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Monday, November 30, 2015

SEND in the STORM TROOPERS (Part III)

In my last Post, we took a look at some of the main tactics used by the Nazis in the 1930’s to win over the town of Northeim, and ultimately to win the support of the voters of Germany to their cause of establishing the Third Reich.  Each of those tactics can easily be seen as having a parallel in Radical Right Republican actions.

To review briefly, those tactics consisted of:
1.      Incessant propaganda – Republican radicals are particularly adept at this with unified themes and emphasis right down to the synchronized wording used by local operatives. 
2.      Keeping detailed records –Donald Trump’s suggestion for a database to track Syrian refugees (and other Middle Easterners) fits exactly into this tactic
3.      Adapting message to audience – Pandering to their ultra-conservative base is something most right-wing Republicans do best.
4.      Castigating the opposition continuously; using violence when necessary or expedient.  There are many examples of this from Republicans, but none as graphic and hate-filled as their acknowledged excoriation of President Obama at every opportunity. 
5.      Projecting an image of fervent patriotism and avid militarism. Donald Trump may be the epitome of tough talk that spurs nationalistic fervor. This last week, Republicans took advantage of the terrorist bombings in Paris and the rejection of Syrian refugees in some 31 states, culminating in the House passage of restrictive legislation pertinent to Syrian refugees. 
6.      Sending in the Stormtroopers – demonstrations of strength and violence are intimidating to most, and attractive to some which is why the Storm Troopers attended most Nazi rallies in their brown-shirt uniforms.  Just recently, Trump’s goons worked over a Black protestor who tried to bring attention to what many consider Trump’s racism.    
The Radical Republican objective is not a second amendment right to own a gun, but having the ability and power to take over a government that challenges their views, their politics and their way of life.
7.      Infiltrating local governments and offices –radical Republican takeover has already begun with their gains in municipal areas by running for school boards, councils and legislatures.
8.      Picking on an enemy (or scapegoat) –Just recently, Republicans chose to make the Syrian refugees the target of their villainous Xenophobia, potentially denying thousands of young families the ability to seek the safety and protection of this land. 
9.      Joining local organizations and movements and then promoting and proclaiming one’s own philosophy and cause(s) at every opportunity, such as a school board meeting or a coalition of churches.
10.  Using religion as a pawn—the Nazis warned the faithful to beware of fundamentally anti-church socialists and communists who were atheists.  Republicans constantly warn their Evangelical friends to be wary of the anti-Christian and socialist leanings of the national government.   Republican support for the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on religious grounds is the epitome of this kind of manipulation of religion.
11.  Assisting workers and others down on their luck –This tactic is well known to both Radical Republicans and to Jihadists who have done similar “good works” in their respective areas.  The pandering of Republican presidential candidates to the pressing needs of the working class is another example of this. What they plan to do when in office is quite different.
12.  Emphasizing youth membership and give them very visible things to accomplish – by keeping its activities as much social and adventurous as political.  Republicans are paying special attention to religion-affiliated colleges where more right-wing students can be recruited to join the Young Republicans. 
13.  Destroying trust in government and its leaders –It is clear that radical Republican debasing of the political process and of the leadership of that process (including the President, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the former Speaker of the House) has produced a repugnance among the citizenry for the whole process of governing. 
14.  Using and abusing the election process to win offices and to gain control.  Gerrymandered districts, Super-PACs, attacks on voter registration and the ability to vote, plus attempts to manipulate the actual returns and voting processes, are all ways that Republican radicals have used and abused the election process. 

 In this Three-part posting, I have attempted to point out that citizens tend not to recognize an organized movement when we see such tactics and strategies in isolation one from another. That misperception turned out to cause major problems for the residents of Northeim, and of Germany.  We should not and cannot close our eyes to a collection of tactics that are now extant and clearly being used by ISIS and by the radical Right-wing of the Republican Party (abetted by more moderate Republicans who refuse to speak out). The weight of evidence points to a fascist strain in both of these uber-nationalistic movements.  Moreover, the tactics being used and supported by the Republican Party point to an authoritarian tendency that goes far beyond the checks and balances and other restrictions on governmental power built into our system of government (such as warrantless forced entries and lengthy incarceration for non-violent drug charges).   

