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Thinking the Unthinkable: The Reichstag Fire Decree and Today

partridge if you can't be a dictator

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday I wrote about the Reichstag Fire and the resultant Order of the President of the Reich for the Protection of People and State or as it is more often known as the Reichstag Fire DecreeI wrote about how perilously close that I really believe that we are to a Reichstag Fire moment in our country today.

On February 27th 1933 Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party which was still a minority party in a coalition government of partners that wouldn’t have minded his failure, became recipients of of a political gift that allowed them to seize power under the very provisions of the Republic and Constitution that they despised. A Dutch Communist The very next day Hitler with the backing of President Paul von Hindenburg issued a decree under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution which though directed at the German Communist Party, which was banned along with its publications, applied to every political party in Germany.

Barely three weeks later the Reichstag, now emptied of Communists deputies gave its approval to the Enabling Act which gave the central government, that is Hitler to enact laws without the approval of the Reichstag, effectively ending any sort of parliamentary democracy and eviscerating the constitution.  These acts gave the central government in Berlin to usurp State governments in States where non-Nazi parties held democratic majorities and to outlaw political opposition. The Social Democrats who voted against both laws were banned shortly after the Enabling Act was passed. Their leader in the Reichstag, Otto Weis proclaimed the last free words uttered in the Reichstag:

“No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible … You can take our lives and our freedom, but you cannot take our honour. We are defenseless but not honourless.” 

The other political parties in Germany, including the conservative parties and center parties who had allied themselves with Hitler voted to dissolve themselves by the end of July 1933. None of the conservative opposition wanted to face the wrath of Hitler or his newly established extrajudicial Concentration Camps which were not run by the Ministry of Justice, but the Nazi Party.

In Germany it was the burning of the Reichstag but in any crisis the same could happen here. I think this is very possible with President Trump and a compliant Republican Party which has surrendered any sense of responsibility, including the defense of things that it fought against for years in order to maintain power by supporting a man that just two years ago most mocked and opposed; so much like the non-Nazi German conservatives and Hitler. Sadly, the Republicans don’t even have the excuse of an alleged national emergency to throw away all principle.

Now let’s think about today and lets let our minds wander into possibilities that are much more likely than they would have been a few years ago. So let’s take a journey to a future where most of us would not want to go. I mean really, I don’t want these things to happen, if not for any other reasons than things than effect me.  I want to attend my 40th high school reunion on September 1st and a trip to Germany to the Oktoberfest and to visit our German friends later that month.  So some things are about me, I mean if were going to lose all of our freedoms I want to get a few bucket list items in, but I digress, let’s go back to the unimaginable.

I would say close your eyes but then you wouldn’t be able to read unless you have some sort of software that turns my written words into spoken words, or unless you want me to start a podcast. If you want the latter make it worth it by doing something to get me a few extra bucks for more beer before everything goes to hell.

Let us imagine that following increased tensions and the failure of diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula a coordinated preemptive attack is launched by North Korean agents using Sarin nerve agent in the New York Subways and Washington Metro. In Chicago a SAM-7 Surface to Air Missile hits a United Airline Boeing 777 carrying almost 300 people on its descent into O’Hare Airport. As this is happening dirty bombs are deployed by other agents against major ports in Long Beach, Houston, Charleston, and Norfolk, while hackers shut down major computer networks controlling oil pipelines in the Midwest and Southeast causing oil spills and shutting down much of the nation’s petroleum distribution.  Of course the someone claiming to represent the Islamic State will claim responsibility while the North Koreans deny any responsibility, sowing some doubt and confusion as to who did what.

While Federal, State and local law enforcement investigate at the points of attack, the FBI, CIA and NSA attempt to ascertain if and what foreign power or terrorist group was behind the attacks. In the mean time the country goes into a panic. Thousands of people were killed and injured in the subways, airports and maritime ports shut down, and prices soar, and Wall Street crashes, dumping some 30% of its value in three days. Prices for imported goods skyrocket, and the all commercial air traffic is grounded leaving millions of people stranded.

