Trump’s Reichstag Fire — Are We Ready for an October Surprise?
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Is the press ready? Are the Democrats ready? The Justice Department is already compromised. Fox News and the GOP will fan the flames. In the run-up to the November election we must be prepared for the ultimate dirty trick.
What if Trump or his supporters trigger an outrageous act like the Reichstag fire and blame “Antifa” or the radical left?
The country is in crisis, after spiraling down into deep polarization, a unscrupulous authoritarian demagogue has gained power, and has a powerful propaganda machine as co-conspirator. Sound familiar?
For those who do not know their history, the German parliament, the Reichstag, was severely damaged by arsonists in 1933, just four weeks after Hitler became chancellor. The Nazis blamed it on the communists, then their primary opponents, and used it as a pretext to consolidate power — but there is strong evidence it was actually set by the Nazis.
Many say parallels between Trump and Hitler, and America and Weimar Germany’s descent into Nazism, are thin — but they are not as thin as in 2016. The Germans of 1933 also thought “it can’t happen here.” After all, this was the “nation that had given the world a Luther, a Kant, a Goethe and a Schiller, a Bach, a Beethoven and a Brahms.” (Others have commented on such parallels in The New Yorker and The Washington Post.)
Yes, America has far stronger traditions of democracy and the rule of law, but Trump and his supporters are already chiseling away at that, and anyone who thinks he would have any compunctions has not been paying attention. We can hope that Trump’s colossal incompetence will self-limit him, but how has that been working out for us?
Even the dumpster fires Trump habitually sets could have consequential effect on a close election. And what about those who use him as their “useful idiot” and would love to see us destroy ourselves, like Russia, China, or Iran.
Many are concerned about Trump refusing to leave if he loses or there is dispute. But what about a surprise before the election he can use to suppress or shift the vote? This week’s hijacking of Twitter may be a dry run for something far more deadly. Trump is already using peaceful protests as a pretext for authoritarian actions, as we are seeing in Portland (and of course Lafayette Square).
Those who have influence must be prepared for a Reichstag Fire of an “October Surprise” — and the propaganda and illegal invocations of martial law that might be triggered by such a pretext.
- Biden and the Democrats must be ready to counter any surprise in a fully coordinated way.
- The press and the social media must be ready to coordinate a mitigation strategy.
- All levels of government must be ready to contain any power grab.
- Independent civic and religious organizations must be on high alert and ready to help contain any disruption.
- All citizens should be reminded of this history, to inoculate us, so it cannot happen here, now.
Maybe this is alarmist, and maybe neither Trump nor any but a few of his supporters would go that far. Dare we count on that? When has he ever earned the benefit of the doubt?
Death of 1000 Reichstag Dumpster Fires
Since writing this I realized that we have already seen a more insidious variation: Lafayette Park and Portland show that they don’t need no stinkin’ Reichstag Fire. All they need is more Lafayette Parks and more Seattles.