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The Republicans and the Fuhrerprinzip

Joe Conason on

Everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election should understand what the hierarchy of the Republican Party is doing right now. It is seeking to thwart the decision of the American electorate, expressed in a substantial majority vote for Joe Biden, with full consciousness of their own dishonesty. The Republicans are following directives from President Donald Trump that they know are based in falsehood, violate constitutional order and threaten to destroy democracy. They are elevating the warped impulses of one man above any moral or political value they once swore to uphold.

What the Republicans are so cravenly enacting is known in German as the Fuhrerprinzip. Enunciated by Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf" -- one of very few books Trump has ever been accused of reading -- it means "leadership principle"; it demands that every public official kneel in cowering debasement before the boss and abandon any pretense of intellectual independence. It is the method by which the "Big Lie" -- in this case, the claim of massive nationwide election fraud -- gains acceptance even though everyone is aware of its factual emptiness.

How did Hitler put it? A passage from his infamous book carries familiar echoes: "A philosophy of life which repudiates the democratic principle of the rule of the masses and aims at giving this world to the best people -- that is, to the highest quality of mankind -- must ... take care that the positions of leadership and highest influence are given to the best men. Hence it is not based on the idea of the majority, but on that of personality."

The absolute domination of a singular personality was what some suspected Trump meant when he proclaimed, "I alone can fix it," meaning America, in his 2016 Republican convention speech. His absurd inflation of his own academic record and business career, his nonsensical boast that he hired "only the best people," his insistence that anyone who serves in the Cabinet must grovel in public humiliation before him -- all those moments warned us of the monstrous ego that today dares to assault the foundations of the republic. Now we know.

Under the Fuhrerprinzip, the "best men" are not necessarily individuals with political experience or mastery of statecraft but merely whatever gang can impose its rule by force. Like the author of "Mein Kampf," Trump is notoriously deficient in knowledge of government and diplomacy but is nevertheless shrewd, ruthless and determined to prevail over weaker opponents -- as he did when he ran roughshod over the Republican rivals who later metamorphosed into his toadies.

In the weeks since Election Day, we have seen a handful of Republicans with the courage to fulfill their responsibilities while defying Trump's partisan effrontery. But the very existence of that brave remnant only highlights the degeneracy of the party's leading figures and the great bulk of its officialdom. Even the Republicans who hesitate to endorse Trump's lies about the election are too pusillanimous to oppose him openly.

Meanwhile, his minions abuse the courts and insult the public with increasingly baroque theories of a grand voter-fraud conspiracy. At a press conference on Thursday, Rudolph Giuliani said there was "a plan from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud," which "comes directly from the Democrat Party and the candidate," meaning Biden.

 

Here was the Biggest Lie, asserted incessantly without a scrap of evidence, disproved by investigation and so far rejected in every legal forum by every honest judge. But the truth doesn't matter if the only objective is to discredit a new administration and hinder any effort to ameliorate the national disaster left by Trump's regime.

Such rule-or-ruin tactics have become the default position of Republicans in defeat. Even when a Republican president or presidential candidate offered words of support to a Democratic successor -- as former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and John McCain once did -- the party's leaders belied them with a campaign of obstruction and defamation. That is what they did to former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and that is what they're trying to do to Joe Biden.

But this time, their selfish disdain for the national interest is promoting the authoritarian ambitions of a would-be dictator. And they can no longer pretend to be doing anything else.

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To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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