The Difference between Germany in 1930 and the USA in 2020

Although the week still has to complete, it looks like our Democracy is going to hold. Regardless of how many insurrectionists protests or other trouble we have the rest of the week, our Democracy is going to hold.

There had been a lot of commentary back in September after the publication of an article in the Atlantic demonstrating all the ways that President Drumpf could refuse to concede the election and cheat his way back into office. At the time the Donald refused on a number of occasions to assure the American people that he would accept the results of the election. True to form, although he lost by more than 7 million votes (and 74 electoral college votes), Drumpf has yet to concede the election.

The election was rigged, but rigged in Drumpf’s favor. Despite the many efforts to suppress voter registration and mail-in voting, and the various other ways that Republicans tried to give Drumpf the advantage, Biden still pulled out a solid victory, albeit one that was not the full-throated repudiation that progressives all over the world were hoping for.

For the entirety of Drumpf’s presidency I have been debunking comparisons between the Drumpf administration and Nazi Germany – and, in fact, I started working on this article way back in September – but I do want, for the sake of the historical record, to list some of the many ways that the United States in 2020 is not like Germany in 1930.

Germany in 1930USA in 2020
Although there were authoritarian regimes before, they were almost exclusively monarchial, instead of fascist.[1]We have the benefit of knowing how fascism developed historically, and what the danger signs are.
Hitler had his own private army, mostly remnants of the Freikorps from World War I.[2]Trump does not have his own private army (although he clearly has some insurrectionist supporters).
While Hitler did not “invent” the NAZI party, he had been leading it for decades by the time he took power.[3]Trump has hijacked the Republican party, but the party’s principles and historical positions are largely in opposition to what Trump believes.
The German army was almost completely neutered after World War I, and offered very limited resistance to Hitler or his private armies.[4]The United States military is quite principled with a strong code of honor, and the military has already signaled that it will not allow itself to be used by Trump in an election dispute.
Hitler was a very devious strategic thinker, and he made strategic use of the “big lie.”Trump is not a strategic thinker at all. He has only one playbook, which is to lie and then double-down on the lie.
Hitler had the balls to assassinate his rivals. (See the “Night of the Long Knives” if you don’t know what I mean.)[5]Trump doesn’t even have the courage to fire people himself, his tagline on the Apprentice notwithstanding.
Germany had almost no institutional experience with Democracy, and the Weimar Republic had only been functioning for 12 years in 1930.[6]The United States has had 244 years of experience with the longest running continuous democratic institutions on the planet.
For various reasons, the previous Brüning administration had already set the precedent of governing through emergency decrees.[7]There is no such precedent here in the United States, although the Trump administration has exposed many unexpected frailties in our current system of government.[8]
Germany had a very limited record relative to the peaceful transition of power, having only been a Constitutional Republic since 1919.[9]The United States has an unbroken 244 record relative to the peaceful transition of power, and even Republicans have (largely) committed to the continuation of that tradition.

There is one very specific way in which the Drumpf administration emulated the NAZIs, however, and that has to do with their use of propaganda. The Drumpf administration – starting with the day after Drumpf’s inauguration – abandoned the truth in favor of “alternative facts.”

I always thought that in the sophisticated media universe of 2020, one wouldn’t be able to get away with such obvious and disingenuous lying, but I’ve obviously been proven wrong. The Republicans are now the counter-factual party, but I don’t think that will serve them well in the long run.

[1] Fascism, as a system of thought, really first developed in 1919 through Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and “The Manifesto of the Italian Fasces of Combat” (the Fascist Manifesto).

[2] The Freikorps were largely irregular German paramilitary units formed from the remnants of disarmed World War I forces, who had been left adrift without many job prospects or other ways to occupy their time.

[3] The NAZI Party was actually established by Anton Drexler in 1918 as the “Free Workers’ Committee for a good Peace,” but it wasn’t long before it was rebranded as the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, and eventually the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (abbreviated in German as NSDAP). Hitler took over the leadership of the party in 1921.

[4] While German icon and President Paul von Hindenburg was still alive, Hitler was fairly careful not to confront the official German army directly, but after von Hindenburg’s death in 1934, all restraint was gone.

[5] The “Night of the Long Knives” was an event that took place over several (not one) nights at the end of June in 1934, where Hitler had members of his private army assassinate most of his important rivals in the NAZI party, and a few others that Hitler considered a threat. The final total over three days was 85 people murdered.

[6] The Weimar Republic only existed for 14 years from 1919 to 1933, and was Germany’s first foray into a constitutional republic.

[7] The Administration of Heinrich Brüning was beset by many very substantial challenges, and because he got very little cooperation from the Reichstag – which had become populated by extremists from both sides of the political spectrum – he began (with von Hindenburg’s blessing) to rule more and more through emergency decrees (thereby setting an unfortunate precedent for Hitler to do the same).

[8] Some of these frailties include the limited procedural rules around the impeachment process, unnecessary limits on the criminal prosecution of sitting presidents, limits on the rules relative to the rules around the emoluments clause, and the Congress’ current inability or unwillingness to enforce their own subpoenas.

[9] Germany wasn’t unified as a single state until 1871, at which point in time it was mostly a Prussian-dominated “empire” under the leadership of a “Kaiser.”

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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1 Response to The Difference between Germany in 1930 and the USA in 2020

  1. Michael Robbins says:

    Hi Jurgen – I have been deeply appreciating your thoughts and reflections on the political events of our day. You are a sane and clear thinker! Thank you so much for doing this! Hope that you are happy, healthy and thriving!

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