The modern identity of the outspoken “campus conservative” is that of a victim complex.
These mostly white students base their identity around being persecuted and marginalized for holding harsh opinions surrounding issues such as abortion, criminal justice reform, and the credibility of the 2020 Presidential Election.
To paraphrase President Joe Biden, these students have been co-opted into a semi-fascist movement.
As the University of Iowa’s fall 2022 semester started, conservative groups have been subjected to random acts of violence that could be considered borderline criminal. At the student fair on Aug. 31, a freshman allegedly flipped the University of Iowa College Republican’s table and began to throw things at students.
Committing acts of violence against these students will only entrench their beliefs and make people more sympathetic to their worldview, thus helping legitimize their anti-democratic beliefs.
The table-flipper was also to have been reported to comparing the students in the club to Hitler and Mussolini, the mid-20th century European fascist dictators responsible for countless genocides and World War II.
While the supposed conduct of the freshman was clearly heinous, the sentiments he expressed about the beliefs of Republicans are more or less true as the GOP has morphed into a mostly semi-fascist party.
To understand what semi-fascism means, it is important to briefly discuss fascism as a political movement.
First, many scholars of fascism do not consider fascism to be an ideology in the same way that liberalism or communism are. Rather, fascism, like any right-wing movement, is a set of visceral attitudes that ultra-reactionaries hold.
Fascist movements work to divide a polity along lines of in-groups and out-groups in a similar way to other authoritarian or populist movements. Fascists hold that their in-group has been victimized by “elites” (political enemies of the in-group) and that they must ascertain political power through violent means to protect their in-group.
Where fascism diverges from left-wing authoritarianism is in their belief that they must restore a bygone era in which the polity was once a great nation before it was ruined by the out-group. This must be done through the anointing of one authoritarian male leader.
The GOP is not a fully formed fascist movement yet, given that the party is not calling for all its political opponents to be executed. However, there are many elements of fascism in the party, as can be seen by its veneration of former President Donald Trump.
Trump rose to the office of the political presidency by making promises to “Make America Great Again,” to lock up his political opponents, and to clean the country of immigrants who have ruined the U.S.
The semi-fascism movement culminated in the aftermath of Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. While the objectives of the attack failed, the Trump movement still exists as many Republican candidates running for office have doubled down on following the Trump brand.
That being said, the way to deal with fascism in the GOP does not involve individuals assaulting members of the UI College Republicans organization.
Attacks like these legitimize the GOP’s false beliefs about the marginalization of their “conservative ideals” and radicalize more neutral voters into supporting Trump candidates.
Instead, it is the responsibility of politically-active individuals against fascism to speak out and vote for alternative candidates.
Only by denying the fascists’ political power can we effectively neutralize these movements.
Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.