Voter suppression version of the Reichstag fire

by | Jan 25, 2017 | Editor's Blog, Voting Rights | 32 comments

Yesterday, Donald Trump again said that massive voter fraud cost him the popular vote. Immediately, people on social media said not to pay attention to Trump’s lies but to his actions. At the same time, he was claiming massive voter fraud, he was signing executive orders to re-open the debate over the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines and ending negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. He was shutting down the twitter accounts of federal agencies after someone in the National Parks department tweeted about the threats of climate change.

The lies are a just distraction, people claimed, to keep the press focused on the incredible instead of the damaging. In North Carolina, that’s not our experience. After Barack Obama won the state in 2008, Republicans started making claims of voter fraud with no evidence. When the GOP took control of the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion, they passed a massive voter suppression bill targeted primarily at African-Americans and younger voters.

Trump’s cries of voter fraud are the voter suppression version of the Reichstag fire. He’s creating a fake crisis to implement a heavy-handed solution. This morning, he’s calling for an investigation. Before that investigation is complete, expect legislation coming from Congress and state legislatures to make voting more difficult.

In North Carolina, we’re already seeing it. In losing his campaign, former Governor Pat McCrory claimed wide-spread voting irregularities caused his defeat even though he couldn’t produce any evidence. Legislative leaders have already said they are looking at more steps to stop the imaginary fraud. Trump’s claim just bolsters their plans to further restrict access to the polls.

For people concerned about our voting rights, the country has a dangerous mix brewing. We have a president who will lie to promote his agenda. We have political leaders more concerned with protecting their power than protecting our democracy and they’re refusing to stand up to Trump. We have propaganda machines run by organizations like Fox News and Breitbart to give legitimacy to false claims. And we have a substantial segment of the population who believe the alternative reality being pushed by Trump, elected leaders, and the alternative media.  Historically, this mix doesn’t end well.

So much activity is coming out of the Trump administration right now, it’s hard to know where to focus. He’s issuing executive orders on important policy initiatives like the pipelines and TPP. He’s also tweeting falsehoods about seemingly petty things like the size of his inauguration and his mouthpiece, Sean Spicer, is defending them to the press. The biggest threat, though, is to our democracy. If Republicans use claims of voter fraud to further restrict access to the polls they can consolidate power in a way that diminishes the ability of elections to provide the checks and balances that protect our freedom. If you don’t believe it, just look at North Carolina.


  1. Christopher Lizak

    At least you understand what event in American history it is that actually DOES closely resemble the burning of the Reichstag. When the “Great Leader” WAS actually granted emergency powers, and the non-executive branches of government DID became rubber stamps for the Executive in a time when we WERE told the nation was under attack under highly dubious circumstances. I’m glad you can at least admit that much.

    But you continue to try and prop up your straw man argument without actually providing any evidence whatsoever. In fact, I can detect no argument from you AT ALL.

    What, pray tell, is the resemblance between Trump’s accusation of voter fraud, and the burning down of a prominent national symbol to short-circuit the normal functioning of democracy?

    What emergency powers has Trump seized? Or had granted to him by Congress? What is the war of choice that looms before us, now that the ground has been prepared by the “New Reichstag Fire” via an accusation of voter fraud? In what way have the non-Executive branches of government been diminished in relation to the all-powerful Executive? Does the legislative body still have a place to assemble to enact the People’s business?

    These are the questions you must answer if you are going to insist that “Trump has burned the Reichstag!! STOP HIM!!!! AAARGGGHH!! He’s HITTLLEEERRR!!! ARRRRGH!!!”

    Stop crying wolf – because we may very well have to deal with REAL threats in the near future. Stay alert – not paranoid.

    • MyTurnNC

      The event you are discussing is clearly the stripping of meaning and power from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was done by the U.S. Supreme Court not so long ago. Many States under Republican governance have used and are continuing to use this virtual repeal as an opportunity to suppress the vote of Democrats and others who may vote Democratic.

