Collaborative Leadership Blog

Is It 1933 Again?

Note: This article was written right after Trump had the park in front of the White House cleared of protestors with violence by the military, so he could have a photo op with a Bible. Troops in hoods were lined up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But then it happened again in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, followed by his “stormtrooper” militia in Michigan just indicted for planning to kidnap and hang the Governor of Michigan and start a second civil war.

Troops have been ordered into the streets to attack a racial minority and maintain order. There is organized chaos created by right wing sympathizers. There are millions of people unemployed. There are racist slogans being scrawled on walls. The senior leadership of the country is issuing threats and is considering the postponement of the national elections.

The United States today?  It certainly sounds familiar. But in actuality, it’s Hitler’s Germany in 1933. He was appointed Chancellor, used his Storm Troopers to intimidate Jews, and set the German Parliament, the Reichstag, on fire. He used racial hatred toward the Jews to foment chaos, leveraged the animus of the unemployed, imposed “law and order”, and Germany slid into fascism. With no one able to oppose him and his army, the death camps began.

Echoes of 1933 are now present in the United States. There are over 40 million unemployed, over 112,000 citizens who have died from a global pandemic that has been grossly mishandled by Trump, and hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets demonstrating against police violence and murder of Black people. Critics have been silenced. Trump’s “storm troopers”, active duty military, are now the secret army of Attorney General Barr in Washington, DC, and viciously intimidated and assaulted American citizens exercising their 1st Amendment right to protest peacefully in the streets. Barr is Trump’s Himmler. Neither Trump nor Barr nor the soldiers are honoring the oath they took to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. Instead, like the Nazis, they violated the Constitution and the democratic rights of the people.

It was former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, who, on June 3rd, first invoked the echo of the Nazis when he said in his article in The Atlantic, “The Nazi slogan for destroying us was ‘Divide and Conquer”… We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal under the law.” On June 4th, Moshe Gessen, who has written extensively on the US slide into dictatorship, called Trump’s invasion of Lafayette Park, “a fascist performance.” (The New Yorker)

It is 1933 again! Black masked soldiers, of unknown origin, were lined up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He had warned the Governors about the demonstrations and threatened to impose order. He  invoked the 1807 Insurrection Act that would enable him to invade states and cities to suppress demonstrations. He fought with General Mille, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about whether to send troops across the US. He has erected a 9 foot Wall, not in Texas, but around the White House, the People’s House, to keep the people out. It is now decorated with signs of protest.

It is 1933 again! Commentators are warning that our Constitutional Democracy is at risk unless we all rise up, unite, and stop this president. Who will stand up to him? Who can stop him from imposing martial law and military rule in the United States of America just before the next Presidential Election November 3rd. He’s losing in the polls and sees his prospects getting dimmer every day. He has joked about his 3rd, 4th, and 5th terms, but we know his jokes can become reality unless he is stopped!

Who will stop him? Who can? He has “captured the refs”—the Justice Department, Defense Department, Supreme Court, US Senate, Intelligence community, and Homeland Security. In his maniacal quest for total control, he has eroded confidence in every single institution that is a check on his power. He has fired the Inspector Generals. He’s packing the courts. He escaped Impeachment. He almost started a regional war with Iran. These are all actions of a very unstable dictator. We better wake up. It’s 1933 again.

Even when retired General James Mattis and U.S. Marine Corp four-star General John Allen made an historic stand in the last few days, publicly opposing the president, they also explicitly said the military should stay out of politics. They can’t. The military is up to its neck in this evolving coup. They are center stage as Trump plans his law and order strategy to “dominate the battlefield” of American citizens with overwhelming force.

Can the news media, the Fourth Estate, stop him? While keeping us appraised of Trump’s daily rants, dysfunction, and corruption, they do not provide us perspective longer than a news cycle. Who is calling out this slow descent into a military dictatorship? It is such a horrific thought that we continue our denial of the cascade of events over the last 3 years, the corruption, the flagrant violation of norms, precedents, and the Constitution, that we bury our heads in the sand. “No, he wouldn’t do that.” Or, “It will be over soon, we just have to vote.” Assuming we’re allowed to vote.

So, let’s open our minds for a second to see how we could lose it all—our freedom and our Democracy.

Let me paint a scenario I am frightened to share, but too fearful not to. Imagine a president who is losing in the polls for an election 5 months away, an election he will do anything to win. Afterall he stole the last one by getting the Russians to help him. Imagine 50 million people unemployed, Depression- level job losses with projections of a 5-10 year recovery. Imagine that this president is facing the deaths of over 140,000 Americans due to an historically bungled and inept non-response to the Covid-19 global pandemic, with no end in sight. Now imagine that this same president is faced with an uprising of millions of citizens protesting racism and the deaths of Black men and women at the hands, and knees of White police.

Since he only cares about winning, and not the people, this president then decides to sew chaos in the streets, signaling to right wing extremist groups, like the Proud Boys, that it’s OK to incite violence against people of color. Hot spots of racial animus spring up around the country. The Insurrection Act is used to dispatch active duty military to cities around the country, on orders of the commander-in-chief. There is sufficient violence, demonstrations, and expansion of infections from Covid overflowing our hospitals, that he signs an emergency declaration to postpone the election—indefinitely. Or, he loses the election and refuses to leave the White House, calling up National Guard troops from a friendly Governor’s state to protect him. He retains office past January 21, 2021, and with no one able to stop him, we become a military dictatorship. Then he purges the media, the intellectuals, immigrants, and minorities—anyone who opposes him ends up in jail.

As horrific as this scenario is, it is conceivable. We need to wake up. We could be sliding into a fascist state while we battle the daily challenges of Covid, unemployment, and trying to take care of our families. Who is going to stop him? We all are! The thousands of young people in the streets today are our only hope. We must all rise up against this tyranny. We must wake up and realize that if we do not stand up now, and sustain it all the way to the election in November, we may lose it all—our Democracy, our Constitution, our freedom and our way of life.