Our “Reichstag Fire” Moment

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We saw the face of fascism yesterday, as our country faced its “Reichstag Fire” moment. The lies, the gaslighting, the endless propaganda. Stoking violent populist uprisings, placing personal loyalty above duty to country. Ruling through fear and intimidation, paired with a political class of elected officials that were so comfortable in their “safe” gerrymandered districts that all it took was a threat of a (gasp) primary opponent to force them into obedience.

We escaped, but only for one reason: Donald Trump’s own incompetence. Imagine if he had done a decent job managing the pandemic this year: it’s very likely he would have four more years in the White House to systematically dismantle our tripartite system of checks and balances, and amass unchecked power.

It’s scary to think how close we came to our own Reichstag fire yesterday. Pipe bombs were found around both the Capitol and the RNC headquarters building. Police found a van nearby with a stash of Molotov cocktails. The insurrectionists could easily have burned down the Legislative branch. Imagine if they had been able to take some elected officials hostage.

And the other shoe has yet to drop: we don’t yet know the extent to which the police and military were politicized.  There is video evidence showing Capitol Police allowing the Trumpists past the barricades – literally opening up the barricades to let them through. And the National Guard was held back for hours while the insurrectionists stormed the Capitol; there are conflicting reports as to whether that was under the orders of the Pentagon or Trump personally, but either way the decision was not reversed until after the governors of both Maryland and Virginia activated their own National Guard forces and sent them in. There will be a reckoning when the details come to light about the extent to which the police, the Pentagon, and the President enabled yesterday’s events.

I don’t envy Joe Biden, nor his Attorney-General-to-be Merrick Garland, as they try to sort this out after January 20. Despite the appeal of “pulling a Gerald Ford” and pardoning Trump in order to move the country forward, the ugly reality is that yesterday was the inevitable result of four years of Trump and his minions never being held personally accountable for trampling on the Constitution. Giving them a pass again will only ensure that history will once again repeat itself. I doubt that the Trump administration’s day of reckoning will rise to the level of the Nuremburg trials, but the only way to suppress fascism is to expose it – and its purveyors – to sunlight.

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