      • Christopher Lizak


  2. Troy

    To understand ourselves a little bit better, perhaps it is good to consider the views from the outside. Since the thread and the comments concern actions in Germany once upon a time, I went to a German paper to see what they had to say about us and found this. Since it seems impossible for some of us to distinguish between a literal and rhetorical analysis, this is how one writer finds us; all of us, both sides of the division line. But I will leave it for you to draw your own conclusions

    • Christopher Lizak

      For the sake of argument, let us assume that the theory that Goering handled the burning of the Reichstag on Hitler’s behalf, to create an excuse for emergency powers, is in fact true, and that the crazed terrorist Dutchman was a patsy, as is commonly believed.

      What does Goering have to say about this manipulation, and how does it apply to us now?:

      “Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY.”

      –Goering at the Nuremberg Trials

      Does this help you to understand the REAL “American Reichstag Fire”?

      • Christopher Lizak

        The issue at hand is the comparison of Trump’s accusation of voter fraud with the burning of the German Reichstag.

        And why was the Reichstag burned down? To create emergency powers for the “Great Leader”, and prepare the German People for a war of choice, right?

        What emergency powers has Trump seized? Or had granted to him by Congress? What is the war of choice that looms before us, now that the ground has been prepared by the “New Reichstag Fire” via an accusation of voter fraud? In what way have the non-Executive branches of government been diminished in relation to the all-powerful Executive? Does the legislative body still have a place to assemble to enact the People’s business?

        My entire point is that we all know what the Reichstag Fire was – it was the destruction of a prominent national symbol for the purpose of granting emergency powers to the “Great Leader” and preparing the People for a war of choice.

        There WAS an American Reichstag fire, years before Trump declared is candidacy. And we SHOULD be infuriated by the massacre of American citizens to achieve a political goal. We SHOULD be trying to prevent what that act was designed to accomplish. But instead we continue to diminish it by equating a garden variety accusation of voter fraud with the hijacking of American democracy through traumatic destruction and mass murder.

      • Troy

        I understood it Chris when you first wrote about it. I knew there would be a response, I knew there would be a reckoning and an assignment of blame for years to come. It happened when we entered WWII, it happened with the Reichstag, it happened when Hitler pulled the false flag and invaded Poland. There has to be a polarizing event in order to unite the masses against the enemy. Not people, but the enemy. When you dehumanize that enemy, it works even better.

        Jolly Hermann wasn’t wrong. Astute student of human nature. But what did it get him in the end? A nibble on a cyanide capsule in order to cheat the hangman. In between, a global conflagration the likes of which the world had previously not seen. Millions paid that price. Now, as the numbers of people who survived and lived through pass away, the stark and real memories go with them. Yes, there are writings and historical recollections, but it’s the memory of those who survive that has the most dramatic effect and makes the most convincing argument.

        So we are left to our devices. To re-write and re-interpret the actions of long ago until we again deem it plausible to repeat them.

        I don’t have a problem with the comparison in Thomas’ piece. Why? I recognize it as rhetorical. I know that the exaggeration is the thing that, making it implausible for a historian, is likely to reach out and grab the average person just hard enough to cause them to take a second look at what is going on. It wasn’t a literal comparison and analysis. Sometimes to get someone’s attention, shake the fog out of their eyes and get them to actually see what it is they are looking at, you have to shake the shit out of them. Thomas can’t do that literally, but he can figuratively with his rhetoric, maligned to history as it might be.

  3. Henrietta Jenrette

    Not only do the Trump folks have Fox News and Breitbart, they just got control of Voice of America. Only recently VOA was given the right to broadcast to the U.S. and not just to the rest of the world. They are constructing a big media empire so their followers have many sources for their alternate news. More believable with multiple sources. Two campaign workers in their 20s were put in charge, replacing the nonpartisan Board of Governors of media knowledgeable people.

  4. Glenn C. Koenig

    So, I propose one way to move out of this mess. We are in a very different world when compared to the 1930s or even 2001! We know how to network with each other much better now than we ever have before. Even with the threat of cyber attacks, etc., we have tasted new kinds of connections with each other and we’re not going back.

    The good news came out yesterday, when mayors from around the country said to hell with President Trump’s immigration policy (against their ’sanctuary cities’), loud and clear. This is only the start of a massive resistance to suppression from the top. Defiance that’s legal and visible to all. When President Trump said, in effect, “Well then, no more federal money for you!” their response was, “We’ll develop our own resources, if that’s the way you want to play it!”