In response the President invokes measures from National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-20 of 4 May 2007, while Congress by a wide margin grants him the authority to pursue the attackers both at home and abroad. Neither the President’s opponents in the GOP or most Democrats object, after all it was about national security and the nation had been attacked; people had died, and the economy was in a major crisis.

The President, whose poll numbers were cratering and was coming closer to being implicated in by the Muller investigation uses these new powers to shut down opposition to him, including the Muller investigation in the name of national security, the siren song of all tyrants. Democrats in Congress finally realize that they have been outmaneuvered in the crisis but ti is too late, their protests go nowhere and they are labeled enemies of the state, as are responsible journalists who seek to uncover the truth. Those protesting the violations of the Constitution are jailed indefinitely without being charged in Federal and State facilities as well as for profit prisons.

As the investigation leads to the North Koreans, the President orders attacks on North Korea, leading to a nuclear exchange and major land war on the Korean Peninsula. While North Korea is obliterated, South Korea and Japan take massive hits, as do the American bases on Okinawa, Guam, and Pearl Harbor, all of which are hit by North Korean nuclear missiles. Martial law is declared and elections postponed indefinitely with the promise that once the crisis is over that they will be restored. Despite the disasters the President’s approval rating shoots up from under 40% to nearly 65%. A Supreme Court Justice who went along with the emergency degrees would later say:

“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within, and successfully attacked by enemies abroad. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Trump meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Make America Great Again! Be proud to be American! There are devils among us. Liberals, Jews, Muslims, Immigrants, Gays! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.” (*adapted from the speech of Ernst Janning in Judgment at Nuremberg) 

Thankfully none of this has not happened, but if Americans fail to appreciate the danger that lays ahead then all bets are off. Those who cooperate in moves to damage and undermine the American experiment in democracy and a constitutional republic with its safeguards and checks and balances will be show by their inaction and lack of resistance the truth of historian Dr. Timothy Snyder’s words: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

Those that might doubt my concerns need only to look at the life and actions of President Trump, the cunning of North Korea, and the hyper-partisan nature and gullibility of much of the American electorate, and the response of the United States government and populace during past crises and threats to our national existence.

That cannot be allowed to happen.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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The State of the Union, the Surrender of Principal, and a Historical Coincidence: Trump, Nunes, Schacht, Hungenberg, and Von Papen

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today is a curious day for a minor historian like me.hopefully someday I will be considered a major historian but that aside I love the study of history and its connections to the present day, but I digress…

Today is the day that President Trump will deliver his State of the Union Address reading from a teleprompter, talking about bipartisanship, and how great he has made America. Until he begins his Twitter Storm tomorrow morning his speech will be hailed by members of the mainstream media as being “Presidential,”  in the same kind of language that Fahreed Zakaria praised the tele-Trumpter speech the President made at Davos. For eight hours tonight the mainstream media will be lost in Presidential  praises even as the Fox News Pundits break into chants of “Seig Heil!,” but I digress, because by noon Wednesday things will be back to normal.

But it is also a day where Congressman Devin Nunes will release a report attacking the veracity and motivations of FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the investigation of the President and his advisors attempts to collude with a hostile foreign power and obstruct justice before and after the 2016 election. This is actually very remarkable because it is something that has never happened in the history of the House of Representatives regarding a case involving national security. Personally, back during my 32 years as a Republican I always thought that House or Senate Democrats might do something like this but they disappointed me by never stooping to release information that might obstruct justice while at the same time kneecapping Federal law enforcement agencies. Honestly I used to think that undermining national security was something that Democrats did, I never, even after I left the GOP in 2008 thought it was something that Republicans would do; but Congressman Nunes and is compatriots are determined to ruin my fantasy that the GOP was really a pro-law and order and national security party. I mean really, even after I left the GOP their arguments about being strong on national security and pro-law enforcement gave me a hard on, but even with the blue pill I don’t think that I could get it up again after Mr. Nunes’s antics.

