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I understand the distinction and the timeline well. My comments are coming from a strand of German historiography that I was trained in, that rejects the view that the Nazis were "elected" to govern Germany and instead emphasizes the undemocratic, if lawful, nature of their seizure of power. Things get complicated, obviously, because one also doesn't want to use the results to say Germans didn't support Hitler or his party; 33.1% of the vote is pretty significant.

The Nazis may have won a plurality at the November 1932 election, but it was far from a majority. Since President Hindenburg and Franz von Papen refused to include any of the left parties in a government - particularly the SPD - they kept casting about for a suitable chancellor, and settled on Hitler only when they had no other options, and only when von Papen was able to convince Hindenburg he could keep Hitler under control.

Even then the Reichstag had the votes to block the Enabling Act a month or so later, but because the power of the state was used to bully the Reichstag members - especially Centre Party members - into backing it, it's hard to say it was truly fair.

My original comments may have lacked specificity, but they were actually intended to highlight the differences between the parliamentary and presidential systems. In Germany in 1932-33, one couldn't say that the Nazis were "elected" to govern, but they wound up doing so through lawful means. If the US were to see a similar seizure of power, the presidential system we have means that if a President Teabag can claim victory through lawful means, then it provides a more powerful mandate and argument of legitimacy than anything Hitler had, and makes it difficult to counter. Perhaps that comparison is rough and inexact, but I stand by it.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:19:04 AM EST
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