It has been my contention that the concepts of the Third Reich are worth another look because they may provide basic insight into where we may be headed under Radical Republicans who:

  • support Party purity and power;
  • seem captivated by a strong Social Darwinist Leader (or “Fuehrer”);
  • glorify the continual demonstration of military might by our armed forces, and
  • militarization of our local police forces.
 Many Nazi documents spell out the primacy of these concepts, including the following example:

“The political guide and philosophical creative force of the unified people and the Reich is the Party. The Party is the bearer of the National Socialist conception and the moving force of state and people. From its ranks sprang the Fuehrer of the Reich and the supreme commander of the Wehrmacht.
The Fuehrer is in command of the Party, the State and the Wehrmacht, all based upon the racial unity of the German people. The essence of the Fuehrer principle has thus become the central star of our entire political life.  
The Wehrmacht is the arms bearer and the soldierly training ground of the German people….Every male German has the duty to do military service. In a state of war, beyond actual military service, it is the duty of every German man and woman to render service to the fatherland”  (from the Holocaust Museum archives). 

Finally, the author of “The Nazi Seizure of Power,” presents some compelling conclusions for our consideration, as he asks the question: what is to be learned from Northeim’s experiences?”

  1. The Nazi electoral surge and seizure of power was done on the local level.  It was in hundreds of such localities that the Third Reich was born.  It can be argued that Democrats have not recognized the importance of local politics, while Republicans have infiltrated school boards, legislative councils and offices of mayor and county executive, and are winning state governorships and legislatures at a rapid pace.  They have gained substantial local control already. The quick response of mostly Republican Governors to the Syrian Refugee crisis is indicative of their gains at the state level.  Ironically, ISIS will surely benefit from Republican tactics in the treatment of Muslim refugees, making it easier to recruit others to their movement through excoriation of American tactics.
  2. The most important factor in the victory of Nazism was the active division of the town along class lines.  Do we have to ask why Republicans favor the rich and only cater to the middle class and the working poor when it suits them to do so (for money and votes)?  The middle and upper classes of many local communities too often make it extremely difficult and almost impossible for those in poverty status and those in minority communities to grasp opportunities for advancement and enhancement.  Segregation is real.  Joblessness among certain minority groups is way out of proportion and a voice and presence in government, the unions, high-skilled industries, and even in skilled or semi-skilled labor is not encouraged, planned for or offered.  Educational assistance for our young people in poverty or minority status is also minimal. Much too often, certain groups are simply ignored.  The inevitable result in Germany:  some of the most brutal and vengeful of the local Nazi leaders were from the oppressed class, and their social resentment was obscene to say the least.  Can we expect any less vengeance from right-wing radical militias, or from gun-toting radical Rightists who believe that government is their enemy?  Can we expect any less resentment from the ignored, the dis-enfranchised, the jobless and the denigrated under-class of our own communities?

  1. What was needed in Northeim was a coalition of decent and active citizens to recognize and oppose the destructiveness of the Nazi party, and lack of such a coalition made it easy for Nazis to gain control.  Progressives cannot dither around any longer.  There is some coalition-building happening in certain areas, but it is spotty at best.  Progressives are not generally or naturally ready to form coalitions because they are so often one-issue groups.  Collaboration is a necessity if the Right-wing conspirators are to be opposed and hindered in their quest for total control of society.   Encourage a coalition to start in your area, or find one and get involved, or simply join a campaign for a progressive candidate and volunteer to be an active member of a progressive organization.  Political apathy is the sure way to destruction of our democracy by the radical Right, and the lack of progressive coalition opposition is not encouraging.
  2. The erosion of social activities and organizations through exploitative false threats and intimidation was a major factor in destroying the formal social fabric of Northeim.  In addition, the attack on institutions like schools and unions and small businesses resulted in an isolation that allowed a Nazi takeover.  The radical Republican Right has had a hand in destroying our unions, and in a move to destroy our public schools by farming them out to private companies for profit-making (Charter School movement).  These tactics are not just the actions of a few governors.  This is the platform and policy of the Republican Party. 
Isolation from our institutions is already beginning.  Will the isolation of religious groups that do not follow evangelical Christian doctrine and practice be next?  It has already begun, if you take very seriously the reaction of some of the Republican candidates to the Syrian refugees – some were willing to admit Syrian Christians (and probably meant by that Evangelical Christians).  Radical Republican discrimination and divisiveness is what they plan to bring to our nation as a whole, because it undermines our dedication to the principle that out of diversity comes a strong unity.
  1. Perhaps worst of all was the ability of the Nazis to take over the towns and the nation because of something they helped to create in the hearts and minds of the people: a moral numbness that failed to see how much they had strayed from the ideals of their Judeo-Christian heritage.  The promotion of unquestioning patriotism --or rather of misplaced patriotism -- is a force that is invasive and destructive.  In touting American “exceptionalism” no matter the realities of our national life, is to numb us to realities that are destructive of our ideals and of our true patriotism.  We cannot and must not buy in to a cheap and ugly nationalism that makes excuses for educational, social and moral failures while celebrating militarism and mediocrity; that denies reality and settles for standards that denigrate our own heritage.

