By Mitchell Zimmerman
In 1923, Hitler and the Nazis stormed a beer hall in Munich, Germany, from whence they planned to overthrow German democracy. The putsch failed ignominiously, and Hitler was briefly jailed.
That, of course, was not the end of Adolf Hitler. America needs to remember that history if we want to preserve our democracy from the right-wing forces rallied by Donald Trump today.
As Congress gathered to formalize Trump’s election defeat, he and his extremist followers launched their own beer hall putsch. “We will not take it anymore,” Trump told them. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength.”
With these words, Trump unleashed the frenzied horde.
They breached the barriers around the Capitol and fought their way in, brutally killing a police officer and assaulting many others. They broke into offices, smashed windows, looted, and forced Congress to cease its operations. Outside, they built a gallows.
Many rioters carried weapons and some had plastic handcuffs. Their obvious goal: to take hostages and force Congress to award Trump a second term.
Trump is responsible, but not him alone. The mob he sent had accomplices: a second mob of Republican officials who laid the groundwork by enabling Trump’s lies.
The second mob includes the eight Republican senators and 139 House Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election, as well as the 17 Republican attorneys general who supported a bogus lawsuit to throw out the election.
Finally, it includes the Republican office holders who refused to tell their voters the truth: Trump lost. There was no “steal,” as 60 court rulings — including many by Trump-appointed judges — unanimously concluded.
These Republican politicians knew this, but they still insisted Trump be installed as president, confirming their opposition to elections and hostility to constitutional democracy.
The second mob misled Republican voters so well that 45 percent of them actually support the criminal attack on the Capitol. Those tens of millions of people represent a potential mass base for fascism.
First, Trump should be impeached, removed, and charged with inciting a riot and other crimes. And criminal charges are obviously in order for the terrorist violence committed by the first mob. Experts also suggest expelling members of the second mob from Congress or boycotting them from public life.
Accountability is vital. But the Democrats who will now control Congress and the White House must also double down on efforts to restore and strengthen American democracy.
They should act swiftly to limit the power of money in politics, restore the Voting Rights Act, and eliminate needless obstacles to voting. And Washington, D.C. should be admitted as a state, so its citizens have full voting rights and powers.
Finally, the Democratic Party must fight to enact bold programs to deal with the massive problems Americans face — from climate change to the pandemic to the declining living standards of working Americans.
Half-hearted steps will only leave ordinary Americans feeling that that government does not work, priming the pump for more right-wing radicalization. But a full-throated campaign for real, understandable change — even against Republican obstruction — can help voters understand that democracy can work for them when it isn’t hijacked by the super-rich and their servants.
The assault on the Capitol has uncovered the true nature of right-wing Republican politics in America: a thinly veiled war on constitutional democracy and majority rule. The way to prevent the next authoritarian coup attempt is to build a robust democracy that demonstrates it is responsive to the needs and interests of real people.
A slap on the wrist for the coup plotters and a swift return to the status quo isn’t enough, as the beer hall putsch should have taught us. We need a real commitment to reverse the erosion of our democracy.
Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning.
Ed Pratt says
What planet does this guy inhabit? We have seen countless “peaceful” demonstrations this summer propagated by left leaning politicians leaving far more destruction in their wakes than Jan 6. Those attacks and injuries were in America too. We have witnessed the unwillingness of court after court to look at election fraud cases based upon their merits and not sneak out the back door sherking their responsibilities to a check and balance system of government. I understand the left hates Trump…I get it…but he is now a foot note and it’s time to stop drooling, put your hatred back in your pants and do what is best for American democracy for a change. We all have to live here, hopefully like adults and in peace. Lastly, this tech frenzy to censor the entire right end of the American electorate supported by left wing congressional squad members leaves me with the sad conclusion that there are no innocents in this debacle. Common sense and civility have been completely replaced with fanatics and nut jobs at the helm. The dialog presented in the above article sadly shows how far afield logic and common sense have passed from the public discourse. Shame on you, shame on all of us. Does it take another war to get us to remember who we are as a people or why this country was founded in the first place?
As we hope to hear wisdom we hear a lot of opinions and in those opinions there is sometimes a kernel of wisdom, including yours. We have heard a lot of fabricated versions of truth and misinformation promoted these past several years. You mention living together peacefully, common sense, and civility. Those things sound positive. A good place to start. Let’s be open to letting things improve.
Thank you for a real life common sense post! You have nailed it! Also I have predicted that America is inching closer and closer to a second civil war as you alluded to. I won’t be surprised if and when it happens.
yes we all need to get a grip but this was not a fraudulent election as 60 court cases proved, many before republican judges. there is plenty of blame on both sides of the political spectrum but people out on palm coast parkway tonight with “F__k Biden signs” is not going to make things better any time soon here in Flagler.
Death and destruction was the result of what happened on January 6th. People looted, smashed and desecrated the epi-center of our Federal seat of Democracy–our Capitol–not just for the American public but for all the world to watch and see. That not only makes our security vulnerable from forces within but also from malign forces abroad which may seek to strike us at a vulnerable time. The INVADING mob on January 6th didn’t like the results of an election that was found to be both legitimate and valid by multiple courts, after multiple investigations and recounts. They sought to overturn a result THEY didn’t agree with by a show of force. They did their darndest to interrupt the processes of our government, as defined by our laws and directed by the sacred principles of the Constitution of the United States; acting like a disordered horde that was out for literal blood. If this was a mob of BLM protestors, they would have been tear-gassed and arrested and shot en masse–No one would have been opening up the gates for them and taking selfies while doing it. The National Guard would have descended upon them like the wrath of God.
