Greece is seeing a spike in attacks against foreigners by organized groups of Greek men and women. Dr. Mead points to a survey in Der Spiegel that cites increasing levels of xenophobia and anti-Semitic sentiment.
This is natural enough in a period of bad economics, with the systems trusted to hold up the economy collapsing all around you. Why is it happening? The answer, for the Greeks, is that it is a conspiracy by Germany. The answer, if you're German, is that culturally inferior peoples are dragging your virtuous nation down. The impulse to bind together is quite natural and strong.
I would suggest that there is a significant danger of this occurring in America as well. You might not think so, because the diversity of the electorate in the recent election was achieved chiefly by whites staying home. If there was increasing tension along these lines, wouldn't turnout have been high?
Yet I think the answer is that the low turnout underlines the danger. Those of my friends who are working class whites and did not vote did not do so because they feel alienated from the political system. If they have resigned from politics as a way of changing a country with which they are very dissatisfied, they will be more open to other methods.
People are asking why they might have so resigned, and not just voted Republican. There are a lot of answers, usually social conservatives blaming moderates, and moderates assuming that social issues are a drag on the ticket. I think the answer is simpler. Look at the Gallup "Confidence in Institutions" poll.
The bottom four institutions are 'Banks, Big Business, HMOs [another big business, but one that regularly treads on toes], and Congress.' The Republican ticket? A man who made his money as a banker before going into big business, coupled with a lifelong member of Congress. Naturally it was easy to demonize people aligned with institutions distrusted by the American people at large. If only Paul Ryan had moonlighted with Kaiser!
The top four institutions are 'the military, small business, police, and religion.' The trend of the change is worrisome: excepting the military, the police, and the criminal justice system, every single institution in the list is trusted less now than it was in the early 1970s.*
Those are the institutions of social control, notice, and not persuasive control -- not church, for example, or newspapers -- but violent, coercive control. That's who we trust, more and more. Church is down twenty points, but the coercive forces are on their way up. A speaker from a coercive background, with the right kind of rhetoric, could easily sweep up millions who have lost all faith in the governing institutions.
For that matter racist and racial grievance sentiments are clearly up, and not just among poor whites: across the board.
My guess is that there is a very real chance of fascist movements breaking out. Unlike in Europe, though, we have a multi-ethnic and cultural state. You wouldn't see one fascist movement built around a dominant race, but multiple hostile movements.
* A partial exception: HMOs went from 17% in 1999 to 19% now. They've consistently stayed at the bottom of the list, though, and I suspect that's within the margin of error.