We're at the Threshold of a Fascist Authoritarian Takeover & January 6th Was Our Kristallnacht

Thom plus logo The work of 245 years & millions of lives dedicated or given to defend the American ideal could vanish

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and is also the day after 45 Republicans in the Senate voted that Trump's attempt to turn America into a fascist state was just fine with them.

How does this kind of horror happen in otherwise civilized, advanced countries?

Back in the 1980s, my family and I lived in Germany doing international relief work. I knew and worked with several Germans, then in their 60s, who'd been soldiers in Hitler's army.

A close friend and colleague of mine, Armin Lehmann, was the 16-year-old courier who brought Hitler the news that the war was lost, and stood outside his door while Hitler committed suicide; we traveled the world together and I encouraged him to get his autobiography into print.

My mentor Gottfried Mueller, about whom I wrote a book, had been such a true believer that he parachuted into the Kurdish area of Iraq to help the Kurds seize the oil fields for Hitler (and designed the flag still used by the Kurdish resistance); he spent the rest of the war in a British prison cage in the desert waiting to be executed, and when he escaped at the war's end became a vegetarian and committed his life to peace, as had Armin.

People wonder how the Nazis took over that country so rapidly, just like they wonder how Republicans in the US Senate could justify Donald Trump whipping up a crowd to go kill five people and try to overthrow the US government.

Turns out, in both cases, it's the seductive lure of authoritarianism.

All of us have, to a greater or lesser extent, a deep-seated, childhood-rooted need to be taken care of. To have somebody else make sure that we are safe. For some it's a faint whisper; for others, it's the force that drives their lives.

It apparently comes out of the developmental stage of childhood when we're completely dependent upon our parents; some of us didn't feel completely safe through childhood, and when such people grow up they spend their adulthood looking for parent-like figures who promise to protect them and guarantee them safety.

Such people are called "authoritarian followers," and they just want the world to be safe, predictable, and orderly. No ambiguity or complexity; these people want simple answers, a strong leader, the reassurance of weaponry and macho symbology, and swift and harsh "justice" for those who frighten them or they don't understand. Thus, they're open and vulnerable to authoritarian leaders.

And it's not just limited to "average people" or even those suffering poverty or oppression; even billionaires are vulnerable to authoritarianism.

This doesn't just explain why Germans would follow Hitler; it also explains why Americans would follow Charles Manson and Jim Jones. And Donald Trump.

We're all capable of following characters who play the role of parent figures who'll take care of all the crises, solve the problems, and make everything better, whether for good or for ill, whether George Washington ("The Father of Our Country") or Donald Trump.

This is not a novel idea. Entire books have been written about it, like Robert Altmeyer's The Authoritarians, Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, and John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience.

Authoritarianism, the impulse at the core of fascism, is simple, and that very simplicity is what makes it so seductive.

Democracy, on the other hand, can be frightening. It's messy. It's not always under control. The majority who make the decisions in a functioning democracy may not look or think like us, which adds to our confusion.

For a person frightened by uncertainty, a person whose childhood fears turned them into "authoritarian follower" adults, democracy seems unnecessarily complex and dysfunctional; just putting an authoritarian strongman in charge is such a straightforward solution.

He will protect them, restore order, and make sure that everything in the future is consistent, predictable and safe. He will give them the comfortable, secure world they've craved their entire lives. (Authoritarian leaders in modern society are almost always men.)

Nazism built slowly for a decade, and then swept Germany when enough Germans became convinced that Hitler's simple answers, clear definitions of the villains, and assertion of their victimhood was correct. In just a short year or so, the country flipped from a fully functioning democratic republic into an authoritarian nightmare.

It only took authoritarian-friendly German media (Hitler used rightwing "talk" radio and the "conservative" German press very effectively) to convince enough German people to buy his siren song of authoritarianism. Once that tipping point was reached, Nazism flowed across the country like a tsunami. It was unstoppable.

Today we're watching in real time as that very process plays out within our body politic and among rightwing movements who've adopted Trump as their leader and authoritarianism as their ideal.

Including, apparently, the majority of America's Republicans. Most of today's GOP no longer believes in democracy; the party of Dwight Eisenhower is nearly dead.

If today's Republicans did believe in democracy, they wouldn't go out of their way to sabotage it so effectively year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.

