“You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”
— Joni Mitchell
Germany’s Weimar Republic was established in 1919 as a parliamentary democracy with a constitution granting German citizens virtually the same right as the U.S. Constitution. To wit, the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, private property and equal opportunity and earnings in the workplace. It established separate executive, legislative [Parliament] and judicial branches independent of one another. It also mandated that representatives of the people be elected every four years. The constitution specified there be a president, somewhat similar in responsibility and power to the U.S. President, and a chancellor, appointed by the president, who was the head of the German Parliament.
Yet, by 1933 Adolph Hitler managed to turn Germany into a dictatorship. How could that happen in a democracy? And could it happen in America?
Whether by design or by instinct, Trump has followed Hitler’s tactics in his path to power:
- Hitler built his campaign around making Germany “great.” Trump’s rallying cry is “Make America Great again.”
- Hitler gave the German people enemies — the Jews — to hate, blaming them for many of Germany’s problems. What he couldn’t blame on the Jews, he blamed on communists, socialists and liberals. Trump campaign of hate and fear blames our problems on immigrants, Muslims and Liberals.
- Hitler had his own media outlets and attacked any media that showed him in a bad light as the enemy. Trump uses Fox News and an army of right-wing bloggers, talk hosts and commentators to deflect attention from his failings and shady activities while supporting his conspiracy theories. Any criticism of him, he labels as “fake news.”
- Some German Christians believed Hitler was a gift from God because of his opposition to [anti-God] communists and his promise to restore Germany’s traditional values by coming out against, among other things, homosexuality, liberalism and abortion. Trump has gained the fanatical support of American evangelical Christians with much of the same arguments. They, too, consider Trump anointed by God to return America to its traditional [white-dominated] values and morals in spite of his demonstrated lack of morals and his consistent promotion of hate, fear and violence.
- Hitler loved rallies of thousands of adoring fans to spread lies and propaganda. Trump clearly loves rallies. He uses these to rail against groups and individuals he identifies as enemies. These rallies serve to propagate his lies, misstatements and conspiracies. Since becoming president, he has told over 20,000 lies and misleading statements [as of July 13, 2020, documented by the New Your Times].
- Hitler had a private militia he used to intimidate and inflict violence on his enemies. They were known as the “Brown Shirts” and were eventually replaced by the SS. Trump has already tested the concept of a private army when he sent what appeared to be law enforcement officers to harass peaceful demonstrators in Portland, Oregon. These officers had no organizational or personal identification and they arrived in vehicles that had no identifying marks. He has since made what are obvious overtures to unsanctioned white supremacist militias.
In the November, 1932, election Hitler’s Nazi party received 33 percent of the vote. By January, 1933, the German President, Paul Von Hindenburg, needing the support of the Nazi party to pass legislation, appointed Hitler Chancellor.
The last thing that paved the way for Hitler to take total control of Germany was the Reichstag fire that occurred in February of 1933, a short time after Hitler had been named Chancellor and only six days before the next general election. The Reichstag is roughly equivalent to our Capitol Building. While there is plenty of evidence [not at the time but in retrospect] that the fire was started by Nazi’s, Hitler used his propaganda machine quickly placed the blame on communists. Calling it a national emergency Hitler convinced Hindenburg to invoke Article 48 which suspended most civil liberties. Hitler immediately began arresting members of the German Communist Party, including those members who were members of Parliament. With those member unable to act, the Nazi party in cooperation with the German National Worker’s Party controlled 52 percent of parliament. He also used this power to intimidate and jail members of other major political parties until he had achieved a two-thirds majority in Parliament which allowed the Nazis to pass the “Enabling Act” which gave Hitler the power of rule by decree, circumventing constitutional protections and, essentially, making him a dictator answering to no one. This continued until the end of WWII.
Since Hitler found the judicial branch less than cooperative, he set up his own court system which eventually supplanted the constitutional judiciary.
Will Trump go so far as to create his own national emergency and, then, use the Republican majority in the Senate to give him similar powers backed up by the many federal and Supreme Court justices hand-picked by him?