Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history does not repeat but it rhymes. Whether or not Twain actually said it, the meaning of this expression is that while historical events do not repeat themselves precisely, there are certain patterns to history. People are people, whatever the differences in geography or culture, and people tend to react to similar events in similar ways. With this in mind, I would like to consider certain historical events with which the current political situation is starting to rhyme in some ominous ways.
The first rhyme begins on January 30, 1933, when German President Paul von Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. Hindenburg did not like Hitler very much. Hindenberg was an aristocratic Junker of the old Prussian mode and a monarchist and he despised Hitler as a demagogue and a plebian rabble-rouser. The Nazis, while short a majority, had become the largest party in the Reichstag and it was impossible to form a governing coalition without them. Hitler’s price for such a coalition was to be named Chancellor. Hindenberg had done a creditable job as a Field Marshall in charge of the German military in World War I, but by 1933 he was old, he was 85, tired, and perhaps a bit senile. He succumbed to the pressure to make Hitler Chancellor, against his better judgment.
Hitler was not yet a dictator, though. The Nazis held only three cabinet posts and there were new elections for the Reichstag coming up in March. Most observers felt that Hitler could be contained. Then, on February 27, a fire broke out at the Reichstag building. A Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was found on the scene and arrested. While many then and since have suspected the Nazis of starting the fire themselves, the historical consensus is that van der Lubbe was indeed the arsonist. Nevertheless, the Nazis were swift to take advantage of the incident, citing the fire as evidence of a widespread Communist conspiracy to overthrow the Weimar Republic and institute a Soviet regime.
The Nazi press spread stories of an imminent Communist takeover inciting panic among the German population and the following day President von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree, giving Hitler emergency powers, suspending the civil rights of the German People, including freedom of speech and the press and the right to peaceably assemble. The Communist Party was banned and those Communists not already in custody are rounded up and arrested. A month later, on March 24, the Enabling Act was passed, giving the Chancellor the power to rule by decree. Hitler was now a dictator and only President Hindenberg’s prestige and control of the German army stood in the way of absolute power for Hitler. This last barrier was removed when Hindenberg died on August 2, 1934. Hitler combined the offices of president and chancellor and assumed the title of Fuhrer and Reichskanzler.
Does all of this begin to sound familiar? Substitute Democrats for Nazi, Conservative for Communist, and Capitol riot for Reichstag fire and I could easily be talking about the current political situation. There is no Hitler to be found anywhere, thank God, and no one is actually talking about establishing a dictatorship, yet, but it is clear that the Democrats are using last week’s riot at the capitol to justifying attacking our most basic civil rights, with the aid of their Big Tech allies. Conservatives are already being purged from social media platforms, and who can tell what the coming Democratic Congress will enact. Prominent Progressives are openly talking about the need to “reprogram” Trump supporters, people are losing their jobs for backing the wrong side, and Democrats are talking about the need to rein in media “misinformation”.
I have long opposed comparing any politician or political party to Hitler or the Nazis. No one in mainstream American politics, I have said is anything at all like some of the worst people in human history. I might have to revise that position. If the Democrats are going to make use of the Nazi playbook, line by line, then I am going to start calling them what they have revealed themselves to be, Nazis or Fascists.
Meanwhile, if history continues to rhyme in this fashion, I am afraid we are in for some very dark times.