Thursday, October 11, 2018

Did it Happen Here?

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
The very fact that we have to nervously make comparisons between 2018 America and 1930's Nazi Germany is alone an indictment of an administration that, to paraphrase President Lincoln, has not come close to fooling all of the people all of the time.
     Yet, history being relentlessly, sometimes cruelly, cyclical, we have to take stock of the similarities between us and post Weimar Republic Germany, especially after its 1932 election. To not do so could retroactively, and horribly, turn out to be irresponsible. For, as I'd stated years ago, Germany was not remade overnight any more than Rome was made, or unmade, in a day.
     Let's take stock of the similarities in the first few months of the Nazi Party's rise to power:
     Much of what is our own First Amendment was suspended under Hitler: With the Enabling Act signed into law after the fire at the Reichstag, freedom of the press, free speech and the right to peacefully assemble were all indefinitely suspended. The German judiciary was purged and immediately restocked with ideologues who were politically aligned with Hitler. The legislative powers of the Reichstag itself were suspended, thereby ensuring one party, one man rule in Nazi Germany.
     To be fair to the buffoons currently running our nation, not one of those things has come true here even nearly 24 months after Trump "won" the election with a minority of voters. We were not in the midst of a depression as the end of the Weimar Republic was. We're still in the comet tail of the Obama recovery that included in its impressive list of accomplishments a national unemployment rate of under 4%.
     Yet blue collar angst was a large reason why Trump was able to get enough votes to make his theft of the presidency somewhat plausible to uncritical eyes and minds. Trump was able to stoke enough fear, anger and anxiety over Big Government, unions and immigrants taking their jobs so that he won over the blue collar vote that left Hillary baffled and furious. Trump at least pretended to understand with and sympathized with their disaffection (although how a coddled New York billionaire was able to win over the Rust Belt is now anyone's guess).
     Most alarmingly, Trump was able to tap into that blue collar disaffection by using tried-and-true tactics already long ago perfected by Adolph Hitler: Nationalism stoked by national shame (15 years ago, Trump famously decried the war in Iraq that ended, under Obama, not with a bang but a whimper), virulent xenophobia and an unhealthy dose of "Otherism."

The League of Extraordinary Nations
While he was never the president of our country, Mitch McConnell can be likened to President Paul Hindenburg. The aging Hindenburg represented the Old Republican Guard much in the same way McConnell does. Hindenburg originated the idea of creating a series of Chancellors in a losing effort to hold onto the old conservative way of doing things. Hitler and his National Socialist Party represented, to Hindenburg and the Old Guard, the only way to shore up enough conservative support to hang onto power and unite against the always-encroaching threat of Communism and Socialism.
     At first, things went according to plan. At first, Hindenburg was still seen as the President and the head of Germany. Then as Hitler's ascendancy was obvious, his role in running the government became more and more nominal until by spring of 1933, he was seen as a mere figurehead because he was.  And Hindenburg initially willing and eventually unwilling compliance was the biggest reason why Hitler was able to consolidate power so quickly.
     By September 1933, Germany had left the League of Nations, seeing in the forerunner to the UN an obstacle to plans he'd already had in place. Compare this to the typical Republican hostility we've seen to the United Nations, of soon-to-be former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley flying in the face of reason and planetary consensus and our withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Commission this past summer. The man who'd once infamously said to the Federalist Society that we could get rid of the top ten floors of the UN building (where the human rights commissions are headquartered) and it wouldn't make "a bit of difference" is now working for the current administration.
      Right wingers such as Hitler and the Republicans who secretly (and not so secretly) venerate him and his policies always hold human rights concerns in the lowest disdain. And McConnell's shameful conduct, to put it mildly, during the Merrick Garland then the Brett Kavanaugh fiascos unmistakably showed all of us that he is as perfectly willing to be Trump's stooge as Hindenburg was to Hitler. McConnell, the second-best sycophant on the Beltway next to Mike Pence, had gleefully subverted the very democracy that, in its totality, is supposed to act as a check and a balance on things such as strongmen like Trump rashly putting on the highest judiciary a reckless ideologue such as Brett Kavanaugh.
     And just as Hitler had cozied up to strongmen he'd admired (Including a secret pact with Stalin involving the carving up of the Balkans) such as Mussolini, so Trump shows open admiration and even love to what passes for today's strongmen such as Kim Jong-un, Putin, Duterte and Ergogan while showing disdain for our staunchest allies and, again, the United Nations.
     But it's a different world and National Socialism cannot thrive or thrive long in the 21st century. The League of Nations never had the chance to openly laugh in Hitler's face as the United Nations had with Trump late last month. Plus, Hitler never had to worry about an independent special counsel investigating him for high crimes and misdemeanors such as colluding with the Russians.
     And at least it could be said Hitler never had to suck up to a more powerful man in a foreign nation to get elected Chancellor.

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