These Pro-Trump and Right-wing Anti-Government and White Supremacist hordes smashing through the doors of our Capitol were not “protestors”–they were rioters intent on disrupting the process of government…and/or worse. They committed acts of violence upon the police while claiming to be the ultimate representation of “law and order.” They gloated and celebrated their acts of destruction. You can’t deny it because it is on video for all the world to see. In fact, some of them were so proud of it, THEY posted the videos themselves!
And what is the irrational “supposed rationale” behind all this destruction: This mob didn’t accept the citizen responsibility that Democrats accepted four years ago when Donald Trump was elected. Four years ago, these Right Wingnuts gloated and taunted all of Hillary Clinton’s supporters (and since she won the popular vote, there were a LOT of them), basically saying, “Pull up your big-boy pants and deal with it”. So, you know what? DITTO! It’s your turn and you are betting a lot less than zero, so far.
The time has come for each one of us–no matter what our political preferences and other affiliations– to take a chill pill, get a clue and start paying more adult attention to the words and actions of the person in the mirror. As for those who refuse to do so, our society as a whole will need to protect itself from consequential by-products of your poor judgement, self-serving cognitive distortions, lack of civic responsibility and common sense. That’s what the law is for–and there is a reason why Lady Justice is blind-folded.
We will not be able to move forward to together as “United” States citizens in peace and unity as long as there is such a large segment of our population that still refuses to believe the FACT that Joe Biden won the election.
There have been investigations by the trump people and they found “ZERO EVIDENCE” of enough problems to change more than 100 or so votes. The “Republican” judges have spoken over 50 times, the “Republican” state legislatures have recounted and certified the votes, the “Republican” majority in the Supreme Court has been presented with “ZERO EVIDENCE” on which to even begin a hearing.
The FACT is that Joe Biden won election and trump lost. The election is over!
We will not be able to move forward together until we together seek “credible FACTS” from “credible sources”. . . and, we move away from the massive media propaganda machines that blast the drum beat of fear, hate and lies 24/7. TRUTH is NOT “perception”! TRUTH is not the “Alternative Facts” so loved by the Kellyanne Conways of this world. Do you really want Rupert Murdoch to tell you how to think and how to vote? Find your courage, find your inner moral code. . . . come back to TRUTH. . . . come back to civility. . . come back and help us to rebuild a united, peaceful, respectful, honest community. It all begins with “credible FACTS” = “TRUTH”!
Ray W. says
I.F. Stone, in “The Trial of Socrates”, Little, Brown (1988), writes of two Socratic students who figured in Athenian politics in the aftermath of the loss of the Peloponnesian War to Sparta. Alcibiades was a flawed leader of of Athenian democracy who fled into exile when an equally flawed Critias overthrew the government who led “The Thirty”, described as a “narrow oligarchy” that violently overthrew the assembly in 404 B.C. Their flaw? A lack of character.
Both died violent deaths: Alcibiades via assassination to eliminate his threat to the Thirty and Critias when moderates overthrew him and restored democracy to Athens.
Stone wrote that “[t]he Socratic equation of virtue with knowledge has a famous corollary — that no one does wrong voluntarily. Or, as we might say, people do wrong ‘because they don’t know any better.’ No doubt this is sometimes true. But one has to be very far down in the scale of humanity not to know right from wrong, or far down indeed in despair to forget the difference.”
I wonder if despair was in the air as the mob stormed the Capital on January 6th. No one can legitimately argue the the mob was right in storming the Capital, as no mob trying to seize power from a democratically elected government by force is ever right. Maybe the mob did not feel despair in this sense. Perhaps something else was in play. Perhaps the stormtroopers did not know any better. Perhaps they were far down in the scale of humanity, “deplorable” as it were.
Stone finishes his assessment of the tale of Alcibiades and Critias by observing:
“There is one vital difference between the careers of Alcibiades and Critias. Alcibiades was at times in his turbulent career a leader of the democracy. Critias was an unrelenting opponent. Critias was the first Robespierre. His crimes were the fruit of a cruel and inhumane but consistent logic. He was determined to remake the city to his own antidemocratic mold whatever the human cost. In a sense — however much Socrates might have disapproved it — Critias could well have claimed that he was only trying to act out the Socratic doctrine that ‘the one who knows’ should rule and the rest obey. The formula itself was an invitation to the seizure of power by resolute ideologues like Critias, certain that the end they sought justified the means necessary to attain it.”
Melancton Smith, a founding father who opposed the Constitution argued against ratification because he believed that one major flaw in the language of the proposed Constitution could allow a member of a minority class — business, military, political or wealthy — to seize power by mobilizing members of the majority working class. Smith argued that members of the majority working class did not easily form associations with each other. In Smith’s view, minority classes easily formed associations. Smith feared that a member of a minority class would pose as a member of the working class and bind them together in a way that would let the minority class gain power and become tyrannical. Smith wrote that he believed that such a leader would most likely come from the wealthy class and that he would likely be a demagogue.