Coincidently today is the 85th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s accession to power, something that happened quite to the surprise of Hitler as well as the leaders of the non-Nazi political parties on the German Right and Left. The non-Nazi German conservatives thought that they could control him, just like GOP stalwarts thought that they could control then Candidate Trump in 2016.

You see I don’t think of the GOP as a new version of the Nazi Party. No, they aren’t that clever. I see them as more akin to the German conservative parties who less than six months after they helped Hitler become Chancellor, dissolved themselves in hope of keeping a place at the table in the New Germany. They are the Von Papen’s, the Hindenburg’s; they are Alfred Hugenberg, Hjalmar Schacht, and the other leaders of the DVNP (German People’s Nationalist Party), the Catholic Center Party, and others who sacrificed their honor, integrity, and self-respect to gain a place at the table of Hitler. By and large Nunes and the other members of the GOP who engage in what they are doing doom their party and very likely the country.

So today go out and lift a glass and maybe even light a tiki torch to men like the President, Congressman Nunes, his committee, and their supporters at Fox News. Let Nunes and other be like Hjalmar Schacht who proclaimed his loyalty to and defended Hitler’s Third Reich internationally, but who in the words of Supreme court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson was “The most dangerous and reprehensible type of all opportunists, someone who would use a Hitler for his own ends, and then claim, after Hitler was defeated, to have been against him all the time. He was part of a movement that he knew was wrong, but was in it just because he saw it was winning.”

Be assured; tonight I will raise a glass and I will drink, maybe until I will am legally drunk; but it will be to bolster myself for the struggle for the Constitution and country that lay ahead. I can do no less.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Trump and the Alt-Right: it can Happen Here

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am writing this before the final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I will blog my comments about the debate later and those observations will be posted tomorrow morning. 

But tonight I have just a thought. Most of my readers know my background in history and the history of the Weimar and Nazi eras, and some know that my primary history professor when I was an undergraduate was an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials. As such I have spent much of my life studying those eras as well as the trials themselves. When teaching ethics at the Staff College I spend a good amount of time on the subject in order that the men and women who will be advising leaders at the operational and strategic levels of warfare and national security strategy will understand just how important it is not just to follow orders, and to weigh ethics, morality, and international law when they propose a course of action to our civilian and military policy makers. 

I just finished reading Robert E. Conot’s book Justice at Nuremberg which was published in my junior year of college back in 1981. That was an era when the people that now refer to themselves as the Alt Right were in full Holocaust denial mode. Not only that the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party were riding a temporary wave of popularity. Conot wrote this as he ended his masterpiece about the Nuremberg trials:

“The begetters of the ultra-right-wing movement that denies the Holocaust and sanitize the Nazi regime and sugarcoat the culpability of its leaders are the successors to the proponents of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In place of the fiction that the Jews are conspiring to dominate the world, they proposed the Big Lie that the Holocaust is a myth, designed by the Jews for ulterior purposes. The new anti-Semites use the same techniques as the old, and their goal is also the same. To denigrate and discredit not only the Jewish faith but all men of liberal and democratic persuasion, so as to pave the way for a rescrudivence of persecution and tyranny…

In lockstep with these pernicious propagandists March new-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating for “Aryan” supremacy, urging the deportation of Jews and blacks, employing Hitlerian euphemisms, and manipulating democratic processes and guarantees in the same manner as Hitler a century ago. Never let it be forgotten thatHitler exploited the freedom granted him by the Weimar constitution to destroy the republic. The rise of a new Hitler in an industrial nation may be remote, but it is not impossible. Given the proper combination of circumstances, no country, including the United States, is immune.” 

That is where we stand today. Donald Trump makes the same threats against political opponents as did Hitler. He singles out liberal Jews, hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, women, Gays, Democrats, and even Republican opponents as he launches his vitriolic Twitter tirades at all hours of the day. His strongest supporters seem to be the members of what is now called the “Alt-Right” which is little more than a polite and politically correct term for Nazis and Kansmen including the former head of the KKK, David Duke. Armed Alt-Right Trump supporters are already menacing Democratic offices, threatening all opponents, and preparing to create havoc at polling places. 

