So it's become commonplace, in our mainstream media, to dismiss the violence and rhetoric witnessed at Trump rallies as not really proto-fascist. News outlets (irresponsibly, in my view) have told us that, despite Trump's promises to sue less-than-deferential newspapers out of existence, to deport millions of undocumented immigrants without due process, to flatly impose religious restrictions on would-be legal immigrants, despite his explicit condoning of violence against anti-Trump protesters and his coded embrace of white supremacists, despite his growing cult of personality - since he isn't expressly calling for the cessation of democracy and the centralization of power in the executive, he isn't a fascist.
And we're inclined to agree because, hey - we have the Constitution, right? We have the First Amendment to protect against frivolous defamation suits. We have the Fifth Amendment to protect undocumented immigrants. We have the First Amendment to prevent religious tests for immigration (maybe). And we have a tradition of respect for judiciary independence, where executive branch officials follow judicial holdings and orders as the binding law that they are.[Spoiler (click to open)]
But what's percolating in Kansas is a troubling experiment in undermining the traditional checks and balances that have prevented this country from going full-on dictatorial for two centuries. If the Kansas legislature successfully gives itself the right to impeach executive and judiciary branch officials for defying the legislature - for acting in precisely the role constitutionally prescribed to those officials - effectively gone are all of those constitutional protections. That, indeed, is precisely the Kansas legislature's intent - the Kansas supreme court's high crime in this case being to purport to enforce a Kansas constitutional provision requiring the adequate funding of its public education.
And if it works in Kansas, don't think it won't be tried in Congress, particularly if Obama should manage to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court, tipping it away from the lunatic rightwing bias now recognizable in Congress. And if Congress should purport to impeach Justice Ginsburg, who can stop it? The Supreme Court itself? The President?
All of the warning signs are here. We are on the verge of a fascist breakdown. That the police officers at the Trump rally where a black protester was sucker-punched took down the black protester first, returning to the man doing the punching only when it became clear there was no way to avoid a social media PR conflagration otherwise, clearly indicates where at least some of the sympathies of our officers lie. A plurality of the uneducated electorate, electing a personality-driven authoritarian enjoying the support of a massive, sympathetic police force already embedded in all of our communities - all of the elements are there. We cannot afford to be complacent.