Lighting The Match At The Reichstag

On 27 February 1933 the German Reichstag (parliament) building burned down. The cause of the fire is still not definitively known, but the Nazis are suspected of setting it. They then were able to exploit the situation by claiming that the Communists were behind it as the beginning of an uprising to overthrow the government. They convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to allow the Nazis under Chancellor Adolf Hitler to issue an emergency decree the following day. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree it allowed the suspension of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and allowed for the arrest of political opponents, the dissolving of political organizations, the ability to overrule state and local laws and the power to overthrow state and local governments, among other rights previously enjoyed in Germany. The following month the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933 effectively making Adolf Hitler a dictator.

Thankfully, we are not in such dire straits here in the United States. But we are inching ever closer to a total collapse of our democracy. As I mentioned in my last posting, the Texas Attorney General brought a suit to the Supreme Court asking the court to throw out the entirety of the ballots cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Oddly, it seems that the only election problems in the country are in swing states that Mr. Trump lost. The desired effect would be that Donald J. Trump then becomes president for another term. (And I will say more than one if this gambit succeeds.) Legal experts far and wide declared such a lawsuit a total travesty and predicted that the Supreme Court will not take the case.

I hope that the experts are correct, but even if they are, very un-American developments indicate further trouble ahead.

In the past few days, seventeen other states joined the suit supporting the Texas claim. Six others are in the process of joining. As of this writing, 106 of the 196 “Republican” members of the House have signed on to officially support the suit in court. This includes the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Trumpist – CA). Senator Ted Cruz (Trumpist – TX) volunteered to argue the case before the Court.

Think about that for a minute. Nearly half of the state Attorneys General in the United States are actively working to overturn a fair and free election and disenfranchise millions of our fellow citizens. Roughly 25% of all the members of the House and 55% of them in one of the two major parties think it wise, prudent, and legal to ignore their oath to the Constitution and instead pledge their allegiance to one man — a cult leader that wants to undo our democracy by claiming without evidence that the election was stolen from him. They explain away the lack of evidence, and the fact that “Rudy’s Travelling Circus” already lost more than 50 court cases trying to undo the election, by saying — and I wish I was kidding — that the fraud and deception was so masterful that they (whoever they are that perpetrated this heinous crime but the words “liberal socialists” comes up a lot) did not leave a single clue as to their nefarious deeds.

On Wednesday Mr. Trump himself dropped all pretense of what he was doing and moved on from claiming a fraudulent election to just plain saying that it needs to be overturned. He started the morning by Tweet saying simply “OVERTURN.”

It is just too scary. Anyone that wonders how otherwise educated populations can watch democracy get stolen and replaced by an autocrat need not wonder anymore.

So what happens when the Supreme Court throws out the suit? Your guess is as good as mine, but clearly no one in his party seems to be bothered by anything that Mr. Trump does no matter how harebrained, incredible, or illegal it may be. Mr. Trump only can take away one thing from this debacle. He can get away with anything and the majority of his party in leadership roles will support him or look the other way. He was more prophetic than we knew four years ago when Mr. Trump said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

The essence of our democracy is that we fight hard for our principles and policies, but that when the election is over, we put away our differences long enough for a peaceful transition of power. We honor the results of elections. For the first time in our history since at least the election of 1860, that is not happening. There is now a stark division in our country. There are those that believe in the power of democracy (Democrats, many independents, and the remaining real Republicans) and those that believe that if the election does not turn out in your favor, you change the result through any means necessary (Trump cultists). This is how democracy ends.

I remain steadfast in my belief that Joseph Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January 2021. However, I shudder at the damage that may be done to our country in the remaining six weeks before then. How can our government govern after January if a significant number of those in Congress refuse to recognize the legitimate transfer of power? How far will they take it? Will the Trumpists refuse to consent to Mr. Biden’s cabinet choices? Will they freeze all legislation to undermine the economy to make life as difficult as possible for the Biden Administration? The list could go on and on.

Our way of government ultimately rests on trust. Trust in our elections and their results are the foundation of our way of choosing officials and for them to govern. That trust is being deliberately threatened to suit the whims of one man. This is some bad stuff.

My reference to the Reichstag Fire is not me setting my hair on fire or yelling that the sky is falling. Not yet anyway. It does, however, have some frightening parallels to what is happening now and stands as a stark reminder that dictators and ruthless regimes don’t just show up out of nowhere. They grow from misconceptions, ruthless propaganda, and a population that goes along or chooses not to get involved.

Someone out there has a box of matches and is willing to use them. We must not let those that swore an oath to protect and defend our country give up our Constitutional rights in the name of one delusional wannabe dictator.

4 Comments on “Lighting The Match At The Reichstag”

  1. B. Filipiak says:

    So scary!

  2. elhabels says:

    This is terrifying

  3. richard P abels says:

    Trump’s motivation, I believe, is not because he wants to hang on to power. He much prefers haranguing at length at rallies of true believers than actually doing the work of president. That is why he governs by tweet. I don’t believe that Trump actually has a political ideology, outside of environmental deregulation to benefit real estate developers and low taxes for the rich and corporations. At least in that, Trump is a traditional establishment Republican. He adopted his anti-immigration, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-white Christian America stance to portray himself as the champion of the values of his target audience, the Republican core. He doesn’t give a damn whether a federal judge is an originalist or not–as if he would even understand what that legal doctrine is–, just as long as that judge remembers that he owes Trump his lifetime appointment. Everything with Trump is transactional. On the other hand, Trump’s racism, I think, is authentic, as it predates his political ambitions.
    Trump’s defiance of the election results is necessary to maintain his image and brand as a ‘winner.’ Unlike Monty Python’s Black Knight, Trump knows that he is not invincible, but like him, he cannot admit it. The Trump brand is his only money-maker. He hasn’t been a real estate developer or builder for decades. His failures at promoting products–Trump steaks, Ice, Vodka, Men’s Wear, Trump University, etc.–is almost comic. He has the distinction of owning a casino that went bankrupt. His great success has been to promote the image of being a canny businessman, deal-maker, and winner. He made a fortune playing that role on television. To admit that he lost the election to “the single worst candidate in the history of America” would reveal the bankruptcy of his brand. He will never concede the election and will insist that the election was “stolen” to the end. (That Trump’s supporters shout “Stop the Steal” while Trump attempts to steal the election is so Trumpian.) That way he will go out a winner. He is also using this to raise millions of dollars, which I believe will not go to funding a 2024 presidential campaign but will be used to help pay the debts that are coming due.)

    • Tom says:

      I agree. He only has as much power as we let him. And mostly he is just looking to make money. My concern is the 126 Members of Congress that forsook their oaths and supported a clearly un-Constitutional gambit to overturn an election. They have no excuse. They and those dozens more that stood idly by without calling them out are a disgrace to their office and to their country.

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