His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
If that sounds a lot like “your favorite president,” do not be concerned. It is not about him, it is from a psychological profile of Adolph Hitler written for the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor of the CIA. I know, it isn’t considered to be appropriate in American political discourse to throw around the H word when we talk about the loyal opposition.
The document, written for the OSS in 1943, had been classified and was released by the CIA for publication in 1999. World War II was far in the rear view mirror by then and it certainly did not seem that it could ever be used in American politics except, perhaps, as a guide for citizens who need to be eternally vigilant and on the watch for anyone who would use that model in our own domestic politics.
The above quote appears in the report, A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend, by Walter C. Langer, which is available from the US National Archives.
I have been in lockdown now since March 13. That is seven and a half months, just a little over two-thirds of a year when you count the days. It is self-imposed since the mandated business lockdowns ended long ago and most businesses are back in operation here. But covid-19 is still with us and gaining ground all over the country as we head into the autumn of Trump’s last year in office.
However, we continue to venture out only for essentials and we hang a mask over nose and mouth whenever we go out to pick up groceries at HEB or prescriptions at CVS. We attend Methodist services online. We do these things out of respect for our friends and for our adult kids who live in other states and do not need to have one of us get sick and require their attention.
So what does the Walter Langer quote have to do with our lockdown? Nothing really except that in my isolation I have too much time to watch the news and read the papers. Everything we know about the recent election and how American elections are run tells me that Joe Biden is president-elect. The current president, whom he defeated handily, will not concede and has, so far, refused to allow his administration to begin an orderly transfer of power.
His behavior (and his Twits) led me to thinking about the way autocrats have used something we call “the big lie” in their propaganda. The Wikipedia discussion of the big lie included the Langer quotation. And the near spot on accuracy with which the 1943 description of Hitler’s SOP fit that of Donald Trump was remarkable and more than a little chilling.
The day after the election in Lake Jackson, Texas seemed much like any other day except for the thrills of joy that ran through the souls of our few Democrats. One outward and noticeable difference between the reactions of Democrats and Republicans was that Biden-Harris yard signs came down the next day; most Trump-Pence signs and flags stayed up. Almost all of them remain up today. After all, DJT is claiming Democrats subverted his win by massive election fraud.
In fact, there was no fraud. The election was remarkably well run given that it occurred in the middle of a deadly pandemic, with record voter turnout and in spite of pervasive Republican voter suppression efforts in every state where they controlled voter registration and elections.
But the president continues to pull from the playbook of the strong man autocrats he gravitates toward. They never lose elections; they are stolen from them. Hence, the elections are not to be respected. And so long as DJT says that is what happened, his supporters will continue their campaign on his behalf. The Big Lie still works in 2020 all these years after Hitler has been defeated.
So, as good as the victory feels, there is still concern about the changes at the Pentagon, his continuous trashing of the dedicated work of election volunteers, and his efforts to block the way to a peaceful transfer of power.
Our task now is to continue to press the congressional Republicans and persuade them to confront the president and require that he stop his seditious behavior so that we can get on with the work of America. The American project is too important to have it corrupted and subverted by a television huckster.