Like Hitler before him, Trump is working to discredit the democratic process from within, and providing his most strident and potentially violent and already hate-filled supporters with the argument that the election is fixed and that he is opposed by the liberal media. It is an old and tired argument, not at all dissimilar to those of Hitler and Goebbels in the 1932 German Presidential election which Hitler lost to Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, and which they used to destroy their political opponents after Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933. 

Trump and his Alt-Right supporters are truly dangerous, and not just to those who oppose them today. They are equally dangerous to those who for whatever reason chose to support him now, just as they were to the German conservatives who initially supported Hitler and then found out that they had supported a criminal. 

We can never forger the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who wrote:

“I found myself wondering about that too.I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true Hitler betrayed me. I had an audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became chancellor in 1932. Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreeed not to allow programs against the Jews, assuring me as follows: “There will be restrictions against the Jews, but no ghettos, no programs, in Germany, at that time… I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and Communists. Their hostility toward the church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not mine alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” 

Unlike so many of the “conservative Christians” who now wholeheartedly support Trump, I will not be deceived. I know the price. I have been to Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I have been to Nuremberg. As a historian I know exactly who Trump is and what he promises, and I will not stop speaking out. 

Until tomorrow, or maybe even later tonight, 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Prelude to Tyranny


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Was amazed last night when Senator Ted Cruz; a man I have never had anything good to say about; went into the seething, hate filled arena in Cleveland hosting the coronation of Donald Trump and made a speech that probably destroyed his political career. Standing firm as delegates screamed angry and even violent epitaphs at him, he refused to endorse Trump. Instead, he told Republicans to vote their conscience. Some delegates became so enraged that Cruz’s wife had to be escorted out for her own safety. 

Now personally I wouldn’t give a bag of donuts for Cruz, and I have frequently criticized his very theocratic vision of America, but I admired his courage last night. During the campaign Trump did all that he could to destroy Cruz, even accusing Ted’s nutcase father of being connected to the assassination of President Kennedy. Cruz had nothing to gain from what he did had he even given a weak endorsement he would have saved his career in Trump’s GOP, a party that no longer resembles that of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or Ronald Reagan. But had he done that, he would have been safe.

But he didn’t and I applaud his Trump has recreated the GOP in his image, and Cruz will have no place in it. Nor will any Republican who has raised a voice against him. They are considered traitors by Trump and his loyalists, and those who attempt to placate him should they have second thoughts about their opposition, will find that they will pay a heavy price, even if Trump loses the election. Trump and his stalwart base will never forgive or forget, and the words that some of his supporters which threaten violence, will likely be followed with real violence. This is not normal. It is not what our founders intended, it is the nature of an anti-democratic and violent mass movement. 

You might wonder why I say this, after all we are more advanced in this country than to stoop to such actions, but to people who nurse fanatical grievances, this is quite normal. American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.” For many of Trump’s followers, especially the religious ones, the Trump candidacy has become a holy crusade and all opponents within and outside the GOP are agents of the Devil himself, while those who are faithful are the elect, who lose themselves in the movement, for it and its leader are greater than them, which excuses them from personal responsibility for any violence. This was true in Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and the Soviet Union. 

Hoffer wrote, 

“There is also this: when we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage but are also rid of personal responsibility. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgment. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom—freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse.”

The responses among the faithful, especially some conservative who I know on social media to what Cruz did is frightening. Just a few months ago many of them saw Cruz as their political savior, a man who was going to bring the Christian Dominionist agenda into the Presidency. Now he is called a traitor, a liar, and worse by the same people, who now have transferred their allegiance to Trump just as quickly as conservative German Christians dumped their political affiliations in old line conservative parties, including those which were political wings of churches for the Nazis. 

