Sunday, October 10, 2010

Echoes of 1930s Germany?

By Alan Caruba

Time and again in these troubled and troubling times people make reference to Germany in the 1930s, the rise of the Third Reich, and to Hitler as they express their fears regarding the Obama administration.

It is an interesting comparison if only because it reveals a sense that an authoritarian government is poised to impose its dictates. This is highly unlikely if only because the forthcoming midterm elections give every indication of overturning any such ambitions by the present administration.

It is, for example, bleeding its top economic advisors, the former chief of staff to the President, the sudden resignation of the president’s national security advisor, and, most tellingly, virtually every Democrat running for office is running away from Obama’s legislative agenda.

Obama is hardly a Hitler and the Democrats are hardly Nazis. It's a bad comparison.

I think what is at the heart of the comparison is the way, in just under two years, Americans witnessed the government takeover of the healthcare sector, one sixth of the economy, the takeover of General Motors and Chrysler to the benefit of the United Auto Workers and the loss of their creditors and bondholders, and a so-called stimulus package that by most accounts has wasted billions.

The general anxiety is bolstered by the stagnation of the job market and a widespread belief that Obama, Pelosi and Reid, along with the Democrats in Congress, have taken the nation in the wrong direction. Those familiar with history see the kind of conditions that existed in Germany in the 1930s that were the background for the rise of the Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler, however, was not massively abandoned by his supporters as Obama as been.

It happens that I have been reading a book, “Berlin at War”, by historian Roger Moorhouse. What we tend to forget is that the National Socialist party, led by Hitler, was freely elected to power by Germans and, in general, had their support because of its early success energizing a moribund economy.

Though we know in hindsight that Hitler was a monster, at the time he gave Germans a reason to take pride in their nation again and he proved adept at adding more territory to Germany without firing a shot. In the years leading up to the invasion of Poland in 1939, Berliners and other Germans were generally content with Hitler and the party.

It wasn’t until 1943 that Berliners began to feel the affects of the war in ways other than rationing and the conscription of their fathers, brothers, and sons. “After the first spate of bombings through late 1940 into the spring of 1941, there had followed a period of almost two years in which Royal Air Force raids on the capital became fewer and farther in between,” noted Moorhouse. “So, when the RAF reappeared in the skies over Berlin on the night of 1 March, it came as a shock.”

Americans were shocked to see Obamacare rammed through the House and Senate on a party line vote. It came after nearly a million Americans had shown up at the steps of the Capital building to protest against it.

In effect, the Obama administration had declared war on Americans. It was not merely unresponsive to the majority, but contemptuous of it.

What Obama forgot or never knew is that our government exists with the consent of the governed. What he forgot or never knew is that our presidents govern, not rule.

Something quintessentially American occurred.

The same sense of unity and urgency that Americans felt after Pearl Harbor, that spurred the Greatest Generation to take on totalitarian threats in two theatres of combat, occurred in the rise of the Tea Party movement because many Americans perceived that their nation was literally under siege by an enemy and this time it was an internal one.

It took twelve years of Nazi rule and the reduction of Berlin to rubble for the usurpation of power to end on May 9, 1945. Compare that, then, with the Obama administration that began on January 20, 2009 followed by a swift loss of public support because of, not despite, its thuggish political effort to reshape the American model into a European socialist one.

Americans are just weeks away from “taking back” their nation from a man who hid or denied his real life from the voters to get elected on the basis of his oratorical skills and the stage managing of mass gatherings that were curiously reminiscent of Nazi rallies.

Obama had the good luck of having a lackluster opponent and a financial crisis that too conveniently broke just before the election in 2008. Even so, his margin of victory was slim.

It is not 1930s Germany. It is America in the first decade of a new century with new challenges.

It is an America that has been through recessions and even a Great Depression, and which must learn again the fundamentals of the Founding Fathers; the need for a small, limited central government, the importance of sovereign, independent States, fiscal prudence, and citizens free to make their own choices regarding their lives.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


joetote said...

