In an interview in Chicago last week, Ex-President Obama urged Americans to “tend this garden of democracy” so as to avoid plunging into the path of Nazi Germany. To Mr. Obama, then, democracy is a safeguard against Nazism.
Mr. Obama is wrong there!
His message ignores world history and misstates the role of democracy in any society. Such mistaken views of what democracy is and what it can do can only lead to false expectations and frustrated predictions. Democracy will not by itself prevent descent into Nazism, for the two are not mutually exclusive. We know that Hitler was DEMOCRATICALLY elected to power; so was Netanyahu; so was Trump!!!
Democracy is only a vehicle for enthronement of the will of the majority. But if that will is corrupt so will its fruits be. The will of Americans today runs to rapacity and global arrogance, as does that of Israel now, as did that of Germans in the early 20th Century. (Sadly, Mr. Obama did little during his presidency to reform America’s xenophobic view of the world; in fact he did much to promote it!) We are on a path that was trodden by every nation that became drunk with power and believed in its own “manifest destiny.” Our constant crowing that we are an extraordinary people, “the exceptional nation,” above international law and gifted with absolute right to change regimes and unilaterally award disputed territories to our allies as we please (yesterday Kosovo, today Jerusalem) is nothing new. The Nazis gave that notion a booming voice in the old German national anthem, “Deutschland Über Alles!” Similarly, our conceit in calling our country, “God’s Own Country” or “the Exceptional Nation” is another euphemism for the Nazi claim that German “Aryans” were “Übermenschen” or superior people. But whether such conceit is proclaimed in Germany or USA, it is the Caveman principle of “Might Makes Right”—only now it’s bulked up with weapons of mass destruction.
Ours is a fatuous delusion that can lead to Nazism/Fascism, our democracy notwithstanding. We are on that slippery slope. Only simple humility, albeit now belated, can save us.