We see it in Carl Rove's 2010 REDSTATE gerrymandering program; in Mitch McConnell packing the courts with young neofascists; in Republican officials sabotaging the electoral process in neighborhoods filled with minorities, college students or Social Security voters by selectively closing polling places, reducing the number of voting machines in certain neighborhoods, and aggressively purging voting rolls in those same communities.

Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former Press Secretary, yesterday tweeted: @joelockhart "Being a Republican Senator now means nothing matters. Nothing matters. Not the storming of the Capitol, not an attempted coup, not trying to overturn a free and fair election. Nothing matters. The party of Trump. Nothing matters."

Joe's onto something, but to say "nothing matters" about these people is not quite true. The power, control, orderliness, predictability, and safety that Trump's simple lies, convenient scapegoats, and easy solutions offer are what "matters."

We are at the threshold of a fascist authoritarian takeover. America is rapidly turning toward oligarchy. January 6th was America's Kristallnacht.

The cowardice of Senate Republicans voting to not hold Trump responsible for five deaths and the sacking of the US Capitol should shock and chill us all. They are our Neville Chamberlains.

Democracy must reassert its power and moral authority with investigations and prosecutions of the traitors who tried to kill our Vice President and Speaker and take over our country.

Thought and economic leaders in our nation must step forward and unequivocally condemn not only the fascist leaders who've taken over the GOP but also the fascist media supporting and encouraging them.

Our press must explicitly point out the difference between the American invention of a democratic republic and Trump's 21st century neofascism, and tell our citizens in blunt terms what the end point of the direction we're heading could be.

Congress and the Biden administration must make America work again, and protect and restore to safety and prosperity those Americans who are today experiencing fear, uncertainty, unemployment and even hunger in ways we haven't seen in a century.

And Republicans must drop their "voter fraud" big lie and replace their voter suppression campaigns with serious policy considerations, rejecting demagoguery and running on issues again.

If these things don't happen now, we will soon see political violence on a scale resembling Europe's in the 1930s or Chile's in the 1970s. And the work of 245 years, the millions of lives dedicated or given to defend the American ideal, will die.


Originally posted on thomhartmann.medium.com .


Riverplunge's picture
Riverplunge 3 years 20 weeks ago

You know that January 6th, was not the end of trouble. This guy not only breaks every law; now he keeps on spitting in the face of law.

When someone continually acts as to get rid of tranquility, peace, law, and democracy: They should be labeled as a THREAT to the country's stability and existence. And punished by stripped citizenship and deported. Him and ANYONE else who inflames hatred.. If you can't keep it to yourself - Bye!!

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

Mmm... maybe there's no need to wish him good health to face justice:

Trump impeachment after leaving office is nothing – in 9th-century Rome they put a pope’s corpse on trial.

Good enough. Keep stuffing junk food in your pie hole, great big fat granddaddy.

djgilbert 3 years 20 weeks ago

Thom's comments are on point and a real wake up call. We are looking over a precipice of historical proportions.

The comparison to Germany of the 1930s has validity but there is a key difference. Germany was not a mega country or empire. Most of its territories in Eastern Europe were taken away after WWI.

A more concerning parallel might be the path of the then world's then-largest country, the USSR. The Brezhnev stagnation of poor economic performance, high military expenditures (estimated between 12 and 20% of GDP), and corruption in government led to a situation of no return.

Estonia ended up being the pin that pricked the balloon of the USSR. When there is fragility, even small seemingly insignificant outliers can set off cascading events. Could it happen here?

We must all be concerned!

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

@djgilbert. Thanks for that particular comparison. A good read on a scary subject.

Carole Lutness's picture
Carole Lutness 3 years 20 weeks ago

People seem baffled about how the Congressional Republicans, and various State Republican parties, etc. could now be doing everything they can to protect and support Donald Trump. Very likely he will not be convicted by the Senate. Very likely he will face no repercussions for having planned and incited the January 6 Insurrection. Very likely he will get away with all of his other crimes. My assessment is that Trump is a Mob Boss who has managed to shakedown the establishment Republicans by saying that if they don't protect him, he will take his millions of followers and create the Patriot Party. They know if he does that will mean the end of the Republican Party because despite their oligarch's unfathomable wealth, without the millions of delusional followers they couldn't elect a dogcatcher. So they're going along with the extortion to save their Party.

What would you do?

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

Haha. Well, sobering up the next morning after being in a party like that, I would wear sackcloth and ashes and crawl through muddy streets begging voters' forgiveness for being a sniveling coward with no sense of right and wrong. And then, for the rest of my days in this mortal realm, I would vote a straight Democratic ticket, so help me God. Amen.

