Hitler Failed First Too: Why the GOP’s Attack on the Election Spells Trouble

Pushing fake conspiracy theories about the election, the GOP flirted with fascism in 2020. Will they do it in the future?

97 years to the day from the time that news outlets called Pennsylvania, and the presidential race, for Joe Biden, a 34-year-old Adolf Hitler bursts through the doors at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, Germany, one of the biggest beer halls in the city. He fires one shot from his pistol into the air as he announces that a revolution against the Bavarian government is taking hold. His men hold the beer hall overnight and try to claim the rest of Munich’s government buildings. The police approach. Gunfire rings out.

When all is said and done, Hitler’s sloppy attempt at a coup d’état using military force is stymied in under 24 hours. After two days on the run, he is caught, convicted of treason, and sentenced to Landsberg Prison. He had failed his first attempt at seizing power.

However, though the execution was disastrous, the plan was not altogether unsuccessful. Many were inspired by what he had preached at his increasingly popular speeches. Feeling that their hero had been denied his rightful position of power, they turned Hitler into a martyr and anxiously awaited his return.

The scene of the fatal gun battle during the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch (via Sarah-Rose)

10 years later, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Sound familiar?

No, Donald Trump did not utilize the military in his attempt at overturning the election (though he may have tried), but his cheap attempt at remaining in power should still be recognized for what it was: an attempted coup. Some may say that it’s “overreacting” to compare anyone or anything to Hitler and the Nazis, and make no mistake: I am not saying the GOP plans to commit a genocide. However, the GOP’s trajectory and the rise of the Nazi movement share similarities that cannot (and should not) be ignored.

I am fearful that when the Republicans get a Four Seasons hotel version of Trump instead of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping one that we suffered through, they will have the opportunity to successfully overturn the will of the people.

In fact, you do not have to stretch your imagination and create a boogeyman authoritarian, they are already here. Senator Tom Cotton (R — AR) recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the use of military force against peaceful protesters (though you can replace “op-ed” with “military erotica” in that sentence and it would still be correct). Senator Josh Hawley (R — MO) is using his attacks on “elites” to position himself as a populist, despite his education at Stanford University and Yale Law School, as well as working in higher education at the University of Missouri Law School.

The German government thought that by imprisoning Hitler for treason, they were teaching him, and others, a lesson. The truth is that Hitler got a light sentence of just five years thanks to the pro-Hitler Bavarian government, and he ended up serving less than a year. During his months at Landsberg, he still received many privileges, including being allowed visitors and receiving fan mail. It was in this time that Hitler authored Mein Kampf. What Adolf Hitler learned from this whole debacle was that military coups were messy; a coup exploiting the political system was what he needed.

Like Germany in 1924, Americans who voted against Trump, yet failed to punish his enablers by voting for Republicans down the ticket, sent the wrong message to the GOP.

The only thing that Republicans have learned from arguably (basically objectively) the two worst presidents of our lifetime is to tweet less, and that a large portion of Americans will take someone who acts like a folksy buffoon (a la George W. Bush) over anyone viewed even remotely as a “radical left socialist”. It also didn’t hurt that these presidents were both from their party.

Again, it’s not “alarmist” to acknowledge and compare Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch” and the GOP’s attempt to circumvent the will of the people. Trump’s legal arguments were flimsy, and the courts ruled accordingly. But remember, we are in a world where norms and laws get trampled nearly every day by the Trump Administration. Additionally, after several news outlets have effectively transformed themselves into state-run propaganda arms, there is not one version of reality that can be agreed upon. Both leave us vulnerable to cultish behavior and malicious demagogues. In America, there is a misguided thought that “it can’t happen here”, but it almost did.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

In some ways, Trump’s nonviolent assault on the election could signal that the United States is closer to a successful coup since we skipped over the beer hall, violent portion and jumped straight to political manipulation.

We must work together to stamp out these enablers in Congress and anyone else who supports these fascist tendencies. We cannot be delusional and think that since Joe Biden still won, this strategy will not be used in the future.

Failure provides a roadmap to success. Remember: Hitler failed at his first coup too.

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