The Big Lie is Still Delivering

The victories in these past two Tuesdays’ GOP primaries of Douglas Mastriano for Governor in Pennsylvania, Ted Budd from North Carolina, and Herschel Walker from Georgia, both for US Senate, show that the Big Lie still works. So, too, the nomination or renomination of conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene and former Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders. All these candidates adhered to former President Trump’s script that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He had endorsed them all.

Unfortunately, there are parallels between Hitler’s rise to power in pre-WWII Germany and Donald Trump’s claims that he won the 2020 election.

A big part of Hitler’s rise to power was built on his ability to figure out what the Germans were feeling after Germany’s defeat in World War I. When WWI ended German troops were still in the trenches in western France and the Imperial German Army still occupied Brussels, Belgium’s capitol. Unlike Germany at the end of WWII, the German people in 1918 did not witness shelled out German cities and a smoldering Berlin occupied by Allied troops. In 1918 and the years that followed, Germany was unoccupied.

This permitted Hitler to propagate the Big Lie, telling the German people, “Wake up. You did not lose the war, in fact you won it. It was the home front that let you down. The Jews, the weak, and the traitors of Deutschland.” Hitler never abandoned this theme, calling for revenge in the name of the German volk who did not lose the war.  This was the first time since the end of WWI that Germans were able to feel good about themselves, to extol their German identity and reject the “Jewish infected” liberal Weimer Republic that governed Germany from 1919 to 1933. Hitler the mesmerizer, bounded into action, rising from the ignominy of his failed Munich putsch in 1924 to become Chancellor of Germany just nine years later, using a combination of thuggery, chicanery, political maneuvering and yes, the Big Lie.

The Big Lie was Hitler’s building block, aided by industrialists who saw his Nazi Brown Shirts as a bulwark against the threat of a communist takeover in Germany.

Fast forward to 2020, Donald Trump was no less audacious. After proclaiming from the White House that he had won the election, pointing to early results which he claimed showed he was ahead by more than 600,000 votes in Pennsylvania, reality took hold. “Sleepy Joe” Biden whomped him by more than seven million votes. What followed was a pre-planned denial of defeat and the beginning of the Big Lie. Just as Germans could feel good about themselves for having not lost WWI, Trumps followers could now say, “We won. The election was stolen.”

Seventy-five years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Big Lie is still around, but there are major differences between Hitler’s rise to power after the defeat of Germany in WWI and Trump’s post-election message to his supporters. The United States did not lose the election in 2020, Donald Trump lost the election. The United States is not a defeated nation, it is today leading a world-wide alliance opposing Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. Unlike a defeated German nation after WWI, the American people are not looking for a reason why Donald Trump lost, only Trump loyalists are. Even if the majority of the GOP believes the Big Lie, this may not be enough to win a presidential election.

The danger is that Trump loyalists will try to use the Big Lie as a springboard, seizing on other issues such as high inflation and societal change to win the election. This is an outcome that should not be dismissed out of hand, remembering that a comic-looking former Austrian Army corporal rose to power in Germany on the back of a Big Lie and shook the world, with more than 40 million people dead as a result. No, Trump is not Hitler, he is not demonic, but the Big Lie puts at risk the American democratic process, which is based on America’s acceptance of the outcome of free and fair elections. Tampering with the process is already underway in some states and should be seen as a real and present danger.

About the Author
Alfred H. Moses was Special Counsel to the U.S. President (1980), U.S. ambassador to Romania 1994-97; Special Presidential Envoy for the Cyprus Conflict (1999-2001), President of The American Jewish Committee 1991-94, and presently serves as chair of UN Watch in Geneva.
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