Very likely you're right. Just hope not.

alis volat's picture
alis volat 3 years 20 weeks ago

The Congressional Republicans expressed no real terror about the Capitol marauders. Perhaps because they knew damn well they were not the targets. Pence was the only one they were gunning for. A few from the right were properly disgusted by the time they were interviewed, but scared, no way! In fact during the time they were under siege, they were so disrespectful they participated in the terror by not masking in close quarters with their colleagues. You know Trump was delighting in the mayhem, or he would have tried to stop it. It's probable many from his Congressional following were having trouble containing their glee as well.

The Republicans have actively participated in the lying; they truly "get off" on it just like Trump does. They think it is a way of messing with the opposition when in truth it kills their credibility at the same time. Trump declares victory, then leaves the room to let others fight about it. All these tactics are right out of Roy Cohn's playbook.

What happened this time is all the lies and propaganda were just supposed to be sparring with the opponents while attempting to dominate in the ring. The ignorant little fighters didn't get the memo about jabs and lunges, and they went for the knockout. They turned it into literal bloodsport. Now the inept assholes in Trump's camp, who were complicit in every way, think they can just move-on.

If a person has a moral American bone in their body, they know in their heart the right thing to do. Holding Trump accountable is the only option. Win or lose the trial, we will do this and whatever we can to make sure those involved are fully exposed. I want him to pay and burn in hell, but if he doesn't, I won't whine or think what the Dems did was fruitless. Doing the right thing has its own merit.

Good Americans need to remember we are not alone in this world. Democracies are our allies, and curiously Germany is one of the best. Our friends have just been waiting for us to take out the TRASH!

cuz's picture
cuz 3 years 20 weeks ago

Thom, you continue to pump out fear porn and although may be good for your show ratings, it is horrible for the health of our country.

Trying to become the Alex Jones of the left is not the way to bring people together.

Is your true goal is that of our president, or hang on to ratings which is extremely dufficult in an era when literally everything is controled by your own party.

Legend 3 years 20 weeks ago

It needs to be called what it was, the Republican Party Insurrection. Trump was the cause, but this was a well organized and financed insurrection. We have seen the pictures of Josh Holly with the raised fist. They knew where they were going in the Capitol. They flew from all parts of the USA to the scheduled event. Hopefully they have evidence of it during the trial.

When the so called Democratic "Squad" was elected they were the rage of the Right Wing Media. Constantly misquoted, threatened and mocked. All 4 are very well educated and intelligent. All 4 were re-elected with large numbers. Where does the Republican Party get its mini squad? Marjorie Taylor Greene, read the article and especially watch the video. Wiki says it all. Plus this.Then you have, Laura Boebert. A High School dropout who passed her GED 1 month prior to running for office. Famous for running a restaurant where the waitresses pack heat. Her main issue while a candidate was that her opponent was a Socialist because she had a PHD in Sociology. She has arrest records and is a Qanon follower. During the insurrection she Tweeted Pelosi's location twice along with "1776".

The Republican Party is splitting in two.




Legend 3 years 20 weeks ago

Попробуйте написать по электронной почте webmaster@thomhartmann.com

rostasi 3 years 20 weeks ago

"Cuz" thinks Thom is reading his B.S.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

I'm guessing cuz might be a she, not that it matters.

One of the most common (I would say dreary) go-to tactics of the typical trolls who periodically grace us with their presence on this blog, and nearly everywhere else it seems, is to conjure up strawman logical fallacies (under the rubric of irrelevancies and red herrings), which are self-made fantasies much easier to argue against (ergo "strawman') than, say, to honestly discuss the more difficult merits of Thom's actual, well-researched positions.

Usually, people do this unconsciously, almost second nature, which is a sad commentary on the ubiquity of falsehoods flooding social media and mainstream news nowadays -- "Farcebook," Fux "News," the swampnet, hate radio, and hate podcasts in particular.

