Trump and the GOP: More Jim Crow Than Nazi Germany | Blog#42

Trump and the GOP: More Jim Crow Than Nazi Germany | Blog#42

Mainstream media has been using Nazi Germany as a frame of reference from which to compare Trump.  This is wrong,  for the same foundational reasons I cited in my previous post:

White Liberals Self-Soothing: A Sprinkle of Myrdal, Dash of Marshall Plan & Trump Trashing Empire

In, How the Nazis Used Jim Crow Laws as the Model for Their Race Laws, Bill Moyers interviewed legal scholar, James Whitman, on his then new book, “Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law”:

“Bill Moyers: You begin the book with a meeting of Nazi Germany’s leading lawyers on June 5, 1934, which happens, coincidentally, to be the day I was born.

James Whitman: Oh boy, you were born under a dark star.

Moyers: To be sure. Adolf Hitler had been chancellor of the Reich for a year and a half. Nazis were rapidly consolidating their hold over Germany. And this was no gathering of everyday, garden-variety lawyers..

Whitman: No, it wasn’t. It was chaired by Hitler’s minister of justice and attended by the leading figures among Nazi lawyers.

Moyers: Why had they gathered? What was their mission?

Whitman: They were there to begin crafting what would eventually become the notorious Nuremberg Laws, which were promulgated a little bit more than a year later, in September of 1935. Those laws would be the culmination of the first phase of the Nazi program of persecution directed against German Jewry. And they were there to respond to the demands of radical Nazis for the creation of a new kind of race state in Germany.

Moyers: And the Nuremberg Laws would embody the full-scale creation of a racist state.

Moyers: A stenographer was present to record a verbatim transcript of that meeting. Reading that transcript you discovered a startling fact.

Whitman: Yes — the fact is that they began by discussing American law. The minister of justice presented a memorandum on American race law that included a great deal of detailed discussion of the laws of American states. American law continued to be a principle topic throughout that meeting and beyond. It’s also a startling fact that the most radical lawyers in that meeting — the most vicious among the lawyers present — were the most enthusiastic for the American example.

Moyers: And the laws they were creating —

Whitman: There were three Nuremberg Laws eventually promulgated in 1935. The two that most concern us are usually called the citizenship law and the blood law. The citizenship law reduced Jews to second-class citizenship status in Germany. The blood law banned, and in fact criminalized, interracial marriage and sex. But there was a third as well, which was called the flag law for the Reich, the purpose of which was to install the swastika as the exclusive flag of Germany.”

“Moyers: What were they interested in learning about American law?

Whitman: American law, hard though it might be for us to accept it now, was a model for everybody in the early 20th century who was interested in creating a race-based order or race state. America was the leader in a whole variety of realms in racist law in the first part of that century. Some of this involved American immigration law, which was designed to exclude so-called “undesirable races” from immigration. In 1924 American immigration law in particular was praised by Hitler himself, in his book Mein Kampf.

But it wasn’t just about American immigration law. There was also American law creating forms of second-class citizenship — for African-Americans, of course, but also for other populations including Asians, Native Americans, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans. Not least, there were statutes in 30 American states forbidding and sometimes criminalizing interracial marriage. Those were of special interest to the Nazis.

Moyers: And these lawyers saw America’s “Negro problem” as similar to their “Jewish problem?”

Whitman: You bet they did.”

Near the conclusion of his interview, Moyers turns to our legal system and what it is based on:

Moyers: In your book you write: “Sometimes the American democratic political process produces admirable legislation but to have a common-law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed.” You go on: “The resulting dangers have not vanished and it would be wrong to close this book without pointing to at least one contemporary realm of American law in which those dangers are still making themselves felt. The realm is American criminal justice. American criminal justice is spectacularly and frighteningly harsh by international standards. It includes practices that are sometimes uncomfortably reminiscent of those introduced by the Nazis.”

What is it that makes contemporary American justice so exceptionally harsh?

Whitman: Oh boy! Certainly one critical answer is the sheer capacity of American politics and politicians to shape American criminal law and American criminal justice. Politicians in the US run on tough on crime platforms. It has to be added as well that both judges and prosecutors are elected officials in much of the US. That’s something unheard of in the rest of the world. And frankly, more humane traditions of the law do very little to stand in the way of translating the demands of politicians into law. In that respect, the situation in the US is really quite different from what we find now in Europe, where professional lawyers, professional criminologists and the like still manage criminal justice. I simply have to say it: the accessibility of the legal system to political influence was exactly what the radical Nazis admired most about America in the 1930s and that’s still doing tremendous damage to our criminal justice system today.”

