William Shirer’s classic “the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” should be mandatory reading in high school, maybe even as part of civics courses. It certainly would be timely. For example, after he was elected as President of Germany on August 19, 1934, Hitler used campaign-style rallies of his followers to attack other members of the Wiemar government. The campaign against his own government was a vehicle to create unrest and ultimately a means of justifying his takeover as dictator. Watching that rally in Phoenix last night was frightening. First of all, what president has campaign rallies AFTER he is elected? Now you know.
Trump attacked members of his own party such as McConnell, Flake and McCain. One of the many chants at the rally was: “Die, John, Die.” Trump did nothing to discourage the blood frenzy of his followers. In fact, he encouraged it by further accusing the media of hating the country. In a moment that had to be terrifying for CNN, Trump lied and falsely accused them of cutting off the live feed of the rally. His followers began to express their outrage at the media. This is classic stuff – tactics used very effectively in Spain, Italy and Germany in the early 20th Century. It’s also dangerous. I think the GOP leadership is starting to realize it. For example, some Senate staffers are denouncing Trump openly and suggesting impeachment is not such a remote possibility. Others with more intimate knowledge of national security matters (such as James Clapper) are suggesting invoking Article 25 of the U.S. Constitution (removing a president deemed unfit for the duties of the office).
The real danger, as I see it, is not Trump as much as his followers, who appear utterly devoted to him no matter how dangerous he acts. The prospect of violence if articles of impeachment are invoked – forget that – violence in response to his rhetoric is becoming real. These are scary times and hopefully we can learn our lessons from history.