Updated November 2, 2021
The United States faces a problem similar in many ways, and different in many ways, to the problem faced by Great Britain, France, and the United States after the defeat of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in May, 1945.
In their respective occupation zones, which included parts of Berlin, England, France, and America faced the daunting task of governing a population whose thinking and world view had been altered by 12 years of Nazi lies and propaganda, and the terror with which the Nazi regime had ruled as it seized all positions of power and influence in the country.
The cult of Adolf Hitler was very strong.The Western Allies needed to de-program the German population in their respective occupation zones, as a first step toward laying the groundwork for a future democratic state and society.
The Western Allies held certain advantages, including military occupation and control over all governmental decisions in the British, French, and American zones of occupation and their respective sectors in Berlin.
Importantly, they also held control over all means of mass communication, including newspapers and radio.
With these advantages, they launched a program of what was known as denazification, portrayed brilliantly in the movie “Judgment at Nuremberg”. In addition to the trials of the major war criminals in Nuremberg, they held denazification trials of Nazi leaders and other officials in 12 different sectors of government. Leon Jaworski, the prominent Houston lawyer who later became the famous Watergate Prosecutor, was an American prosecutor in one or more of the lower-level trials of Nazi war criminals.
The Saturday Night Massacre On Saturday, October 20, 2973, President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned effective immediately, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus when he was ordered to fire Cox. These events produced a firestorm of reaction. The impeachment proceedings against Nixon began 10 days dater, on October 30, 1972, and Leon Jawaorski was sworn in as the new Watergate Special Prosecutor on November 1, 1973.
The situation in the United States in July, 2021 is vastly different from the situation the Western Allies faced in Germany in 1945.
While Donald Trump and the Republicans were defeated at the polls on November 3, 2020, Trump refused to admit his defeat, launching “The Big Lie” that he won by a landslide and that the election was “stolen” by Biden and the Democrats through massive fraud.
The official results showed that Trump was defeated in the Electoral College by a vote of 306-232 electors. The popular vote results were 81,283,098 votes for Joe Biden, or 51.3 percent of the votes cast. Trump won 74,222,958 votes, or 46.8 percent of the votes cast.
See James M. Lindsay (The Water’s Edge blog), “The 2020 Election by the Numbers,” Council on foreign Relations, December 15, 2020 (5:00 pm EST).
Every electoral process aimed at verifying the results of the elections, including decisions by some 60 courts, have completely rejected all arguments of fraud on any scale that might have remotely affected the outcome of the elections. Interestingly, the Republicans do not challenge the elections that gave them 50 Senate seats and a pickup of a number of seats in the House of Representatives.
On January 6, 2021, even after the Capitol Insurrection, eight Republican Senators voted against certification of the electoral votes of Arizona and/or Pennsylvania, while 128 Republicans in the House of Representatives opposed certification of the electoral votes of one or more states, notwithstanding the certification by the Electoral College vote on December 14, 2020. Before the Capitol Insurrection, some 14 senators and 140 Republican members of the House were reportedly planning to vote against certification.
1) Jenny Gross and Luke Broadwater, “Here are the Republicans who objected to certifying the election results,” New York Times, January 7, 2021 (Updated January 8, 2021).
2) Li Zhou, “147 Republican lawmakers still objected to the election results after the Capitol attack; Congress has certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the election — but some Republicans still objected,” Vox (vox.com), Updated January 7, 2021 (3:28pm EST). Li reports,
“In a vote Wednesday evening, six Republicans in the Senate and 121 in the House backed objections to certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome, while seven Senate Republicans and 138 House Republicans supported an objection to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome.”
Gradually, all but a very small minority of Republican Senators and Congressmen came to endorse The Big Lie and to adopt it as a litmus test for good standing in the Republican Party. The Republican Caucus expelled Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her position as the third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership because she refused to endorse The Big Lie. She was replaced by Elise Stefanik (R-New York), a shameless Trump sycophant who did.
Republicans at the state level have also endorsed “The Big Lie”, and plan to “primary” those who didn’t in the upcoming 2022 elections.
The corruption of the Republican Party has been almost complete, including at the state level and among Republican candidates for election to state-wide political office.
Far from controlling the news media as the Western Allies did in Germany after World War II, the victorious Democrats face a mass media machine headed by Fox News, which propagates The Big Lie and spreads many other lies to tens of millions of Trump and Republican supporters every day. Since the deregulation of television and radio in 1996, under a plan put through by Democratic President Bill Clinton, and the auction of TV and radio frequencies to broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) no longer enforces fairness rules or any semblance of what used to be known as “the fairness doctrine”.
Indeed, the FCC and the Federal Government seem powerless to regulate the lies and disinformation, which in the case of the pro-Trump media machine, feeds Trump supporters and Republicans a steady diet of anti-Democratic propaganda and lies, upholding and propagating further the Big Lie that Trump won the election and that Biden stole it.
This is vaguely analogous to the “Stab-in-the-back” (“Dolchstoss”) myth Hitler and the Nazis spread in the 1920’s and early 1930’s in their drive to take power, which was ultimately successful in 1933. The “Dolchstoss” or “stab-in-the-back myth spread the totally false belief that Germany had lost world War I only as the result of betrayal by civilians on the home front, especially Jews, revolutionary socialists, and other republican politicians.
After losing the election on November 3, 2020, President Trump and his co-conspirators appeared to commit many election-related crimes aimed at overturning the results of the presidential election, whether by tampering with vote counts or pressuring election officials to find fraud where none existed, or by refusing to recognize or certify voting results, in accordance with statutory procedures designed to guarantee the accuracy of vote counts and the fairness of elections.
These apparent crimes culminated in the Capitol Insurrection on January 6, 2021, and Republican votes against certification in what was a conspiracy to deny Joe Biden the presidency, by refusing to vote for the Congressional certification of the electoral College vote count as established in the 12th amendment to the Constitution.
That is the situation Democrats and other constitutionalists face in the United States today.
Detrumpification: What can be done?
What can be done? What can we learn from Germany’s experience?
A complete answer to these questions cannot be provided here.
However, any effective plan might include the following key elements:
First, trials will be necessary to unmask the crimes of the criminals. These public trials should benefit from great media attention, and be televised in whole or in part, to the extent permitted by court regulations. The effect of the Nuremberg trials on the German population in 1945-1946 was great.
Second, the detrumpification plan should proceed from the understanding that members of the cult of Trump, like members of the the cult of Adolf Hitler, will not be easy to de-program. Drastic measures are likely to be required, such as the adoption of laws and regulations to take down, or at least de-fang, the pro-Trump media machine, including in particular Fox News.
Legislation should be adopted to this end. One measure would be to introduce tax benefits (reductions) for real news organizations, who put on objective, fact-based news programs, which would not be available to propaganda operations like Fox News. Objective reporting and fairness standards could be introduced under the regulations governing administration of the tax breaks.
Third, civil penalties should be adopted to sanction the deliberate or reckless dissemination of of lies and disinformation. The legal norms set forth in New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny would provide the governing legal standards, to ensure that speech protected by the first Amendment is not sanctioned.
Detrumpification will not be easy.
But it is as essential for the maintenance and growth of a vibrant democracy in the United States as denazification was for the growth of democracy in Germany after 1945.
The Trenchant Observer