“A favorite theory of mine [is] that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often”
Certainly, the MAGA bomber, the massacre in the synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the increase in the total number of hate crimes were not Kristallnacht. But I fear that the writing is on the wall. The echoes are still very weak and still quite distant, but if you listen carefully, the sound that is coming ever closer is so familiar that there is no doubt about it. Kristallnacht is coming.
Impossible here? Maybe in 2020 Trump is going to win a huge victory but then, of course, he’s going to be free from the constraints of the law, in which case I’m sure he’s going to change American society in the same way that Putin has turned Russia into an authoritarian regime. The money, the power, the lack of prosecution for his crimes will be a huge temptation for Trump. If he wins, he will be unrestrained. So even if he wins, we lose.
What if he loses? My belief is that he will make a coup d’état. We’re probably going to have a double whammy; massive pogroms and the end of our republican form of government. Trump and the Republicans will cry that the election was stolen. And this will whip the base of the deplorable party in a violent frenzy. There will be violent pogroms. And the authorities in Republican-controlled places will be told to allow the MAGA thugs to carry out these pogroms without interference, just as was the case with Kristallnacht. And he and his party will use these pogroms to pressure everyone else to buy peace by allowing him to stay in power.
As Yogi Berra once said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” The question is whether the violence we’ve seen is the work of a scattering of isolated nutters or a harbinger of things to come. My guess is more the latter and less of the former. And when it comes, it will be more than the Jews, it will be everyone else. They will spill as much blood as it takes to keep their power; rivers of blood if that’s what it takes. I assure you that Trump and the Republicans will not be going gently into that good night.
It can happen here. It’s starting here in a way very similar to the fall of the Weimer Republic. It will be different this time, of course. It’s different every time and yet always the same. An American version instead of a German version. Thugs with a red “MAGA” hat instead of thugs with brown shirts. But they are really the same people. They are always the same people. Maybe the Trump victims will be Mexicans and Jews, or maybe Asians or Arabs as well. But it will be bad, and what we’ve seen in recent months certainly bodes ill. It can always get worse and it probably will.
Of course, there are critical differences – mainly, that the various bombers, killers and MAGA criminals of recent months did not benefit from the impunity of those who executed the pogrom of Kristallnacht. So that is something to watch for as an important indicator of what is to come. We must not ignore this important, but perhaps transitory, difference between today’s America and the end of Weimer, but nevertheless, the similarity is chilling. The guardians of civil society resemble the little boy who has his finger in the dike and who holds back the sea. But for how much longer? My fear is that to wait and see what Trump and the Republicans are going to do and whether they’re going to give a semi-official green light to their “Bully Boys” is leaving it too late. Remember, things deteriorated very quickly after the Kristallnacht. The result is will be the same if Trump and the Republican decide to end the republic after the 2020 election.
Trump will do everything to keep power. And stay out of jail too; remember that he was not simply involved in money laundering and various frauds like Trump University; he almost certainly committed serious crimes in during the 2016 presidential election. As I suggested above, it’s a good bet that Trump will not be willing to leave office after the 2020 election if the incoming president is a Democrat. And so, the metaphor that might apply is that Republicans are like Caesar’s armies, camped along the banks of the Rubicon, waiting to choose between him and Rome.
For Caesar, a normal and not particularly evil man, crossing the Rubicon was perhaps a difficult choice. One could argue that there were larger issues involved, that it wasn’t purely self over country, since the Populares had legitimate and serious differences with the oligarchs who ruled the Roman Republic. But for a diabolical narcissist like Trump, the time is always right to put his personal interests over those of his country. For Trump, patriotism is for losers. I think Trump and the Republican party will never accept a defeat in the 2020 election. They would see the country burn first. If you think I’m histrionic, I strongly recommend this analysis by Professor Tom Pepinsky, a recognized expert on authoritarian regimes.
Perhaps at the end of Weimar or the fall of the Roman Republic? Maybe politics as usual? Who knows? What I do know is that there is still something in the air. A tension, a hint that this can happen here. I am more concerned about the future of my country than ever before.
I think the Republicans are already camped alongside the river and ready to cross the Rubicon–I don’t know if they’re going to cross the Rubicon if they lose, maybe they won’t, but I’m wondering if there were people sitting around the breakfast table in 1933 having this conversation. And then, too, I wonder if Mark Twain is right that history repeats itself and we are doomed to share their fate.