“A Republic, if you can keep it”. --Benjamin Franklin
From a lifelong academic friend of mine:
There is a new book getting a lot of attention: Hitler’s First Hundred Days by Peter Fritzsche. The topic fascinates me for three reasons. First, for most of my adult life, as a person who reads smart, liberal sources, Hitler has been portrayed as a buffoon, a clown, a figure of fun. But he achieved great power in the most sophisticated country in the world, so how could he have been as stupid as liberal historians have portrayed him? Second, in recent years, a consensus has emerged that Hitler was the creature the conservative elite in Germany who thought they could use him for their purposes but he somehow slipped the leash or they lost the plot. In any case, Hitler was depicted as a run away former puppet who somehow got lucky. Third, the rise of Trump and American populism has caused some people to rethink all this. The liberal elites (think the Political Science Department at Harvard) thought Trump was a joke, a silly man, who had no chance of getting elected. They (Peter Fritsche) use this as an analogy to explain Hitler’s rise. In their view, Hitler and Trump caught a populist wave that complacent liberals never took seriously. I think they still miss the point and dismiss both Hitler and Trump far too easily. On the one hand, Hitler and Trump didn’t catch a populist wave, they created one and then used it. On the other hand, they used the wave quite expertly because both are/were way more talented than the liberal elite thought, and way more ruthless than anyone could really imagine. A good example of a silly but lucky populist is Bolsonaro in Brazil.