Medichini | AP photo) A detail of a giant marble bas-relief titled "The Story of Rome through its Constructions", made in 1940 by sculptor Publio Morbiducci, shows Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on horseback, at the entrance of a building in the EUR neighborhood of Rome, Monday, May 6, 2019. Mussolini transformed Rome’s urban landscape with grand construction projects like EUR, a new city district that was originally designed as celebration of fascism for a world fair in 1942. The fair was canceled due to World War II and construction was halted but resumed after the war.

He is, indeed, our Mussolini.
You can tell because the Blackshirts are out in force. And the lawyers.
This president who was officially seeking reelection has made little pretense of trying to be the preferred candidate of a majority of Americans. The closer Election Day came, the more he made it clear that his only path to maintaining power is not through democracy but through the subversion of it.
Armed thugs ran a bus carrying Joe Biden supporters off the road in Texas. And the president lost no time in tweeting, “I love Texas.”
Other, better dressed, Lone Star State supporters of the president also went to court to try to disqualify more than 100,000 votes cast at a totally legal drive-by polling place. A Republican judge with a reputation for being a conservative found absolutely no grounds for doing so.
Elsewhere around the nation, supporters of the Current Occupant rode in convoys, deliberately blocked traffic, made a show of carrying weapons and otherwise posed a clear and present danger to the conduct of a national election.
If that’s not fascism, there is no such thing.
It is in this atmosphere that Sen. Mike Lee’s angry tweets about America not being a democracy move from being academically true and practically irrelevant to being downright frightening. If we are not a democracy, what are we? A place where, perhaps, voter suppression and intimidation are acceptable.
The kind of democracy we are is one where the people don’t rule — constitutional rights and due process aren’t subject to referendum — but the people have the right to choose the constitutionally constrained rulers.
By the time you read this, we will have been through most or all of Election Day and will have a better idea of whether it was a day where democracy shone through or a day where a small minority of passionate thugs knocked the government of the people, by the people, for the people on its butt.

When Utah Rep. Chris Stewart referred to the then-candidate as “our Mussolini,” there was reason to think he meant it as a bad thing. As time went on, as Stewart and Lee and other supposed Republicans turned from revulsion to support, it became more and more clear that it was a compliment.
Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922 through neither an election nor a real revolution. With the threat of a devoted Blackshirt militia — a mob, really — he intimidated a weak king and cowardly bourgeoisie that was more afraid of the communists than they were of him into first making him prime minister and then absolute ruler. He promised to bring order to a nation where much of the disorder was his own fault and never let go.
Our democratic traditions and institutions are much stronger than those of nearly any other nation at any other time. So we will probably get out of this OK.
But make no mistake, when people like Mike Lee go out of their way to say that the United States is not a democracy, and the president hangs his hope for retaining power on neither the popular vote nor the Electoral College, but a mob of lawyers and sycophantic state and federal lawmakers, nothing less than the overthrow of the American system of government is their goal.
The grand success of our civilization is the slow but steady enlarging of the definition of We the People, from the few to the more to the many, both in terms of constitutional protections and in terms of the right to vote.
Those who seek to expand and protect those rights are the proper stewards of American government, even if they get a little loud and disobedient. Those who seek to limit or restrict that right are the enemies of our nation.
And it may become even more clear over the next few weeks which of our would-be leaders are which.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, would feel more comfortable under the rule of Topo Gigio.
gpyle@sltrib.com


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