A popular myth is that Adolph Hitler was elected. Actually, he lost each election he participated in for president of Germany during the 1930s.
After some political tensions, the president, Paul von Hindenberg, appointed Hitler as chancellor. Germany’s system at the time elected a president to a seven-year term and then the president appointed a chancellor for four years, with their role being in charge of the parliament. Parliament operated in a building and was commonly known as the Reichstag.
In January 1933 Hitler persuaded Hindenberg to dissolve the Reichstag and to hold new elections.
On Feb. 27, 1933 the Reichstag "mysteriously’" burned. The culprits that were implicated were the Communists, but in reality it was Hitler’s Sturm Abteilung or SA. The SA was members of the Nazi party who operated as a band of thugs for Hitler’s benefit.
Citing a terrorist threat, and a threat to national security and sovereignty, Hitler requested an emergency decree from President Hindenberg to combat the Communist threat. The emergency decree stated, “Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."
As a result, 51 non-Nazi party members were murdered, and all political expression of any kind against the Nazi party was banned. In effect, the only political party that was permitted to operate was the Nazi party.
Despite this, on March 5, 1933, the new parliament elections did not give Hitler’s Nazi party power. He only won 44 percent of the seats. With no majority, even amidst suppression and propaganda, the Nazis could not gain enough seats to control the Reichstag, now meeting in another building.
On March 23, 1933 the Reichstag considered Hitler’s proposed Enabling Act. He described it to the parliament members as something that would be used judiciously and with the best interests of the German people in mind. He claimed to want to use it to promote peace with France, England, and the Soviet Union, restore rights that were rescinded previously. In order to do these things he would need to have the Enabling Act implemented.
Despite some objections, the parliament voted in favor of Hitler’s Enabling Act, altering the constitution and effectively ending democratic government in Germany for years. All of this to raucous applause from his supporters in parliament, and the dismay of Hindenberg. Prior to Hindenberg’s death in August 1934, Hitler’s new Germany opened the Dachau death camp, declared that the Nazi party was the only acceptable and legal political party, and left the League of Nations.
By using the nation’s own constitution and system against itself, Hitler obtained dictatorial power as both president and chancellor, and would go on to wreck havoc in Europe and beyond through World War II. I do not contend that our current crisis in the United States is equivalent to the evil of the Nazi government and policies, but I do see some similarities sprouting.
The IRS has proven to be a corrupt institution and a weapon of sorts for the benefit of one political ideology, and the detriment of another. It is also tasked with overseeing the now implemented Affordable Care Act, which will allow access to every American’s personal medical information. The agency tasked with collecting the government’s revenue, is now also tasked with enforcing the Affordable Care Act.
The NSA has proven to be a massive and invasive information gathering organization targeting all Americans in various ways. The NSA has access to virtually everyone’s personal information, and as a result, the federal government does too.
The Department of Justice has conducted illegal activities regarding gun-running operations, but has been instructed to investigate itself to determine the culprits. The Attorney General perjured himself before Congress, but was not removed from office. Instead, his office is filing lawsuits against various states regarding election laws that were ruled on by the Supreme Court. The executive branch selectively enforces the laws that it agrees with, and ignores the laws it does not agree with.
The blatant lies and obfuscation surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya continue on a year after the murders. The known participants are walking freely in Libya, and even giving interviews to some news outlets. Eyewitnesses are being forced into silence by gag order, and the people they are trying to investigate are continually stonewalling the Congressional committee tasked with investigating this terrible attack. The executive branch is choosing to keep this tragedy under wraps.
The National Defense Authorization Act goes far beyond Patriot Act enacted during George W. Bush’s administration. This legislation allows the government to arrest any American for any reason, deny them writ of habeas corpus, and indefinitely detain them without access to an attorney.
The Department of Homeland Security has purchased over 1 billion rounds of ammunition and thousands of armored vehicles. The constitution prohibits the use of the military as a domestic police force (posse commitatus), so this administration has effectively created its own army, answerable only to the president.
The current situation in America with regards to the potential default, reminds me of the Reichstag moment: the moment in which a pretext was set for the eventual overthrow of a democratic system of government, to one of dictatorship. In my view, the apparatus is in place.
The hysteria over a default on our country’s debt obligations and government shut down is all hype. The government has tax revenues to ensure maintenance of the debt, and numerous previous shut downs have not resulted in catastrophe and have all been negotiated.
Will the default situation be used to invoke the NDAA provisions, enforced by the Department of Justice? Will it turn the NSA into an active persecutor of dissenting Americans? The Department of Homeland Security and its massive paramilitary power could be used to institute martial law, along with local law enforcement as was done in Boston after the bombing there during the Boston marathon.
The Capitol Building is no danger that I can discern, but figuratively speaking, the president could theoretically use this default crisis as a type of ‘Reichstag event’ to grant himself the powers already on the books and become the nation’s first dictator.
Feature Photo Credit: J. David Ake/AP Photo
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