So why does the media never characterize Trump in terms associated with Jim Crow? James Baldwin answered that question most eloquently decades ago in “The Fire Next Time:”

“To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same things as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.” 

We are living in a season of drought at this very moment, yet the purveyors of our news and analyses perpetuate America’s biggest lie to itself. Nazi Germany modeled its policies and policy delivery systems on Jim Crow era laws and behaviors. Comparing Trump to Nazis lets Jim Crow racists like Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and all of Trump’s other minions off the hook.

To illustrate, Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff and former DHS Secretary, John Kelly, no matter what is now being reported, is the original architect of this immigration policy and fully supports it:

Kirstjen Nielsen, the current DHS Secretary, was John Kelly’s former chief of staff and his pick to replace him at DHS. As for Nielsen’s assertion that she is carrying out laws passed by Congress? A lie!

From fact-checking website Snopes:

Was the ‘Law to Separate Families’ Passed in 1997 or ‘by Democrats’?

“There is no federal law mandating children and parents be separated at the border; a policy resulting in that outcome was enacted in May 2018.”

To a person, Trump and his entire administration of white supremacists have made effective use of propaganda techniques used to propagate falsehoods. Remember, Trump’s coach was none other than reviled Joe McCarthy henchman, Roy Cohn.

As Republican voters now shamelessly wallow in their own racism, Liberals are self-soothing in their oblivion and the crumbled clay of their imagined achievements. There are no establishment angels in America’s sordid love affair with racism.

Had Liberals been, as Paul Krugman asserts, “… by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force.” then we wouldn’t have the criminal justice laws we have on our books, the Black parts of Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, the entirety of Louisiana, Northern California and all others wouldn’t look the way they do. Education would be meted out equally, and not based on local tax revenues, and our jails wouldn’t be bursting at the seams with well over two and a half million, mostly Black, inmates.

As you can see from the tweets immediately above, this is the system we have kept, and by continuing to call certain things anything but what they truly are, the establishment ensures that fundamental change will never come.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Republican party is the party of racism, classism and that it exhibits no redeemable value. But, let us not fool ourselves, for even a moment, that Republicans being as evil as they are, means that Liberals are guilt-free.

“In order for this to happen, your entire frame of reference will have to change, and you will be forced to surrender many things that you now scarcely know you have.”

― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

As a public, we have been conditioned to compare everything, always. In the process of these comparisons, nuance goes right out the window. Why don’t we talk about each administration on its own merits, its own sets of guiding ethics principles? Why is Trump the evil yardstick by which everyone else is deemed saintly? The one-word answer? Deflection. This approach lets absolutely everyone other than the target completely off the hook.

“Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”

― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

It’s time to swear off suckling at punditry’s teat and, instead, exercise greater critical judgment of the things we are exposed to. We must, if we are not only to survive Trump, but erase him and his kind from our lives.


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Related

White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots

A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it

By ADAM SERWER

Robert bowers wanted everyone to know why he did it.

I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he posted on the social-media network Gab shortly before allegedly entering the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 and gunning down 11 worshippers. He “wanted all Jews to die,” he declared while he was being treated for his wounds. Invoking the specter of white Americans facing “genocide,” he singled out HIAS, a Jewish American refugee-support group, and accused it of bringing “invaders in that kill our people.” Then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing that Bowers would face federal charges, was unequivocal in his condemnation: “These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”

The pogrom in Pittsburgh, occurring just days before the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, seemed fundamentally un-American to many. Sessions’s denunciation spoke to the reality that most Jews have found a welcome home in the United States. His message also echoed what has become an insistent refrain in the Donald Trump era. Americans want to believe that the surge in white-supremacist violence and recruitment—the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us”; the hate crimes whose perpetrators invoke the president’s name as a battle cry—has no roots in U.S. soil, that it is racist zealotry with a foreign pedigree and marginal allure.

Continue reading at The Atlantic


Note

A New York Times reader took offense at a comment that mirrors this piece. I answer him here:

Answering Reader Mail: Richard & Civil War Literacy | Blog#42

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