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Brynn Tannehill
American Fascism
Trump is out of the White House, but American democracy is on the ropes and teetering on the brink of competitive authoritarianism controlled by theocrats and oligarchs. With its cherished institutions hobbled, political norms trampled, guardrails severely damaged, and body politic divided by chasms of race and geography, can the U.S. survive another administration dedicated to establishing de facto single party rule? In this compelling, comprehensive analysis, Brynn Tannehill draws on her expertise in studying the collapse of weak democracies around the globe and her previous research in law, political science, economics and right-wing populism to explain the trajectory of how we got here and the current threats we face. Most importantly, she analyzes what the characteristics of fascism are, if they are applicable to the base of the GOP today, and what that means for us should they succeed in establishing permanent minoritarian rule. American Fascism is a surgical analysis of 250 years of struggle for democracy in America and a prescient prognosis of what’s to come if we do not heed Tannehill’s warnings and advice.
The good news about American Fascism, a book whose cover depicts Lady Liberty offering a Heil Hitler salute: Tannehill, author of 2018’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Trans (But Were Afraid to Ask), is against it, not for it, arguing that the Republican Party is actively undermining democracy itself. Also heartening: the fact that this book, which at first blush may appear like the latest escalation in the right/left popular polemic war, is for the most part shrewdly argued, deeply researched, and attentive to historic parallels between the United States and the Weimar Republic, Putin’s Russia, and other countries that have been pulled into autocracy.

Tannehill, a frequent national columnist and a formal naval aviator, digs into the past, present, and future of the U.S. and the GOP, with an eye for the historic roots of prevailing trends and tendencies. Tannehill draws links between Pravda and Fox News, between the tenets of Russian propaganda and what posts blow up on Facebook, and between the “systemic disenfranchisement” that “was the cornerstone” of maintaining white Evangelical power in southern states after the Civil War and the gerrymandering and new voting laws that have, in recent years, helped the GOP become “the most powerful far-right party in the Western world.”

In crisp, stinging prose, Tannehill makes a case, digging deeper and wider than other books in the field while still demonstrating some playful elan even when the prognosis gets dire— the section “The End of America is Coming” is introduced with an on-point quote from Jean Luc Picard. Liberals, Democrats, and many open-minded independents will likely find Tannehill’s warning and analysis persuasive, though a tendency to indulge in sweeping shorthand when describing the beliefs and motivations of ideological opponents (and to offer phrasing like “There is a toxic confluence of whiteness and Christianity . . .”) by default limits its reach.

Takeaway: A sharply argued polemic accusing the Republican Party of actively subverting democracy.

Great for fans of: Zachary Roth’s The Great Suppression, Richard L. Hasen’s Election Meltdown.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-