Monday night’s announcement that the GSA will finally allow the bureaucratic machinery of the transition to begin is good news, but it by no means ends the propaganda campaign by Trump and his Republican enablers claiming that the election was stolen through massive fraud engineered by the Democrats, election officials, and the media.
Indeed, it’s unlikely that Trump will ever concede. Even after Biden is inaugurated, Trump and his supporters will continue to claim the election was stolen and Biden is not the rightfully elected President entitled to the respect of the office.
“While I don’t mean to equate Trump with Hitler and his Republican enablers with Nazi’s, the analogy to using a big lie to build an authoritarian movement may be apt.”
Many cable pundits attribute Trumps refusal to accept he lost to psychology—Trump was raised by his father, and tutored by Roy Cohn, to never accept defeat. That would make him a “loser,” which is the worst thing anyone could be.
But what if there’s something more sinister going on: A conscious political strategy by Trump, Republican leaders, and their white nationalist allies to build a permanent mass authoritarian movement to take back power, fed by the mythology that the election was stolen and Biden can never be a legitimate President.
Just look at the history of Germany between the end of World War I and fascism coming to power. The organizing principle of the German right during that time was the lie that Germany did not lose World War I but was instead “stabbed in the back” by civilian politicians who sold out the Fatherland, the troops, and the German people by surrendering to the allies while Germany was allegedly winning the War.
The German “stab in the back” claim was as big a lie as the American “Biden stole the election” claim, but it came to be believed by a sizable proportion of the German population and helped lead to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the eventual ascension of Hitler to power.
In fact, General Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg and Chief-of-Staff Erich Ludendorff already knew the war effort was doomed and pressed Kaiser Wilhelm to allow the civilian politicians to sue for peace. Cleverly, von Hindenburg and Ludendorff kept their own fingerprints off the surrender, pushing it onto the leaders of the newly formed Weimar Republic who actually signed the armistice and Versailles Peace Treaty. The head of the civilian government, Matthias Erzberger, who signed the armistice was assassinated in 1921 as a “traitor” by the ultra-nationalist Organisation Consul.
The “stab in the back” lie was widely disseminated by the military leadership, the right-wing political parties, and eventually by the Nazis, and came to be accepted by a sizeable portion of the German population. Ernst Rohm, a commander of the Freikorps, an armed militia which violently attacked those held responsible for the “stab in back” later became head of the Nazi Brownshirts.
While I don’t mean to equate Trump with Hitler and his Republican enablers with Nazis, the analogy to using a big lie to build an authoritarian movement may be apt.
Over 70 million Americans voted for Trump. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, over half of all Republicans think that the election was stolen by Biden through widespread voter fraud and Trump “rightfully won.” That’s tens of millions of Americans who believe Trump’s lie that the election was stolen and Biden is illegitimate.
These millions of Americans can form the basis of a mass authoritarian movement over the next few years. The institutional Republican Party no longer believes it can win national elections fairly and is willing to forsake small “d” democratic principles to regain power. That one of the two major parties in the first modern democracy doesn’t believe in democracy puts even America’s flawed democracy in great peril. If Democrats do not win the two Senate seats being contested in a Georgia Special election on January 5th, it will justify Mitch McConnell and his allies being even more obstructionist to the Biden administration than it was to the Obama administration.
Even more ominous, Trumpism and white supremacist authoritarianism, did not begin with Trump and won’t end with his departure from The White House. It’s likely the future includes a mass authoritarian party, fueled by claims of a stolen election, determined to reclaim power and never give it up again.
NOTE: As I was writing this piece, I just saw that never-Trump conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens just posted an article entitled “Trump Contrives His Stab-In-The-Back Myth.” I guess conservatives like Stephens and progressive like me sometimes agree.