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Here in the states, we are having “midterm” elections, which means we are voting on public offices at the state and federal level halfway through a president’s term, and also voting on a number of proposed policies on our ballots. Many people see this year’s midterms as crucially important due to the rise of Trump-influenced fascism, white supremacy, antisemitism, the brutal evisceration of women’s reproductive healthcare rights, the rising tide of anti-immigrant hatred, and the persistent brainwashing of a massive segment of the American populace by Fox News and other so-called “conservative” sources of misinformation.

Labels such as right, left, conservative, and liberal are partially to blame. The extreme far-right that has embraced fascism and a perverted version of christian nationalism that has been on the rise for decades has little to do with the beliefs of the people I know who consider themselves “conservative christians”. I have several friends and family members who embrace that label but harbor no hate in their hearts for people of color, people who fall on the LGBT spectrum, or women. Most of the so-called “conservative” people I know are wrong about a whole lot of things, but they are not actively trying to advance an agenda of hate and violence. Sadly, the hate mongers have become a major component of the current Republican voting base, and they are successfully courted by politicians who talk a lot about god and freedom when they really mean oppression of the biblical, old-testament variety where women’s rights were non-existent, children were regularly murdered, and violent, god-sanctioned genocide was the norm.

The political spectrum in the States has shifted so far to the right that the label of “the left” has become meaningless. We do not have any truly left-wing elements in national politics. The extreme left wing would be pure anarchy without any government, as opposed to the extreme right which is total fascism. You might find some anarchists in hippie collectives and punk-rock youth groups who embrace the philosophy, but to call someone like President Joe Biden a “leftist” is incredibly stupid. The so-called American left merely holds a centrist position when compared to many countries of Europe. Things like universal healthcare, social support networks for the poor, and not letting any idiot buy semi-automatic weapons to shoot up a school are non-controversial concepts in many European countries, the UK, and the UK’s commonwealth areas such as Australia. Only in America are these basic hallmarks of modern social progress labeled “left wing”.

Given that the left is virtually non-existent, and the right has been perverted by hate-filled extremists, where does that leave the rest of us? Most people I know are somewhere in the center and might have minor differences about their religious beliefs, or tax policy, or whether a developing fetus can be considered a human being. But most of them are reasonable people who could be convinced one way or the other by compelling facts, unbiased and repeatable research, or by sharing personal experiences. I know many people who have dubious beliefs but who are not driven by hatred and a refusal to face facts. They just don’t know any better, and they are willing to be proven wrong—which is a major intellectual accomplishment.

So, as we find ourselves in this year’s midterm elections, I hope that enough voters—and especially women and young people—can show up to cast their ballots and stop the rising tide of violent fascism that has become an acceptable political position in the States. Voting doesn’t fix everything, but not voting fixes nothing. To not take any action at all to stop the rise of right-wing fascism in America from seizing control of our government is the worst kind of laziness.

And if you don’t believe that something like what happened in Nazi Germany can happen in the United States, then you don’t understand history. It’s happening right now, and we were warned. If you need an in-depth historical account of the rise of fascist movements across the globe, then pick up a copy of Fascism: A Warning by our former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She was not perfect, but she was a victim of the Third Reich who wrote a well-articulated book that shines a light on our current problems by placing them in a historical context. She warned us about our current crisis, and it would be foolish to ignore her warning.

Voter’s Guide: Fascism: A Warning is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook editions. For a deeper dive into voter psychology, see my review of The Reasoning Voter.