We are fortunate to have some progressive politicians and leaders right now in our nation who are calling us to recognize the moral dimension of our political and social actions.  The President is one who comprehends the danger of the radical Right to our way of life.  He has set a moral compass on true North, and we ignore his values and opinions to our own detriment and peril.  Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both emulate his leadership in recognizing that what we do as a nation and as communities to aid and enhance the lives of others will determine how moral and just we are as a people.  “Exceptionalism” is not so much found in being first in various fields of endeavor, or being strongest militarily, or being out front earning unmatched profits.  Greatness or exceptionalism is rather found in how much we can, as a people and a nation, give to others; on what we can share to enhance life upon our earth, and on what we can promote so that others can have the opportunities that we have.  The Republican Right wing is attempting to pull us in the opposite direction so that we value self-protection more than accepting refugees; so that we value profit more than quality or equality, strength more than empathy, and self-aggrandizement rather than charity.  We must not allow Right-wing fanatics to rob us of our heritage, and to use a growing moral numbness as a tool of destruction of our democracy.

For example, the income gap is a moral issue because it harms the lives and souls of most of our people.  The lack of universal health care is a moral issue because care of the sick, the elderly, those with disabilities, those who are poor, those who are chronically ill, and those who are vulnerable to rare disease – their care is our moral responsibility (according to our major religions), especially if they have no way to care for themselves.    Education of our young is not simply an obligation of citizenship, nor simply a program that spends our tax money; it is a duty to humankind.  We have a responsibility to produce and to nurture the best-educated, best-prepared, best-thinking people that we can possibly produce for the benefit of all of the people of our society and of the world.   Equal access to a broad-based, factual and scientific Public Education is the means by which we develop an informed and productive citizenry as well as effective and just systems of government, commerce, trade and social welfare that are truly exceptional.  Most importantly, we must each make a moral commitment to personal involvement in every way that is necessary for the well-being of all.

  1. In Northeim, it was not only a moral numbness that allowed Nazism to flourish.  It was also a lack of comprehension of what was going on or of what could happen if this National Socialist Party were to garner electoral success.  What people saw was maybe one or two aspects of their hideousness, and easily dismissed such aberrations, but few seemed to comprehend the fullness of their lust for power, and the horrific tactics they would use to achieve that goal.  The “Bonhoeffer warning” was, after all, a reminder that many in Germany overlooked the aberrations until it was too late to stop the takeover and the carnage.
In the past two posts, I have tried to lay out for you a compendium of the strategies and tactics of the Nazis that closely parallel those of ISIS and of the Right wing fanatics of the Republican Party (and their spineless neo-conservative supporters).  I am not claiming that the Republican Party consists of a bunch of Nazis. What I am saying is that there are abroad today the same tactics and strategies used by the Nazis to gain total control of the German government in the Third Reich.  Taken together, those Right-wing tactics and strategies are a threat to our democracy.  If we don’t act against them now, and rid ourselves of candidates and office-holders who are the promoters of such immoral actions and beliefs, we shall surely have to learn to live in a much more brutal, stifling, oppressive and unjust world than we presently inhabit. 

Above all, I am saying that the Republican Radical Right must be soundly defeated in 2016.