A study of how Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party destroyed democracy in Germany, when compared with the actions of Donald Trump and his supporters, provides troubling similarities:

• A charismatic and gifted orator, Hitler maneuvered his popularity into absolute power and became the face of his party.

• He masterfully played upon people’s fears and offered deceptively simple solutions to complex problems; his chief aide demonized an “enemy of the … people.”

• He lied so forcefully and so often that many Germans accepted his lies as truth.

• He intimidated would-be opponents into silence.

•  He encouraged paramilitary action and incited mob violence against enemies and their buildings.

• He demanded absolute loyalty to himself, as opposed to the rule of law.

• He pardoned supporters who had committed lawless acts on his behalf.

In 1932, the Nazi Party won 37.4 percent of the popular vote; on Jan. 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor by the president, whose advisers wanted to exploit Hitler’s following for their own ends. But Hitler consolidated power, and on March 24, 1933, citing the need to address extraordinary threats and chaos, he was granted power to rule by decree. Democracy was dead, but millions cheered.

Could the death of democracy to the cheers of millions happen in the USA? Our U.S. democracy may be dodging a fatal bullet now, but we have seen what happens when politicians value power over democracy. Much work is needed to protect and strengthen our democracy, and we should be informed by history as we pursue this sacred duty.

Jim Shaffer

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