It’s Berlin 1933 all over again, and Donald Trump and his brownshirts (i.e. anyone who voted for him) are on the verge of extinguishing American Democracy and installing Trump as Maximum Leader.
“He behaves like a dictator,” tweets Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
“We need to accept the fact that this president, if given the opportunity, will try to be a dictator,” according to Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
“Authoritarians, often mentally unstable people with deeply narcissistic needs, transform this kind of chaos into dictatorships,” David Leege, professor of political science at Notre Dame, quoted in The New York Times.
Note that I am citing here “respectable” polite opinion in mainstream Democratic circles, and not crazy leftists like the Socialist Workers Party. Although these days, it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the SWP and the Democratic Party.
So, I think it might be useful to take a brief look at the most well-known dictatorship in history, the twelve-year reign of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. By doing so, it is easy to expose liberal hysteria about “Trump is a dictator” as either woefully ignorant nonsense, blatant falsifications, or both.
The most defining characteristics of the Nazis were their belief that Germanic peoples were the “master race,” that democracy was a corrupt and illegitimate form of government that should be replaced with strongman leadership, and that Germany should wage war to conquer, enslave and murder other “inferior” peoples. It was a program of the most horrific darkness.
During the 1920s the Nazis had been an obscure political party with marginal support. In the 1928 elections to the Reichstag, they got just 2.6% of the vote. And during the 1920s German politics was dominated by the center-right Centre Party and the center-left Social Democratic Party. But in the wings, the Communists and the Nazis were determined to overthrow democratic government and impose their own radical dictatorships.
With the Great Depression hitting Germany hard, support for the extremists rose sharply. By 1932 the Nazis were the biggest party in the Reichstag, with 33% of the vote in Germany’s multi-party system. Meanwhile, the Nazis’ brownshirts and the Communists’ Rotfront were waging war against each other in the streets.
After several months of political maneuvering and an alliance with a much smaller quasi-fascist party (not Nazi sympathizers, but they hoped to control Hitler) Hitler was named Chancellor (essentially prime minister) by Reich President Hindenburg. It was a fatal mistake by Hindenburg and Hitler’s quasi-fascist partners, as Hitler was determined to overthrow Germany’s democratic system and install himself as absolute dictator. The quasi-fascists were shoved out of the Nazi government, and the aging and feeble Hindenburg pushed to the sidelines.
Once he was named Chancellor, Hitler and the Nazis moved swiftly, and within 100 days were able to smash all opposition and establish a total dictatorship. The Nazis unleashed a campaign of violence and terror against their opponents, not just the Communists, but all the opposition parties. By decree, civil liberties in the constitution were suspended. Opposition newspaper offices were sacked, leaders of the opposition parties viciously attacked. The Communists were effectively banned. Many leaders of the Social Democrats fled into exile, and party activists were driven underground. Meanwhile, the Centre Party was cowed into submission. In one last round of voting before elections were permanently suspended, the Nazis gained 44% of the votes, which with their quasi-fascist partners was just enough to gain a majority in the Reichstag.
But the real coup was gaining passage of the so-called Enabling Act. This law gave the Chancellor, Hitler, power to enact laws by decree, without any approval of the Reichstag. It also gave Hitler power to unilaterally suspend any provisions in the Constitution. In short, Hitler now had in his hands all the levers of state power, with no legal or institutional restraints.
The vote took place in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin (because the Reichstag building itself had had been destroyed in a suspicious fire). It was an atmosphere heavy with violence and intimidation. The historian Richard Evans quotes one deputy: "Young lads with the swastika on their chests... made us run the gauntlet, and shouted insults at us like 'Centrist pig,' 'Marxist sow.' In the Kroll Opera it was swarming with armed SA and SS." Otto Wels, the leader of the Social Democrats, gave the last opposition speech to be given in the Reichstag for twelve years. He concluded with the words, "Freedom and life can be taken from us, but not honor."
"Wels was not exaggerating," Evans writes. "Several prominent Social Democrats had already been killed by the Nazis, and he himself was carrying a cyanide capsule in his waist pocket as he spoke, ready to swallow should he be arrested and tortured by the brownshirts after delivering his speech."
Within a few months, Hitler decreed the Nazi Party to be the only legal political party in Germany. The Nazis announced a nationwide boycott of all Jewish businesses. Trade unions were outlawed. On the very day President Hindenburg died in 1934, all soldiers in the German Army were required to swear the “Hitler Oath,” pledging allegiance not to their country, but “unconditional obedience” to Adolf Hitler personally. And Hitler finally assumed his grandiose title of Der Fuhrer.
In 1935, the Nazi-controlled Reichstag passed the “Nuremburg Laws,” which stripped Jews of German citizenship, deprived them of all civil rights, and forbade marriage between Jews and those deemed German citizens. Jews were fired from government jobs, and forbidden to teach in universities or work in professions such as law and medicine. To emigrate, Jews had to give the Reich virtually all their assets as a “Jew tax.”
By 1935 the Nazi regime in all its essential details was firmly established in Germany. From dictatorship and racial terror at home, beginning in 1939 the Nazis would proceed to wars of aggression against their neighbors, and genocidal campaigns to murder millions of Jews, Polish and Russian civilians, Roma and homosexuals, and many more innocents. Some 75% of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe perished in the concentration camps. And although there are no precise tabulations of the victims, approximately 35 million people died in Europe during World War II before the Allies vanquished the Nazi snake.
So, which parts of this story apply to President Trump? Obviously, none, zero, nada, zilch. Joe Biden is safe at home in his basement. Rachel Maddow is still blathering away on MSNBC. Congress is still in session. And the radical leftists are still marching in the streets. But that doesn’t stop liberals from trying to tar Trump with the “dictator” or “would-be dictator” slur. And sad to say, a lot of Democratic voters are ignorant, easily misled, and easily scared (maybe that’s why they’re Democrats). So, it is up to us conservatives to stand up to their lies, and insist on honoring the historical facts. It is morally and intellectually obscene and profoundly dishonest for the liberals to use the memory of the victims of Nazi terror as a political weapon to win an election in our democracy.