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Op-Ed

Making it legal

September 23, 2022

U.S. politics are fast approaching the situation of Germany at the collapse of the Weimar Republic.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

In November 1932, Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany, after two elections that year had failed to produce a majority government. Hitler was sworn in on Jan. 30, 1933, along with his colleague Hermann Göring, as Minister Without Portfolio.

There’s a scary title for you.

What should alarm us today is that after being appointed — not elected — Hitler rushed through so much legislation within 30 days of taking office that everything he did after then was legal, according to Ralf Dahrendorf’s authoritative 1967 book, “Society and Democracy in Germany.”

Let’s look at the parallels between Germany then and the United States now.

Hitler was appointed only because of frustrations with the electoral process. There are differences, of course: No one contested the legitimacy of the July and November 1932 elections; they simply failed to produce a majority government. That’s a different, and more honest state of perplexity than we live with today, in which the very bases of electoral politics are under attack by an extreme right-wing party.

Though Hitler was installed in office on Jan. 30, 1933, he actually “seized power” four weeks later, after the Reichstag fire, which he attributed to Communists, though its true cause remains uncertain. Many historians believe it was a manufactured crisis, and that the fire actually was set by members of Hitler’s Nazi party. Mass torchlight parades through Berlin and elsewhere, featuring members of Hitler’s brownshirts, helped cement Hitler’s grip on power.

Compare this to the violent United the Right march in Charlottesville, Va., and the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and Trump’s overt sympathy and appeals to right-wing fascist groups — Trump’s brownshirts — the Proud Boys and QAnon.

Trump’s repeated lies about election fraud are his own re-creation of the Reichstag fire: a phony “crisis” meant to cement himself in power. And like Trump, Hitler decried Communists and “international capitalists,” who allegedly wanted to destroy the government that Hitler actually destroyed.

Dahrendorf’s point about the de facto legalization of whatever the (appointed) Fűhrer wanted to do provides a blueprint for the Republican Party’s assault on government. In our gridlocked politics today, appointed officials have become legislators, above all on the U.S. Supreme Court.

For at least 10 years — since Barack Obama and then Joe Biden were elected — the Republican Party’s openly professed objective has been to prevent the government from governing. Mitch McConnell said it right out loud in 2009, and continues to do so today.

His unethical refusal to call a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland in 2016, followed by his shoving Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court as Trump’s term expired were overt, and successful, efforts to allow unelected political appointees write our laws.

It’s clear: Republicans want to disable and prevent Congress from making law. They want their party’s appointees to do it.

They prefer, and have been able, to disconnect the federal government from the people it governs: to allow and encourage their appointed, unelected minions, to wreak the Party’s wrath upon us. Trump’s three Supreme Court judges above all, followed by the lickspittle Aileen Cannon, who presides under the Mar-a-Lago catastrophe.

What a disgrace to our republic — to the very idea of a republic.

It is not alarmist to compare the MAGA Republicans to the Nazis. Just consider all the parallels above. It is high time that Americans consider all these parallels, realize the direction that the Republican Party is leading us, and ask yourself the question: What are you going to do about it?

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