Never let there be an American Ernst Janning

[Note: This is an update on a post I did several weeks ago.]

I’ve just read this thought- and fright-inducing piece by Robert Kagan in The Washington Post titled “This is how fascism comest to America.” Kagan aims squarely at Trump’s own political philosophical incoherence. The unifying theme within Trump’s philosophy is Trump. How does one overcome a problem? Trump. If something has gone wrong, who’s to blame? Not Trump and most likely the aliens and others in our midst, the Muslims, the Mexicans, and any other number of potential scapegoats. He is the “strong man,” the charismatic leader sociologist Max Weber said was hostile to the existing order. He is the beginning and the end who takes no quarter. He is never a question but always the one to bring the answer, no matter how foolish, stupid, wrong, or vile.

Kagan writes that today’s Republican establishment has failed to adequately address Trump. And now, by attempting to normalize him, they are courting an unparalleled disaster. He says

What these [Republican establishmentarians] do not or will not see is that, once in power, Trump will owe them and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that lay down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?

All evidence to date indicates that vast power vastly corrupts and that a petty bully like Trump will become more vengeful, less generous, less judicious, and less humble with the exponential increase of his power. What will he command people within the executive branch to do should he become president?

The final lines of Judgment at Nuremberg ring in my head. In the last scene, Judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy) visits Ernst Janning who he’s just sentenced to life in prison for condemning people to their deaths under the Third Reich’s murderous tyranny. It’s perhaps one of the greatest final scenes in a movie ever.

Herr Janning: Judge Haywood…the reason I asked you to come…Those people…those millions of people…I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it.

Judge Haywood: Herr Janning…it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

mv5bndc2odq5nte2mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwodexmjuyna-_v1_sx640_sy720_If you haven’t watched it, please do.

As you watch, ask yourself about what our own United State’s legal system could be warped into becoming with Donald Trump in office? What would Judge Haywood ask us to consider about our current politics and what will it require we do? In the face of radical misogyny, indiscriminate Islamaphobia, xenophobia, and Trump’s “aura of personality,” what should we tolerate and what can’t we tolerate? These are not trivial questions.

When the top candidate of the Republican party regularly spews hatred and bigotry, we have to ask who they’d put into the judiciary and how they could use it to subvert human rights.

Do black lives matter? Hardly a peep. Remember, Trump actually belittled Bernie Sanders for his sensible approach to the Black Lives Matter movement. But when ignorance is strength and the strongest of all men is supremely proud of his ignorance, then pride in ignorance can only make you stronger.

He has stated a draconian position on abortion. Trump’s recent gaff simply let something out of the bag many of us know. He’s been tapped into arch-conservative Christian rhetoric but doesn’t know what the rules of engagement are. He just blew it out of his enormous mouth for all to see, and now lots more people know there’s a radical fringe of anti-choice lunatics out there who are open to terrorizing people to undermine women’s reproductive freedom. And the Oklahoma legislature has just proved how far they will go, doing exactly what Trump has said should happen.

This diatribe could go on for pages.

What matters to Trump, plain and simple, is the power of Trump. Anyone who will lick his boots and pay fealty will win. They will be in on the art of the deal. To get in on the deal you do what the strong man says, no matter how depraved or unjust. If you don’t, you are a loser and you will lose by blacklist or worse. There’s no real compromise with such a person so hellbent on using chaos as a ladder. And the people who work for the strong man are people who mustn’t ever command the seat that appoints the judiciary or runs the executive apparatus of this great nation. They will fail, at nearly every turn. We will force some to become beautiful souls, people willing to pay an awful price for simply being decent people.

If we elect Trump, it will be a failure of our national conscience. We will put decent men like Ernst Janning in the position of enforcing great injustices. We will foreswear him to a future Judge Haywood to find him guilty. We should judge the situation now, before it is too late, and stand for us, for “We the people.”


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