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Victimhood is a basic prop of fascism. It helps to legitimize the aspiring fascist leader with his victimized base while at the same time giving license for the persecution of those people he denounces for victimizing his base.

As Donald Trump constantly demonstrates through his laments about being the object of “witch hunts,” the fascist-in-waiting proudly wears the mantle of victimization. This cleverly disguises that he is, in reality, the embodiment of the class and system responsible for the oppressed state of his victimized base.

For in touching this very sensitive nerve of the millions of citizens in this country who are bitterly disappointed and enraged by their fate in life — particularly white males — he creates a bond of fellow victimization. Their sense of abject powerlessness, as well as betrayal for having been cheated out of the promise of the American Dream (especially their privileged status as white males) has caused many to identify with Trump and his self-pitying victimhood. He’s become their voice, his crazed public outbursts expressing what they privately rant about, providing them with accessible targets — migrants and people of color, the gay and transgender populations, teachers, school board and election board members, not to mention the Wokes and liberal politicians — for their wrath and hatred. As Trump promised at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, “Those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.”

What is especially ironic about this, of course, is that fascism is the ultimate expression of capitalism and the class warfare that the ruling class wages against working people. While largely invisible, it is the rich and powerful who are not only responsible for the economic oppression that working people suffer but also the money behind the efforts to destroy democracy and its potential to eliminate power relationships.

Unfortunately, fascism is greatly aided by the disempowering false consciousness that afflicts so many everyday folks, causing us to not recognize the origins of our oppressive situation. We envy the ruling class, instead, their power and wealth, hence blinding us to the connection between their ill-gotten gains, and the exploitation of our labor that made such affluence possible.

The absence of such liberating consciousness, however, should not mislead us about the legitimate rage that found expression in the storming of the nation’s Capital on January 6, and the MAGA movement in general. While perverted by Trump’s lies, the wrath and fury demonstrated toward our government is embedded within a sense of betrayal that goes to the heart of the capitalist system and its political and corporate masters.

In what she identifies in her book, “Hiding in Plain Sight,” as “the wreckage of the American Dream,” the author, Sarah Kendizor, describes the period from 1946 to 1974 as one of “unparalleled stability and prosperity.” It was a time “in which ‘the American Dream’ seemed feasible, having a steady job and getting a raise, owning a home, not needing an advanced degree for a career, and if you did, being able to afford one without being saddled with decades of debt.”

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Then the bottom fell out, and class warfare against workers and the middle class accelerated. Along with its assault on labor unions, the Reagan Administration cut tax rates on the rich from 74 to 27 percent while raising taxes on working-class people 11 times, initiating the extreme stratification of income and wealth that has characterized American society for the last 40-plus years.

From 1947 to 1979, income for the bottom fifth of Americans rose 122 percent. Up to that time, workers’ pay had increased proportionally with productivity. But between 1979 and 2017, while growth in worker productivity grew 70.3 percent, hourly compensation grew only by 11.1 percent.

At the other end, earnings of the top 0.1 percent grew 343.2 percent; from 1979 to 2009, income of the top 1 percent rose 270 percent, while that of the remaining 99 percent stagnated. This disparity has continued right up to the present, stripping average people of opportunities and resources.

For working Americans, the American Dream has become a nightmare of dashed expectations, as illustrated by the belief that their children will be financially worse off than their parents, reversing the historic trend of generation progress, as well as the skyrocketing death rate amongst middle age, white males known as “Deaths of Despair,” caused by outright suicide as well as the many instances hidden in drug overdoses and alcoholism. The latter is a phenomenon that particularly afflicts those who are lost in today’s economy, unable to assume their patriarchal-prescribed role of supporting their families.

The corporate-controlled government bears significant responsibility for this situation, as evidenced from Reagan’s union busting and trickle-down economics, and Clinton’s support of NAFTA and GATT free trade globalization that resulted in the loss of US jobs, to its failure to train an increasingly technologically redundant workforce to transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy, and what Kendisior identifies as “the iron triangle of organized crime, state corruption and corporate criminality” that fleeced the common person.

However, white working men have compounded their economic circumstances by their racist-inspired perception that the “socialist” government has promoted policies that provide unfair advantages to people of color. Playing the race card that many white workers have bought into since the early days of slavery, fascists exploit these fears by promoting the Great Replacement Theory that maintains white people are losing the skin privilege they’ve enjoyed during four hundred years of caste supremacy.

Along with their legitimate class rage, white racism contributes significantly to the community of victimhood that wants to Make America Great Again.

Tim Stevenson is a community organizer with Post Oil Solutions from Athens, and author of “Resilience and Resistance: Building Sustainable Communities for a Post Oil Age” (Green Writers Press), and the recently published, “Transformative Activism: A Values Revolution in Everyday Life in a Time of Social Collapse” (Apocryphile Press). The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.