Photo: AP

This is actually, without exaggeration, without sloganeering, how fascism happens.

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal serves a purpose. It has always been very right wing, but it is worth paying attention to because it represents the public formulation of political lines of thinking that the business world can adopt. It is not just the average whingings of reactionary cranks; it is the vanguard of the moneyed, conservative, financial establishment.

Today the paper ran an editorial supporting Jair Bolsonaro for president of Brazil. The editorial labels Bolsonaro a “conservative populist,” a “Brazilian Swamp Drainer” who “often says politically incorrect things about identity politics that inflame his opponents.” Here is a more accurate description of Bolsonaro: a racist fascist.

This is not a secret. This is his platform. For many years he has happily espoused racist, sexist, and anti-gay views. He is neither subtle nor ashamed. He also explicitly backs police murder of criminals and speaks admiringly of the days of military dictatorship in Brazil. He will turn the government of his nation into a violent, repressive, racist, nationalist machine. He is a budding fascist. And, because he is running against a left wing opponent with a left wing economic platform, the Wall Street Journal would prefer the fascist. The fascist will keep the business interests safe from the hordes. No one can make the excuse that they did not know what they were supporting. They know exactly what the price of “law and order” will be. They just don’t care.

This is where we are now. One of America’s most prominent op-ed pages feels comfortable supporting the very worst possible candidate in the world, so long as he is not a socialist. This is how it works. The fascist puts on a happy face, the businessmen line up behind him, and once he has control, he exercises power without fear, and all of the people except the businessmen suffer. It happened in Europe a century ago. We’ve seen it all before. I would say that it could happen here—but of course, it already is.