Or, How the National Socialists Take Over America. Imagine the past seven years as a Pinky and the Brain cartoon.
PINKY: So you're going to run for President, Brain?
BRAIN: No, Pinky. YOU are going to run for President. I am going to run for Vice President. Once elected, you will be the lovable and popular figurehead, while I actually run the government.
PINKY: Sounds like a good plan. NARF!
Like the other Pinky And The Brain cartoons, Brain doesn't quite realize his goal of taking over the world, so he and Pinky go back to the lab to cook up another daring and seemingly implausible scheme for tomorrow night.
Enter Pinky And The Brain Run For President, Teil zwei. This time, you have a doddering old fool with a military record that can't be beat, and who challenged President Pinky for the office last time around. I've taken to calling him Senator Hindenburg, because I can't help but be reminded of the election of 1932 in Germany, where Paul von Hindenburg was elected president of Germany. Sure, he was old and sick, but he was popular, and the best chance to deny Hitler the presidency.
His first task after the election was to choose a chancellor. The Nazis held a plurality (32 percent, down from 37 percent in the previous election) in the Reichstag. Perhaps someone who didn't already have one foot in the grave wasn't given to frequent senior moments might have held his ground. After all, 32 percent is not a mandate no matter how you spin it, but he was under tremendous pressure to appoint Adolf Hitler chancellor. This he did, on January 30th, 1933, 75 years ago. President Hindenberg died the following year, and Hitler wasted no time abolishing the late national hero's office and taking full control of Germany outright.
We all know what happened after that. Can it happen here? After seven years of Bush, I'd have to say, sadly, the answer is yes. We knew, or should have known, that Bush/Cheney was bad news four years ago, but he managed to get reelected anyway. Those of us who were actually paying attention should have known in 2000 that Dick Cheney would be pulling Bush's strings and actually running the government just like in my hypothetical cartoon scenario. We won't know for months who McCain's running mate will be. My guess is it will be someone less well-known than Dick Cheney, but just as evil. After all, we ought to know by now that when Republicans run the executive branch, the guy in the Oval Office doesn't actually run the government; he's just there to look pretty and do photo-ops. People have argued that this was also Hitler's function.
The German newsweekly Der Spiegel has an interesting and detailed article (complete with charts) on how Hitler managed to take over a perfectly good democracy and turn it into a Fascist hell. It's a compelling read, especially considering we do not yet know the identity of Sen. McCain's running mate. Might we wind up with President Huckabee (or worse) sometime in 2010? Who knows? Let's not find out.