US news

Politicians Want You to Be Afraid of the Other Guy

The Democrats want you to vote for them because you are afraid of the Republicans, not because they have anything to offer in the way of change. They might be right about the Republicans, but if you always vote for the status quo, nothing will ever get better.
Young man choosing button to push

Should fear be what’s on your mind when you’re in the voting booth? © GoodStudio /

November 19, 2023 03:56 EDT

Are you terrified about fascism if Republicans win the US presidency next year?

Fear versus hope. Fear is a powerful motivator.

The Democratic Party’s fear-based argument in 2024 is that if you don’t vote for them, you are helping usher in the new era of American fascism embodied in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025. We are instructed to take this threat very seriously. I suppose it’s a coincidence that making the 2024 race about encroaching fascism distracts from the fact that the Democrats have an extremely weak presidential candidate — Joe Biden, who would find it very difficult to win reelection next year on his merits.

There is potency to this argument that the Republicans are plotting a full-scale move toward fascism if they win the presidency in 2024. Democratic operatives are quick to warn that a vote for anyone but Democratic candidates is a vote for encroaching fascism. That’s scary. That’s some real fear-based thinking.

That kind of fear-based thinking was commonplace during the George W. Bush era.

How politicians use fear to manipulate you

Let’s take a step back in time to the 2004 presidential election.

President George W. Bush was running for reelection against Senator John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry. The campaign was hard-fought, focusing mainly on the Iraq war and terrorism. Like today, Bush’s reelection pitch was fear-based. 

Remember, this was just three years after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The government was still in full-on freakout mode. The American public was feeling very edgy. We were all waiting for the next big terror attack. When was it gonna be?? I think we were all coping with a little society-wide PTSD. And Bush’s message was: Stick with me or the terrorists are going to start blowing all sorts of shit up here in the US of A.

So, the hysteria over a creeping terror threat was still very immediate. The newly-formed Department of Homeland Security developed a scary, color-coded “Advisory System” to let the public know about any potentially imminent attacks. The rainbow colors went from calming green (low) to emergency red (severe), yet never seemed to drop below the yellow (elevated) indicator in the middle. 

Homeland Security Advisory System scale.

In his memoir, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft pressured him to raise the terror alert level just days before the 2004 election. Ridge revealed a “dramatic” discussion with them on October 30th, writing like a naïve little lamb,

I wondered, “Is this about security or politics?” Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.

Ultimately the terror alert level was not raised in that instance. Ridge turned in his resignation exactly one month later, claiming in his book that this incident was what convinced him it was time to go.

But make no mistake, fear-based politics is what helped secure George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004. And you can bet that plenty of the oldsters who run the Democratic Party learned that lesson well. And are employing that lesson right now before our very eyes.

Fear kills your hope for a better alternative

Fear-based politics works. I’m not even trying to argue that there isn’t a strain of truth to the Democrats’ sales pitch! In one 2022 poll, 42% of Republicans agreed with the statement that “Strong, unelected leaders are better than weak, elected ones.” Of course, 31% of Democrats agreed with that as well. Donald Trump has been joking for years about how he would like to be president for life — and let’s not forget that he had his own Beer Hall Putsch in 2021 trying to make that happen.

My point isn’t that Republicans aren’t steering towards authoritarianism in a frightening way — it’s that fear-based politics, while effective, only works to support the status quo. When you’re voting because you’re terrified about some vision of a dystopian future, you’re not able to imagine a better one. Fear shuts down hope.

If you’re scared to death, you’re not thinking about the future, because you don’t even know if there will be a future. This is the problem with having only two parties. If one is going over the ledge into straight-up authoritarianism and the other can only say, “Let’s keep things the way they are,” nothing will ever get better. 

Democrats aren’t offering anything but more of the same. Will democracy be “secured” if Democrats win in 2024? Won’t the threat of encroaching fascism still exist in 2026, 2028, 2030? If it does, you can bet that Democrats will still be using it to scare you into voting for them. And nothing will ever get better for a working class that’s just struggling to make ends meet in an economy run by and for the rich and corporations — who are the true beneficiaries of any fascist system. Go ahead and look that up if you don’t believe me.

But hey, that’s just like, my opinion, man. Do with that what you will.

[Let’s Make Them Pay first published this piece.]

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


Only Fair Observer members can comment. Please login to comment.

Leave a comment

Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member