Catholic priest and radio-personality Charles Coughlin’s Christian Front, the German American Bund, the Black Legion, and a variety of nationalist, anti-Semitic, and/or isolationist groups opposed to President Roosevelt, “Moneyed Interests,” and Marxism attracted over a million members and supporters during that decade. Collectively, these groups have long been considered to be a particularly American expression of the same type of fascism that swept Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. The application of the term “fascism” to such a wide variety of individuals and organizations has proved troublesome, however, and the historiography on the subject is conflicted. Did European-style fascism appeal to Americans? Could an “American fascism” have kept the United States out of World War 2?
In order to answer those questions, we must first determine what American fascism was and was not, and then we have to understand why these groups and individuals failed to form any kind of broad coalition against Roosevelt, the New Deal, or liberal democracy itself.