By Brian McKay
I am sitting here at 11.40 pm starting this article with a cup of coffee next to me and looking at the delegate counts. Tired would be the perfect explanation. The last couple nights have seen me burning the candles at both ends in order to write and work. Tonight will be a late one with a longer piece than zenruption normally does. More coffee please.
As of this moment, Donald Trump has 274 delegates. Senator Cruz has 149 and Senator Rubio has 82. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination and Trump has the momentum. It has made me think.
Over the years, Hitler references have been thrown around the Internet with a greater frequency than Applebees under cooks their food (that’s a lot). President Obama has been compared repeatedly to a certain Adolf while also being called a communist dictator (that communists and fascist are completely fucking different is another story entirely).
I hate it. Totally hate it. History is sacred to me and nothing happens in a vacuum. A few stupid coincidences of someone’s birth to a single mother and held outdoor rallies, doesn’t mean your President is going to run off and start exterminating people. Every time that comparison has been thrown around I absolutely cringe. The same people that believe that the United States was created by God through the Founding Fathers and that Columbus really was a hero, are at it again.
Both co-founders of zenruption have lived in Germany and speak the language fluently. Both of us are very reverent to the actual societal conditions that caused someone like Hitler to come to power. I will personally never forget sitting in Dr. Stackelberg’s (yes he was German) Origins of Nazism history class and spending an entire semester studying 100 years of literature, plays and social convention that lead to the rise of National Socialism in Germany. We read Lenz and Leona and poured over all the factors that created the rise of a former military private and failed painter. It so happens that Adolf guy just didn’t come out of nowhere.
Societies have long lead ups to major shifts in culture and politics. One who studies history learns that such things can build for decades and decades.
So how the fuck did I miss this one? How is it I just now surmised that this time there actually is a historical precedence to explain what is happening in my country?
Honestly, I previously dismissed the xenophobia as stupidity, the violence at the rallies as just some riled up masses, the little "Freedom Kids" girls singing the rally cry as simply misguided (see below) and the supporters as just a vagabond bunch of marginalized, blue collar, white males. It was previously disgraceful to compare our now to such an awful period in history that should never be forgotten, as it would diminish it.
Now, I own being wrong. This is much more than I thought. It is the rise of authoritarianism among a significant portion of our population in what is supposed to be the home of Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Madison and the rest of the Founders I so adore.
The signs are all there and I missed them because I thought such comparisons were utterly ridiculous. Unfortunately, the more I look the more I see the mid 1920’s in Germany and the lead up that brought it all to be.
Fascism is essentially extreme nationalism. Forget the fact that it was called National Socialism. It wasn’t socialism (I frigging hate that assumption); it was submission to the state out of fear. After his release from prison in Landsberg, in 1924, Adolf Hitler played off of the fears of the German populous by blaming and invoking hatred of several group as enemies of the state. It wasn’t just the Jews, but the communists, intellectual elite, progressive Catholic priests, Romani people, etc. that were at some point deemed as threats. Hitler catapulted to absolute power in 1933 by burning the Reichstag (the home of the German Parliament) and blaming it on the communists. This led to a suspension of democracy that was supported by a scared and inflamed populous.
Does this sound like a scared and inflamed populous in 2016? Yeah.
75 percent of Republicans support banning Muslims from the country. 33 percent of Trump supporters want to ban members of the LGBTQ community from the country and 20 percent believe that Lincoln shouldn’t have freed the slaves. They embrace extreme nationalism and a revisionist historical narrative that would make the Founding Fathers cringe.
Hitler emboldened a disaffected German public and promised to restore Germany from the deleterious effects of a weak Weimar Republic, massive inflation and the loss of territory in the Rhein region, all due to submission to the Treaty of Versailles that was signed at the end of WWI.
Trump supporters envision a restoration of America that they romanticize from the past, much as Hitler espoused returning Germany to its former glory. Disaffected, white, male blue collar workers that have seen their prospects reduced under globalization and trickle-down economics are joining forces with other cross sections that are willing to abandon previously held political beliefs for a strong man that claims he can fix everything. That they are willing to support a man that hold some beliefs one would consider antithetical to true conservative beliefs, shows that they were really all driven by fear to begin with.
The lead up to Nazi Germany was found in fatalistic beliefs and coupled with the diminished prospects the country saw after 1914 and the loss of WWI. Germans still practiced dueling as a way to settle grievances into the 1900’s, long after other Western nations had banned the practice. They used terms like “liebestod” (the willingness to die to express ones love for another) and romanticized the past that was the Holy Roman Empire. Mythology and holding on to an archaic past drove extreme nationalism. Fear was what harnessed it.
I am seeing much of this in the lead up to Trump. Our past is revised, mythology reigns supreme as the supporters claim our country was founded by God. Trump supporters are looking for a restoration of former empire. They don’t want compromise with other nations, they want us to “win”. Recent shifts in society that include the acceptance of gay marriage have left them feeling marginalized and threatened. The rise of “religious freedom” movements are their form of push back in order to reassert the supremacy of their beliefs and regain prominence. That white Americans are slowly moving into the minority might scare them most of all.
And now it is all clear. The evolving debate over 20 years. Ascendancy of the Tea Party as a result of this nation’s first black president. Unfounded fears of communism growing stronger and political memes propagating social media that utilize simplistic themes, poor logic and resemble authoritarian rally cries.
Yep, I missed it. Sure, I’ll own that. In some way I wanted to think better of us. Part of me wanted to believe that we would never go there. Maybe in the absence of the Soviet Union and communism as our enemies after 1989 we needed a new enemy. Somehow we managed to make it ourselves.
While I would never say that the U.S. would ever become Nazi Germany, there are a few scary correlations. We won't ever institute concentration camps and exterminate populations, but the authoritarian side of the country is certainly coming out right now. Yes, Hitler is always an extreme comparison and one I hesitate to make at all times, but maybe the extreme comparison in this article shows that we truly are moving into uncharted waters.
There is one hope. In seeing the rise of this destructive force that threatens democracy and the vision of this country’s founders through a political strong man; I hope those that can “see” finally start to get active. The new authoritarians mobilize to vote in greater numbers and live and breathe their political self-identity as much as they eschew life balance. It isn’t easy to counter such political rabidity, but now we have to and save ourselves from the rise of authoritarianism.
Go and zenrupt some politics.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption. He has his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Gonzaga University and his MBA from Boise State University. He thinks he finished writing this at 2am. It remains to be seen if this thing makes any sense as he was loopy after 3 cups of coffee. Yes, Brian was really motivated to rally the zenruptors to counteract this existential threat to our society.