​Note to future alien archeologists digging through the ruins on planet Earth: The average Homo sapien brain was just not evolved enough to handle the internet and the explosion of knowledge -- like giving loaded guns to monkeys.

cuz's picture
cuz 3 years 20 weeks ago

It appears I have once again riled up the moderator. One trait of a rational person is allowing both sides to be heard and respected. It appears this particular moderator has the same agenda as so many in DC. It's my way or you will be cancelled.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

As for my sex, I thought democrats stoped recognizing genders on Nov.6, 2020.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

Fallacies and responses, the breakdown (reordered by subject matter) of a strawman argument:

  • (strawman) I am not "the moderator" -- just another "riled up" horse with an internet connection. };--))
  • (red herring, strawman, paranoia?) As for your sex, me lady (?), I said it didn't matter and was only responding objectively to a personal pronoun from a previous post. Jeez.
  • (red herring, strawman, part-to-whole) The Democrats never stopped "recognizing genders." What does that even mean beyond simple pronoun salutation or reference? And how is it connected to Biden and Harris winning the election, pray tell? (just wrong on so many levels)
  • (relevancy, red herring, whole-to-part) What DC cancel agenda are you talking about specifically and, if true, how does it apply here?
  • (red herring, strawman, projection?) "It's my way or you will be cancelled." How exactly are you being "cancelled?" By the same logic, does your response "cancel" me? (honest questions)
  • (red herring, strawman) Of course "both sides" should be heard and respected, just as plain facts should be heard and respected, even if they happen to be on the "other side."
  • (accepted opinion) Logical fallacies and straight-up lies, although heard, should not be respected by anyone.
  • (ad hominem, projection?, wrong conclusion?, consciousness of guilt?, hypocritical?) Those who knowingly spread "lies and half-truths" are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves. (accepted opinion)
  • (fact) Free speech works both ways: the statement or question, and then the response, like it or not.
  • (Supposition) When you explicitly address your posts to "Thom," you are really addressing the wider audience. No?

Don't worry, be happy. (((🎵 Robin Williams in happier times 🎵)))

cuz's picture
cuz 3 years 20 weeks ago

Admitting you are not the moderator is the first step.

Now try and convince me you are not the individual who complains to the moderator and try to get posters that do not agree with you removed.

A few of your personality type appears on every forum or blog regardless of its subject matter People usually refer to them as wannabee moderators. This format does not have a specific ignore option but as we said in days of old "when your phone doesn't ring, you will know it's me"

As a WM once wrote,

  • "(fact) Free speech works both ways: the statement or question, and then the response, like it or not."
deepspace's picture
deepspace 3 years 20 weeks ago

(hee haw, fact, back atcha)

Same, same, over and over: relevancy; red herring; strawman; ad hominem; misreading; false accusation; hypocrisy; projection, i.e., accusing others of your own behavior and attitude. Like I said, dreary.

"Your personality type appears on every forum or blog regardless of its subject matter." So true, but the look-in-the-mirror word you left out is "troll," as in dime-a-dozen, right-wing troglodytes roaming the internet who can dish it out (owning the libs) but can't take it (snowflake victimhood).

rostasi 3 years 20 weeks ago

@cuz: The problem I have with you (and others can chime in) is that you nearly always go off on a tangent while somehow thinking that you're cleverly responding to Hartmann's blog article. Instead of responding with even anything close to a well-thought-out inquiry or statement, you seem to have this bag of word and phrase tricks that you bring out that has people scratching their heads about what you're going on about. It's as if you were accosting the cook in a kitchen about how he wouldn't know how to make a good eggplant parmigiana to save his life - all the while standing in a Thai restaurant. "Disagree" vs "agree" often doesn't even play a part because there's such a disconnect that it just looks like ranting mumbo-jumbo that's been inside your head all day ready to jump out on "paper." It gets tiring awfully quickly.

SueN's picture
SueN 3 years 20 weeks ago

What makes you think you have riled me, cuz? I'm pretty easy-going most of the time, and I'm the only moderator here unless I call in the webmaster, which I very rarely do. You remind me of the Republican congress critters who are doing the rounds on media saying they have been censored. But I don't recall hearing any silence or beeps on those media. I do hope that everyone will do their best to remain civilized though.

I don't care what gender people are, but it is helpful to know whether to refer to them as 'he' or 'she'. 'It' sounds so rude.

cuz's picture
cuz 3 years 20 weeks ago

Hi Sue, thanks for the comeback. I only assumed who was the moderator based on one individual's dominance of this blog's posts.

Thank you for setting me straight. Psst, don't tell the other person they are not in charge, the damage to their ego might be devastating.

Carry on and thanks for the much needed positive post the other day. It sounds like you are not in the US. Wherever you are, stay safe.

rostasi 3 years 20 weeks ago

So, people who are opinionated automatically think they are in charge.

yeah...got it.

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