Even seventy years after the full horror of the Holocaust was made public, people still ask how it could have happened. Yes Hitler was an anti-Semite and an Aryan apologist, and yes the treatment of Germany after World War One provided him with an angry and retaliatory audience, but still, who provided Hitler with the authority to carry out wholesale incarceration and mass slaughter? Who made it legal?
Who makes anything legal? The courts.
German courts had undergone a crisis in the 1920s. The judges, many long-standing with roots in the nineteenth century, believed strongly in reinforcing government authority and were distrustful of the new democratic state. When judges began to level harsh punishments on left-wing activists while turning a blind eye to their often brutal opponents , it set in motion a house-cleaning during which many reactionary judges were removed.
When Hitler came to power in the thirties, he promised to return the autonomy judges had once enjoyed, and they promised to rubber-stamp whatever he wanted.
How could the Holocaust have happened? Easy—an unprincipled leader and a court willing to back him.
Then came the pronouncements.
The 1935 Reich Citizenship Law and many ancillary decrees stated that only people of “German or kindred blood” could be citizens of Germany. A supplementary decree published on the day the law went into force, defined who was and was not a Jew.
The second Nuremberg Law, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, banned marriage between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. It also criminalized sexual relations between them. These relationships were labeled as “race defilement”
And though the courts did not initiate the laws, their unholy alliance with the Nazi Party made abolishing or even weakening them all but impossible.
Obviously we do not live in pre-war Nazi Germany, but we live under the power of another unscrupulous leader who has openly and blatantly shown his disdain for peaceful protesters while praising their counterparts—thugs with guns who support his point of view. And he has, both by innuendo and flagrant act, marginalized the lives of minorities—from Muslims to the LGBTQ+ community while rallying his supporters with threats of Blacks ruining the country. If you can't see policy similarities between Hitler and Trump, you're not trying.
And before you claim that checks and balances will save us, observe the current Attorney General who refuses to enforce the Constitution, the Republican senators who have ceded most of their moral high ground in order to placate their master, and of course the Supreme Court—that putatively apolitical body with more and more members committed to the president.
A new America is coming, one that will be neither liberal nor conservative. In fact there will be no ideology founded on some shared morality, but one instead that caters to the whims of the leader. And those whims will be adjudicated and authorized by a Supreme Court whose members have renounced their allegiance to the Constitution, replacing it with obeisance to Donald Trump and the officials who adore him.
An America with an open disdain for "the other"—a country that mirrors pre-war Germany—is well within the realm of possibility; and the next step—the installation of another justice beholden to Trump—will make that eventuality even more achievable. Only voting can stop this—in case you're wondering why tainting the voting process is so important to the president: as any dictator worth his scepter can tell you—free elections constitute the last impediments to dictatorship.