Cheap Seats 2017
A New Day - 01/25
By Rich Trzupek
It’s a new day. Will it be a better day? That remains to be seen. I hope it will, but I need to be convinced, as we all should need to be convinced whenever a new administration takes office. As a conservative, I’ve got plenty of reasons to doubt that President Trump is truly committed to conservative principles. On the other side, many liberals are sincerely worried that the new President will endanger their personal freedoms and rights of expression. I personally don’t believe that Trump will do so, but I could never find fault with anyone legitimately defending their God-given right to peacefully disagree with anyone else on planet earth.
There is a monumental difference between vigorously arguing in favor of one’s position and using one’s positon to eliminate the possibility of any argument. To this point, Trump has been a bare-knuckled brawler whom has used every weapon at his disposal, no matter how obnoxious, to fight back against his political opponents. Yet, at the same time, he has done nothing to try to silence those opponents, officially or unofficially. His role, until now and hopefully going forward, has been to win political arguments, not to eradicate them.
That distinction is important, now more than ever, as Trump’s political opponents go “all in” as they attempt to de-legitimize 45. So many, far too many, have chosen to play the Hitler card in desperation. I don’t know whether the Donald will be a good President or a mediocre one. None of us do. But I do know he’s not going be Hitler.
The Hitler comparison demonstrates an appalling lack of historical knowledge about how and why the Nazis seized power in Germany in the thirties. If you want to read the best analysis of how that disaster unfolded, read William L. Shirer’s classic Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Shirer was the Chicago Tribune’s European correspondent from 1925 through 1932 and reported from Nazi Germany from 1934 through 1940. No American was in a better position to bear witness to Hitler’s rise to power and Shirer’s book is an incredible and incredibly horrifying tale of how a civilized people could turn over their futures to a megalomaniac mass-murderer like the Austrian corporal. What follows is no substitute for reading Shirer, but is rather an abbreviated summary of just some of the conditions that existed in German in the 1930s that don’t exist in America in 2017.
In the 1930s a great many Germans despised democracy, believing it to be mob rule that was ruining their nation, and yearned for the return of a strong, central leader. If they couldn’t get the Kaiser back, they hoped to find another Bismarck. Left or right, Americans are little more committed to our representative form of government.
As bad as things were in America during the Great Depression, they were worse by an order of magnitude in Germany. Devaluation of the Mark led to a level of hyper-inflation the world has rarely seen. Stories of people pushing wheelbarrows full of money to buy a loaf of bread were common in Germany in those dark days. Our economy may be in the doldrums, but there’s been no break-down that comes close to that catastrophe.
A communist take-over of Germany was a very real fear for many Germans of the day, and not without reason. Some Germans fervently believed that a communist government would fix what ailed the Weimer Republic, while many others fervently believed that communism would be the death of Germany. Yes, we have deep divides in America today, but nothing like the political chasm that separated right from left in 1930s Germany.
Germany, a proud nation that was especially proud of its martial glory had recently been humiliated by losing World War I and being forced to sign the degrading and economically crippling Treaty of Versailles. Worse, most Germans believed that they had been winning the war, when their army was “stabbed in the back” by politicians who forced their brave soldiers to surrender.
Hitler, like Trump, was a charismatic speaker who appealed directly to the masses. That’s where the comparison ends. Trump wants to stop citizens of other nations from entering this country illegally. Hitler wanted to wipe people belonging to “inferior races” (including mine) off the face of the earth.
Trump wants to secure America’s borders. Hitler wanted to expand Germany’s borders. Trump wants to reduce America’s involvement in world affairs (something I don’t particularly agree with). Hitler wanted Germany to be the dominant force on earth.
Hitler wanted to, and did, completely transform the form of Germany’s government from a constitutional republic to a tyranny in which he was the sole, supreme authority. Some of us may not agree with what Trump hopes to accomplish under the Constitution, just as I disagreed with many of the things Obama did, but I do not believe either wants to replace that particular document with something else.
The Trump years may be fabulous, they may be a disappointment and they may be anything in-between. I have no idea. But, whatever they will be, they won’t see the birth of Hitleresque tyranny and oppression in America. And, if I may be so bold, when my friends on the left make such ridiculous claims they only guarantee their increased irrelevance.