Another brilliant essay Alan. Many times in the past, I have more than once referred to the Germany of the twenties and thirties. I do disagree with one thing. As you stated, Hitler was in fact freely elected and did give back great pride, etc. to the German public at the beginning. And if I read it right, the press at that time was not all pro Hitler per say. The co-opting of the German press pretty much on a whole came after a number of his people were in power. I have said more than once the American public does not pay attention many times until it is almost to late. As we have an extremely co-opted press now, we have to hope that those who are being led by the propaganda industry tied to this administration are wise enough to persue the entire truth! If not, our country is indeed lost.

Personally, I think the people are now opening their eyes to this. I pray this is so.

LarryOldtimer said...

As I best recall. the NAZI party received only about 17% of the popular votes in Germany's 1932 general elections. Hitler, the nominal leader of the NAZIs, was declared dictator by the German Parliament just 2 years later.

I agree that Obama is not about to become dictator, but his destructive policies, passed by an irresponsible Democratic Party, aided by some irresponsible Republicans, assures that America's economy will suffer greatly until this destructive legislation is done away with.

Further, the EPA has made it impossible to mine or manufacture needed minerals and products here in the US.

One way or another, the lame duck Democrats in Congress will pass (and a good deal of legislation increasing taxes on "carbon" has already been passed by states and local agencies) legislation to increase substantially new taxes. State governments have approved regulations which are so onerous to would-be beginners in small businesses that would-be small business owners can't afford all the accounting to start and operate a small business . . . at least legally.

IMO, looking at history, this is setting the US up for a real Hitler-type fascist to emerge on the political scene, as did happen in Germany.

From an economic standpoint, I see ahead far greater woes for the US than have already happened. As far as I am concerned, what has been so far economically is but the tip of the iceberg.

It is impossible for any nation or individual to borrow it/her/himself into prosperity, which is exactly what the "Federal Reserve Bank" has indicated it is about to attempt to do.

We shall see, and I personally don't think that the future of America will be all that pretty to look upon. I hope that I am wrong, of course, but I sincerely doubt that what is needed will occur anywhere near fast enough.

Pitch said...

Thank you Alan for a timely and positive blog and I hope you had a great birthday celebration yesterday.

Unknown said...

Great big if: If, as I think could occur, we do have this big worldwide economic meltdown that many smart folks fear, the odds are that "the man on the white horse" who could "fix" our economic problems might show up on the scene. All charismatic and full of wondrous sound-bites.

If things truly get as bad as some say, I don't see anybody able to really fix anything. Only time and marketplace behavior will cure the ailments.

It's common for those in high office to become ever more authoritarian as policies and decisisions are seen to be inefficacfious. Our war on drugs is one such example.

Add that to the human propensity to blame others for one's problems and I think it's crossed-fingers time.

Dave's Daily Day Dream said...

Alan, in your older age, you're beginning to see the light!

"…a financial crisis that too conveniently broke …"

Alan Caruba said...

Dave, I was instantly suspicious of a massive withdrawal from US banks that required the Fed to step in. It was an effort to destabilize the economy before the 2008 elections.

Jay Stanton Goldstein said...

In much of the Tea Party protests and political commentary we have seen criticism of the political left and Obama being compared to Hitler or communist. I agree, historically speaking he can't be both. However Hitler came to power in part by leveraging his nation’s fears that their nation was at risk of going communist as had Russia. It was Hitler’s spreading fears of a German communist movement that helped bring him to power. Hitler arose out of the political right. In this sense the Tea Party finds its ideological home in the same space. The Tea party can call Obama communists, but in doing so they make themselves vulnerable to being compared with the National Socialist German Workers' Party, aka the Nazi Party. Obama cannot be both historically compared to the communists while at the same time being compared to Hitler. If each is to play their historical roles correctly the Tea Party enthusiast is the modern echo of Nazi Party.

Alan Caruba said...

@Jay Goldstein. Sorry, but I have neither heard, nor read, any statements by Tea Party people comparing Obama or the Democrats to the Nazi Party.

The Nazi Party was actually in competition with the Communists as it was leftist to the point of wanting total control of Germany's economy, etc. All of Europe was fearful of the Bolsheviks though, so that was an influence in that era. It did not stop Hitler from signing a pact with Stalin to divide up Poland and, of course, to then attack Russia.