Trump and the American “Gleichschaltung”

First Draft
Historical details are from memory.

Trump and the American Gleichschaltung

In January, 1933, when Adolf Hitler assumed power as Chancellor of a minority government, Germans did not fully appreciate the threat that he posed to democracy and the constitution.

Soon after taking power, Hitler and the Nazis proceeded methodically to eliminate the opposition and all potential sources of opposition, through a process which came to be known as the Gleichschaltung, a term which might be translated as “enforced political conformity”.

Gleichschaltung also has a technical meaning: synchronization. Here, we are talking about synchronization of thought, speech, and action. That is, no one could think, speak, or act in ways not in conformity with the official Nazi line.

On February 27, 1933, the parliament or Reichstag building was burned down as a result of arson. The arsonists have never been categorically identified. Hitler accused the communists. Many thought and have argued that the aronsists were acting on the instructions of Hitler himself.

In the wake of this event, which unleashed fear and pandemonium in the country, Hitler and the Nazis were able to win great victories in the Reichstag elections that were held on March 5, 1933. Shortly thereafter, on March 23, the Reichstag approved an “Enabling Act” which granted Hitler unchecked dictatorial powers. So armed, Hitler proceeded methodically to eliminate his opponents.

The most important of these were the leaders of the military, including famous top generals, who were assassinated or executed. Other power centers were taken over and became exclusively controlled by the Nazis.

Independent public media, including newspapers and the new and influential medium of radio, were silenced or taken over by the Nazis and their sympathizers. The party line was brilliantly pushed and articulated by the Ministry of Propaganda, headed by Josef Goebbels.

The courts, including the Supreme Court, came under the control of the Nazis.

Universities, a focal point of opposition, were taken over by the Nazis.

The police and all armed forces came under Nazi control.

The Nazis’ own militias and special armed forces assumed leadership roles.

Nazi thugs, who had been fighting socialists and communists for control of the streets, now acted with official sanction.

Throughout this period, Nazi propaganda under the direction of Josef Goebbbels succeeded in mobilizing the masses in support of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

It all happened fast. Before they knew it, Germans had lost their democracy.

Hitler “made Germany great again”. With rearmament and the 1936 re-militarization of the Rhineland (prohibited by the 11919 Versailles Treaty of Peace after World War I), Hitler became wildly popular. There was no force left in German society that could oppose him.

In the United States, Donald Trump and his sympathizers have followed a slightly different but recognizably similar course. There can be little doubt that their goal is to take over power, unconstrained by the Constitution or the law, and that they are embarked on what might be termed a process of American Gleichschaltung.

They have succeeded in taking over the Republican party, and actively seek to implement a policy of enforced political conformity or synchronization with the expressed will of Donald Trump, the unquestioned and unchecked leader of their Republican Party.

They have succeeded in placing many judges on courts of appeal, and district courts, and in placing Justices on the Supreme Court, with little attempt at generating bipartisan consensus for candidates.  Rather, they have pushed their candidates, who are generally from a right-wing mold, through the Senate by means of the raw exercise of power.  For a year, they denied Merrick Garland, Barck Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, both a hearing and a confirmation vote.

Trump and his  supporters have built up a powerful propaganda machine, led by Fox News but also joined by a number of other media outlets.  In addition, they have developed great sophistication in pushing their messages to their supporters and synmpathizers through the use of social media.

Trump himself has led a massive propaganda campaign, built on an edifice of constant and very big lies and distortions, and sophisticated operations skilled at creating controversy and drawing public attention away from the misdeeds of the president.  Since the failure of the the Democrats’ impeachment and removal process focused on the Ukraine, Trump and his acolytes have become increasingly brazen in their efforts to politicize the Department of Justice and the criminal justice process.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.