Only a nation already far down the freeway to fascism could call what the United States is doing “democracy” and not laugh or cry. The most ill-informed, incarcerated, disenfranchised, overworked, fear mongered, and impoverished electorate in the wealthy world is picking gladiators for this year’s electoral entertainment.

In one corner, the brainwashed dads are backing a two-bit Berlusconi with as many positions on any issue as the Bible, but without God’s humility. This guy talks at a third-grade level, but having skipped over the lessons in cooperation and nonviolence that most people picked up between Kindergarten and second grade. He pushes religious bigotry, racism, exceptionalism, ignorance, and violence. He’s in favor of greed, theft, oppression, armed borders, and murdering families. He supported attacking Iraq in 2002 and now lies about that. He wants an even bigger military, though how big nobody’s bothered to ask. He pushes mythic lies about the success of wars and torture, including the idea that murdering Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs blood brings peace and harmony, and that torture accomplishes something useful. He also despises the disabled or female and absolutely adores himself. If there was ever an argument for swiftly disarming the world of nuclear weapons, it’s not to be found in Barack Obama’s pretentious platitudes but in the dimwitted demagoguery of Don Drumpf. Don’t give this man nukes!

In another corner, Hillary Clinton presents a humanitarian face for total corruption. She, too, holds every possible position on every issue. But her decades of public “service” make it clear that only the awful positions are the ones she means. The Republican Don might expose the Saudi support for 9/11, remind everyone of Bush and Hillary’s Iraq lies (which apparently fooled Drumpf at the time), denounce Bush and Obama for creating ISIS, reject the TPP, etc. He might welcome refugees or ban them and wink at lynch mobs. He’s not exactly predictable. Like any Republican, Drumpf would energize the peace and justice movements, but he might also make things very hard on them. Hillary would use her goons on protesters as she did on Ray McGovern. She’d punish whistleblowers with the vengeance she directs at Manning, Assange, Snowden, et alia. And she’d push for every war she can get her hands on, as she has for many years.

In a third corner is Bernie Sanders. His best primary states lie ahead — but only if people turn off their televisions and block out the endless repetition of the idea that Hillary’s antidemocratic superdelegates, and states that have already voted have decided everything.

Friendly Fascism by Bertram Gross was published over 35 years ago and has now been released as an ebook. It describes the state we’re now in, not the state we might reach because of Drumpf’s similarities to Mussolini. People should really stop saying they underestimated Drumpf. That would be quite a feat. What they underestimated was the power of the corporate media to create a candidate — something that media could only do by having already reached a view of the world in which fascism is just another policy choice. And they underestimated the depravity of a large number of U.S. voters willing to back hatred and ignorance packaged together with inconsistent rejection of current elites and dogmas. Imagine the overwhelming stupidity of a culture that 15 years later treats it as news when someone points out that George W. Bush was president on September 11, 2001. Try to fathom the idiocy of a candidate whose nasty, childish insults and threats may be doing as much damage to U.S. foreign relations as Obama’s actual missiles and bombs and walls and deportations.

Sadly, only the Bernie Sanders campaign, or an actual revolution, lies between us and a Hillaridrumpf gladiator match. Would we, in such a contest, go with the evil we know and dread or switch to the evil that resembles old-fashioned fascism but might actually be an improvement on some issues and would certainly awaken the slumbering activists who’ve hibernated for the Obama years? And if we didn’t choose the guaranteed evil, but opted for the unknown sadist, would the rest of the world ever forgive us?