Sunday, April 12, 2020

A thought for Sunday: a brief history of Republics anticipates Trump

 - by New Deal democrat

I just finished reading William R. Everdell’s “The End of KIngs: A History of Republics and Republicans,” which was originally published in 1983. It was interesting to read a book that treated Watergate as recent history!

I want to write at more length about this book, but for now, consider the following excerpts and consider how they relate to our current situation.

In his chapter about the Weimar Republic, Everdell writes: 

The “Reichsprasident” of Weimar was nothing but a kaiser in reserve.... Not only was his constituency national and democratic, like that of Louis Napoleon in 1848, his term, at seven years, was longer and he could be reelected indefinitely. He had not need to stage an illegal coup like Napoleion’s in 1851, because by the contittution’s famous Article 48 he was empowered, in times of what he determined to be “public disturbance,” to take “necessary measures.” These included the overruling of state laws, the abrogation of all civil liberties, the making of national laws by decreee, the execution of law by the army, and the establishment of exceptional courts and jurisdictions.
Two thin hedges protected parliamentary republican power from the overwhelming strength of the kaiser in reserve. One was ... impeach[ment].... The other was the provision of a veto, by majority vote of the Reichstag, of all presidential decrees under Article 48.” [but the President could prorogue the parliament, making it imposssible for them to do so]..... 
Adolf Hitler had formed [the Nazi party]... on the three simple principles of ... tyranny. The first was the fuhrerpriinzip, a popular version of the old Kaiser ideal according to which every member obeyed HItler without question and was reciprocally identified with him. The two others were complete unscrupulousness with regard to tactics and complete opportunism with regard to program..... 
Hitler ... had to promise nearly every class and interest precisely what it wanted. The Nazis ... offer[ed] labor peace to businessmen, benefits to workers, uniforms to militarists, and anything to anyone, unless of course he were Jewish.
It’s as if Trump treated Hitler’s campaign, and his use of emergency powers, as a “how to” manual.

In his chapter on historic clashes between the US Senate and presidents, he writes,
If presidents ever do succeed in establishing a monarchy in America, the last institution to stand against them will probably be the Senate.
(P. 271) 
Mr. Everdell, meet Mitch McConnell.

Following NIxon’s re-election in 1972,

At the Office of Economic Opportunity that January, an unconfirmed Acting Director set about dismantling the agency....
By April, Attorney-General Kleindienst was explaining that executive privilege protected any member of the executive branch from the grim necessity of talking to Congress or a court. ... Nixon ... announc[ed] just after the election and again in March that he would veto any spending bill he thought excessive, and that if Congress overrode him he would simply “impound” or refuse to spend the funds ....
The press, too, was on notice of approve the president. In December 1972, an unconfirmed Nixon appointee named Clay Whitehead had threatened local television stations with Federal Trade Commission action if they continued to broadcast the “elitist gossip” of the network news.

(Pp. 294-5)
Were Trump and William Barr taking notes?