Since I have already read the leaked text of Trump’s speech I will wait until tomorrow to discuss it. But for what I see it is filled with lies and distortions to instill fear and unite people behind him as the only person who can fix it. It is the same line of attack used by Hitler to vault into the Chancellorship, and well, you know the rest. Hitler had his conservative opponents jailed, including opponents in the Nazi Party, sent to concentration camps, or murdered as quickly as he did others, even faster than he did to the Jews. So if I was Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham or one of the others GOP leaders who have criticized Trump, I would watch my back. 

So if you plan on watching Trump’s speech I suggest that you start drinking heavily. As for me I am following Andrew Sullivan’s live blog over at the nymag.com as I watch the speech, which reminds me of Triumph of the Will without the Hitlerian charm. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Descent into Collective Madness: When All You have Left is Hate…


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great American philosopher Eric Hoffer once wrote, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.” Last night the Republican convention managed to sink deeper into the realm of collective madness than any American political party ever has. 

A no point in the evening was a case made for the positive merits of the GOP nominee, Donald Trump. Instead the headlining speakers,mNew Jersey governor Chris Christie and retired neuro-surgeon, failed presidential candidate religious fanatic Ben Carson set the tone for not just the convention, but the campaign. Without a positive message all they had left was to stoke a white-hot inferno of hatred toward Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Christie used his speech not to promote Trump, but to turn policy decisions made in part by Clinton into crimes and soon he had the delegates, conditioned by over twenty years of anti-Hillary hate and propaganda preached by right-wing talk radio and conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, Ruch Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the entirety of the Fox News network worked into a frenzy, arms outstretched like Nuremberg rally attendees dying out “lock her up!” Not to be outdone, Carson went off script and related Hillary to Lucifer through Saul Alinsky proving Hoffer correct. To continue the madness a Trump delagate and a leader of the Veterans for Trump said today that “Hillary should be taken to a firing line and shot.” 

The fact that many in the media are treating this a politics as usual miss the all too important insight that these are the exact phrases used by Nazi to demonize their opponents as they marched toward power, which they then later put into action once power was gained. Those who believed that the Nazi’s words were hyperbole found out too late that they actually meant them. 

The troubling thing as that of vein before he won the nomination Trump has endorsed physical violence against opponents and even promised to pay the legal fees of supporters who assault opponents, tried to shut down judges, and banned reporters who criticize him from his campaign events. The fact that he is doing this should send shivers into anyone concerned with civil liberties, and not just liberals. Already the Republicans who have voiced opposition to Trump are being run out of the party and demonized as traitors. 

Once ensconced in power Trump will use his executive powers in ways never imagined by the Founders. He has no respect for the separation of powers and will ignore the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts anytime that he desires, and sadly, if he has a Republican majority in Congress, he will get all that desires. Like the Nazi dominated Reichstag, Congress will become nothing more than a rubber stamp for Trump’s edicts. Those conservatives who thought they would be able to restrain Trump will, like the German conservatives of the 1930s will be disappointed. Those who don’t support him will be purged. 

Hatred has become the sole motivation for anyone to support Trump, and it is no wonder. Hoffer correctly noted, 

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and future, frees him of jealousies and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass.” 

But then hatred is all the GOP has left to offer. As a former lifelong Republican the spectacle is profoundly disturbing.

Until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Protesting Failure

  
Campaign Scene in the 1930 German Election

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am returning home today after a refreshing denominational chaplain conference in Houston. During the time I received some spiritual care, spent time with friends and colleagues, and participated in a number of very informative training sessions. It was a good time, and for the most part with a few forays to check on friends on Facebook, look at a few news headlines, and read my favorite comics, I pretty much disconnected from social media and the Internet. Instead I spent time with others and did a lot of reading. 

The latest book that I am reading is The Coming of the Third Reich by British historian Richard J. Evans. I read the book when it came out years ago but amid all the political chaos going on in the Unites States, I decided to pick it up again. 

