- “They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Communist;”
They came for the Socialists, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Socialist;”
They came for the labor leaders, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a labor leader;”
They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Jew;”
Then they came for me – And there was no one left to object.”
— Martin Niemöller, German Protestant Pastor
We have about eleven months to save our Republic. We face a unique threat from inside.
We must prevail or lose everything. If we lose our democratic America, then, in the long run, Europe, Japan and the rest of the democratic world will suffer, if not fall. The world will descend into a new Dark Age of despotism, of unknown length and horror, exacerbated by runaway planetary heating and massive, accelerating migration.
The ugly fall began just the same way in Weimar Germany. Then the threat was precisely the same: extreme politics backed by mob violence. Then the mob was unified and organized. It had a single name: the Brown Shirts. Our American mob is various and loosely organized and has many names, including Blood and Honor, Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys. But our cultural individualism does not make a mob, or many mobs, any less dangerous.
So far, our national response has been much the same as in Weimar Germany. Leaders who should know better have caved for fear of losing their power, their offices and—in more than a few cases—their families’ safety. Citizens have gone along because of real and imagined grievances, because they are jealous or resentful of others, or because they are cowards.
The Nazis had a single scapegoat group, Jews. Our Demagogue has replaced them with a whole rainbow of scapegoats, including Black people, Hispanics, Chinese, Indians (in both senses), LGBTQ folk, Muslims, and progressives. But Jews are still in the mix; just listen to Elon Musk.
If you think the variety of scapegoats will save you when they come for you, think again. That’s not how tyrants work; that’s not what history teaches; that’s not what Martin Niemöller wrote. And lately “woke” progressives have become part of the scapegoat group.
Our media have not just been whistling by the graveyard; they’ve been singing happy tunes. They obsess about their ratings and their profits. They report every bit of distracting trivia to increase them.
And they normalize the would-be-tyrant’s lies, threats, insanities, and blunders, while neglecting the accomplishments of our grossly underrated President. Even their “fact-checking” is weak: by lumping all lies together in one place, it normalizes lies and fails to call out the really important ones: the “stolen” election, the alleged innocence of the January 6 insurrection, the alleged harmlessness of Covid, and the so-far completely unproven “crimes” of Joe Biden.
When the authorities or the mob come for the reporters and their families, they’ll be sorry. But it’ll be too late. Eighty-eight journalists reportedly were killed in Russia during Putin’s early years in power, just through 2009. And, so far, our media are focusing on the “horse race” as usual. If you want to know how deeply mistaken and existentially threatening their malpractice is, watch this.
This is not a normal election season. It cannot and will not be normal. This is a fight for the survival of democracy and justice in the central part of North America. If the good guys and gals don’t win, the bad guys will fire, marginalize, sideline, impoverish, threaten and, yes, ultimately kill them.
That’s how democracies become despotisms. Free media and their workers are often the first to go to the gulags. Leaders with little intelligence and discretion, plus a lust for vengeance, become persecutors, tyrants, crushers of careers and families, and ultimately killers.
If you want to know the details and the precisely how tyrants work and how close we are now, read this. Notwithstanding Nikki Haley’s valiant efforts, it’s inconceivable that The Demagogue will not be the Republican Party’s nominee for president. Once that happens, the Party, its leaders and its rank and file will fall into line, for all the sordid and banal reasons of power, money, career, prestige, lack of obvious alternatives, and sheer inertia.
That’s how otherwise normal, even God-fearing Germans became mute witnesses to, and often participants in, the Holocaust. When the mob or suborned authorities came for them and their families, it was far, far too late.
The underlying mechanism is simple human psychology. For all our moaning about economic troubles and inflation, we Americans survived the pandemic and its recession better than most countries. Few of us are starving, and most of us have good jobs. And just like pre-Hitler Germans, we can’t believe that politics can take it all away.
But “just politics” can, as it did to them. And if we don’t prevent it, it will. On Kristallnacht, good Germans taught themselves to ignore the broken glass of Jewish shops and homes. They looked the other way as soldiers took away their neighbors. Later, they told themselves that the smell of burning bodies from the Holocaust ovens couldn’t be burning flesh. But in the end, they all participated in the Holocaust, if only by inaction. They all suffered in a horrible war that left their nation in ruins and that took half a century to rebuild.
Will we repeat that kind of catastrophe? Right now, it seems possible, if not likely. Acquainted with history, we have the obligation—to ourselves and our species—to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This is an “all hands on deck” moment the like of which we Americans have never had. Even our Civil War can’t compare with the “indispensable nation,” on which a frying world depends for strength and leadership, falling to the likes of Hitler. You know in your heart what will happen to concerted efforts to address climate change in that case.
Each of us must make sacrifices. Each of us must focus. Each of us must vote, get our friends and family to vote, and help convince others to vote, whether by donating to organizers, or by working as organizers ourselves. This is no time even to think, “It’s not my problem.” And it’s certainly no time to demand perfection, to let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
It will be your problem if our democracy fails, unless you hide under a rock or flee abroad until it’s over (which could take centuries). So make it your business to do everything you can to prevent that from happening.
Not voting, or voting for a third-party candidate, will only help insure catastrophe. In fact, the spooks who plot our national doom in Iran, Russia and China are pushing exactly that: they want a replay of 2000 and 2016, when third-party candidacies doomed the best leaders, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, respectively. Just think of those years and imagine how much better off we all would be today if Gore or Clinton, let alone both, had won.
Amidst exponentially expanding Internet pleas for my money during this Holiday Season, I’ve made an executive decision. I’m not giving to my usual charities this year. I’m giving only to political causes that promise to help save our democracy and that seem to know how.
I’ll do my best NOT to support yet more thirty-second media ads that try to push thoughtless people’s buttons. Most of the targets of those ads are already lost to reason because: (1) the right wing propaganda machines captured their souls long ago; and (2) thoughtless people generally don’t follow the media organizations that I support. (I certainly don’t want to support the likes of Fox in any way.)
More important, I’m convinced that in-person visits arranged by organizations like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action are the only things that can effectively overcome the influence of electronic propaganda, Internet lies, foreign disinformation, Fox, right-wing talk radio, Facebook and X.
But to each his or her own. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and I wouldn’t bet my democracy on my way being right, let alone the only right way. The more hands on deck, and the more ways of helping out, the better. The important thing—in fact the only important thing—is not to sit this one out.
I’m 78 years old, and I’ve started thinking seriously of how to get my assets and my body out of the country should the worst happen. If I’m thinking of planning for the worst, you can imagine what I think anyone under 35 should be doing.
If you want a country worth living and raising a family in, you’re going to have to vote, work hard, donate and/or fight for it, at least for the next eleven months. If you haven’t yet realized that, you haven’t been paying attention.
Good luck, and may the good and sane guys and gals win, with your and my help.