One thing that Evans noted about the Nazi Party in the 1930 elections, was how it took advantage of people’s frustration and discontent as the Great Depression overwhelmed the Weimar Republic. In those elections the Nazis went from being a fringe party to being a major player in German politics at the local, state, and national levels, and Adolf Hitler becoming a truly national political player. Evans wrote:

“Voters were not really looking for anything very concrete from the Nazi Party in 1930. They were, instead, protesting against the failure of the Weimar Republic. Many of them, too, particularly in rural areas, small towns, small workshops, culturally conservative families, older age groups, or the middle-class nationalist political milieu, may have been registering their alienation from the cultural and political modernity for which the Republic stood, despite the modern image which the Nazis projected in many respects. The vagueness of the Nazi programme, its symbolic mixture of old and new, its eclectic, often inconsistent character, to a large extent allowed people to read into it what they wanted to and edit out anything they might have found disturbing.” 

I think that is a very similar phenomena to what we are seeing today in the United States, whether it be from the frustrated supporters of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, as well as the members of the Christian Right that are supporting Ted Cruz.  In many cases they are frustrated and angry at what they see as the failure of both parties, and refuse to see the inherent dangers in people who promise much but at the same time show little in the way of developed programs and means to achieve what they are promising. In the case of Trump it often shown in xenophobic fearmongering, for Cruz an honest belief that he his God’s anointed one to lead the a United States in the “Last Days,” protect what he calls “Christian values,” even if that means depriving non-believers of their rights; and Sanders, who really gives honest commentary, (with which I happen to agree on on many points) regarding many of the enconomic and social ills afflicting the nation, but has no demonstrated program of how he will get Congress to fulfill his agenda, or the second, third, and fourth order effects of some of his economic ideas. And all of these men, in a sense are outsiders, even in the parties that they are trying to become the presidential standard bearers. They all appeal to the anger and frustration of different constituencies at the failed policies and broken promises of the establishments of both parties. In such an environment outsiders play well, while establishment candidates die on the vine, just ask President Jeb Bush.

Such was the case at the end of the Weimar Republic, and such could be here if we are not careful.

Evans noted, ”What the Nazis did not offer, however, were concrete solutions to Germany’s problems, least of all in the area where they were most needed, in economy and society. More strikingly still, the public disorder which loomed so large in the minds of the respectable middle classes in 1930, and which the Nazis promised to end through the creation of a tough, authoritarian state, was to a considerable extent of their own making. Many people evidently failed to realize this, blaming the Communists instead…” 

All this is said not to demean any of the candidates, to imply that any are Nazis, or to deny any of their supporters often legitimate complaints about the system and the often moribund party apperatuses of both parties. It is only to serve as a warning of what can happen when the system breaks down and the most cherished ideals and institutions of democracy are cast aside out of political expediency and perceived, or manufactured, national crisis which is intensified by the frenetic campaigning, simple slogans and vivid images offered by the media savvy campaigns of the different candidates; all of whom in one way or another play to the real,or imagined fears of their supporters, often with no regard for truth. 

Admittedly what I say here can be decidedly uncomfortable, but what I say is something that we still have time to think about and keep from happening here. Our system may be terribly flawed, and maybe even broken, but we can still make it work. Too many people have given their lives in war and peace; sometimes as soldiers, sometimes as advocates and activists, sometimes as legislaters or jurists, or simply hard working people who pulled together in the most difficult times to make things work, to throw it away. Likewise, it is what billions of people in hundreds of nations have looked to for inspiration and guidance; that sacred proposition “that all men are created equal.” 

But the task before us is not to destroy what we have, but as the Constitution notes “to form a more perfect Union” and as Abraham Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address, “to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the face of the earth.” 

Forgive me for sounding a note of hope and belief in the face of raging anger and cynicism, but this is important for all of us, and it does not matter if you are liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, or who you support in the current political campaign. The problem is right now, is that there are many people on both sides of the political chasm who are so frustrated and angry that they cannot see the contradictions in their candidate’s positions and edit out the positions of their candidates that they find disturbing. 

So anyway, have a great day. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+


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The Kitchen Sink


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Ted Cruz appears to have blunted, for the moment Donald Trump’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination. I don’t think it will be much in the long term, but it shows how desperate the GOP is to find a way to keep the real estate mogul from getting enough delegates from securing the nomination outright. we will see more of that play out tonight and a week from now in some very big, delegate rich states.

The GOP is cleaving itself into two parties. One is that of the leaders who for the last thirty plus years has promised stoked the anger of various parts of the party base but election after election done little than to humor the people that it relies upon to retain power. Large parts of the GOP base have been left out of the economic recovery, which has primarily benefits corporations, and feel like they have been abandoned by the party. The party has gone out of its way to channel this anger at minorities, immigrants, women, gays, and Muslims and away from themselves. For years the strategy worked, but like all strategies that simply deflect anger towards others rather than solve the underlying problems their followers have to deal with is collapsing on itself.

Trumps supporters are not a monolithic group, while the majority are white and at least nominally Christian there are others. While some blatantly White Supremacist leaders and groups are supporting Trump, there are many, people who are frustrated and angry about other issues. A lot are older people, retirees who feel that they have lost “their country” while others are people who lost businesses or high paying jobs in the last economic downturn, or have seen their jobs sent overseas. I know a number of former small business owners who had well established and profitable businesses lose them and see major corporations get tax breaks and government bailouts while they were left behind.

The GOP establishment assumed that 2016 would be more of the same. However, they did not could on Donald Trump and his ability to capitalize on the rage that they have stoked for decades. Some compare Trump to the GOP’s version of Frankenstein, and to some extent that is a good analogy. In some ways it is like how German conservatives in the 1920s paved the way to Hitler by demonizing their opponents and paralyzing the government. Like the current GOP power elites they fed the anger and frustration of people who finally rejected them and turned to an outsider. Like the GOP did Trump they thought that they could control Hitler. Mind you I am not comparing Trump to Hitler, despite the similarities in style, stated policy as well as the behavior of people toward non-Trump attendees at his rallies which a so similar to Hitler’s Brwonshirt things that it makes my head swim; but I am directly addressing the dynamics at play in the party.

From 1930 to January 1933 German conservative elites hoped to channel support away from Hitler by supporting the elderly conservative Field Marshal Paul Von Himdenberg for President against Hitler, and by having Hindenberg appoint a succession of “anyone but Hitler” as Chancellor. They failed and in a desperate attempt to control they appointed Hitler as Chancellor and once in power he used legal means to outmaneuver his opponents and within six months elimited all opposition political parties.

With Trump gaining more and more of the frustrated and angry vote the GOP establishment is attempting to find a way to stop Trump, even to the point of rallying around Ted Cruz, a man that they loath. But the Trump supporters are not going to tolerate it, and neither will Trump. In fact if you look at the comments of Trump supporters they despise the party establishment and the media, including some of Fox News who have come out against Trump. They feel that the attack on Trump are unfair and unwarranted, and the crocodile tears of the GOP leadership aside, Trump is only saying what many of them have railed about for years, just in much cruder terms.


In next few weeks the GOP establishment will do everything in their power to try to subvert, derail, and undermine the Trump campaign. Former GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney launched a furious assault on Trump only to be jumped on by Trump and his supporters. The more the GOP leadership does this, the more that Trump and his supporters will fight back. By some chance if they screed in keeping Trump from getting and outright majority of delegates at best it will be a Pyrrhic victory and only the charred remains of the Grand Old Party will remain.

We are watching a political party self-destruct and when it completes its self-immolation it will signal the end of an era. We are in an era of seismic political change, and what is happening to the Republicans cannot be dismissed as something that cannot happen to the Democrats as well.

None of us can know what will follow this and Democrats, especially the  Democratic Party leadership and elites should learn from what is happening to the Republicans. Right now there are many frustrated and angry Democrats and progressives who are as tired of their elites and power brokers as are angry Republicans and they are turning out in large numbers to support an outsider, Bernie Sanders. Democrats need to make sure that they do not dismiss his supporters and assume that they will voter for Hillary Clinton in November.

All that being said, the GOP fight is on and the opposing sides will throw in everything that they can to win, even the kitchen sink.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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