    I think of the line spoken by Glinda, the Good Witch, in the Wizard of Oz, “Oh rubbish! You have no power here. Be gone before somebody drops a house on you!” This is the attitude we must take within ourselves. We can experience fear or we can turn to our own resilience and exert our power in other ways. Remember, this new president is about to run into a buzzsaw of government bureaucracy and a Congress that is not as monolithic as it might seem!

    So, what can we do that’s positive? How can we move our country forward instead of backward? I think one answer is to move away from partisan politics for a moment and build bridges with those with whom we might disagree, on a personal level. It is my theory that inside every (well almost every) person who voted for President Trump is someone who is hurt and angry at a deep level.

    So called ‘identity politics’ is good on the one hand, if we agree that minorities have been hurt, or are being hurt, in our society. But ‘identity politics’ works against us if we forget that the current economic arrangement (extreme uneven distribution of wealth) works against us all, regardless of identity or cultural sub group. For example, there are poor and middle class white folks stuck in low paying jobs (or unemployed) who have come to feel neglected and ignored in today’s news cycle (for background, see “White Trash,” by Nancy Isenberg, as one source).

    Rather than badmouthing such people, how can we recognize everyone’s basic humanity? How can we connect to them, while maintaining our values that hold that every person has dignity and deserves a fair chance? This is likely difficult work to do … it is not easy to hold one’s tongue and just listen while someone else espouses an opinion we find abhorrent! But I say, listen we must. That is the first step in opening an honest and respectful conversation. With our focus not on what the person is saying and ‘fact checking’ them back, but on what they are feeling, on what is motivating them to hold tight to their political position. If we can practice the art of asking open ended questions (instead of leading ones, such as “But don’t you think, …?”) we can show respect for the other person, as a person, instead of shutting them down with our opinions.

    In times of rapid change and frightening developments around us, we have a tendency to latch onto something that seems solid and dependable. For some people, that means latching onto a lie, just because it seems so simple and comforting. Admitting that the lie is just a lot of nothing that cannot really sustain us may be too frightening. Letting go of that risks feeling unmoored, uncertain, even lost in the confusion. This is partly why fundamentalism is prominent, whether Christian, Muslim, or even Liberal or Conservative. What if we admit that not every question has a definite answer, just yet? That might feel risky, at first, but it also might help us set an example to others, that we can live and thrive without simply hanging onto quick answers and sound bites from public figures.

    • Glenn C. Koenig

      I left out a phrase, above. Where I said “… on what is motivating them to hold tight to their political position” I should have followed that with, “… we can more easily ‘open a channel’ with them, one human being to another.”

  5. Christopher Lizak

    Very, very poor analogy.

    Nothing has been destroyed, The functioning of one of the branches of government has not been impaired. Nobody has lost the ability to engage in critical thinking because they are traumatized by the destruction of a national symbol.

    The American Reichstag Fire occurred on 9/11/01.

    And it was called the “New Pearl Harbor” by the PNAC.

    • Troy

      The American Reichstag Fire occurred on 9/11/01.

      So are you saying that George W. allowed or maybe even initiated the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon as a means of blaming Islamic radicals in order to justify his war with Iraq and Afghanistan?

      • Christopher Lizak

        Do we know for sure that Hitler ordered the burning of the Reichstag?

        • Christopher Lizak

          What difference indeed? So why do you care whether I believe it was George Bush or Mohammed Atta that was calling the shots? Or whether it was Hitler or a crazed Dutch commie that burned the Reichstag?

          I am a student of history, and can give you a lengthy essay on the history of false flag attacks from WWII forward, if you think that’s relevant.

          But I assume that people on this forum are capable of engaging in critical thinking on their own – and can answer the question “Qui Bono” for themselves.

          But maybe I shouldn’t, since you seem to think that making an accusation of voter fraud is analogous to destroying the most prominent symbol of democracy in the nation in order to traumatize the citizenry and prepare them for a war of choice.

        • Troy

          That’s the thing. When do we ever know anything for certain? Given the penchant for Republicans denying what people see and hear firsthand and then spinning it off by bending it, twisting it, and simply making it up.

          Why not just deny the Holocaust, the moon landings, the existence once of dinosaurs? After all, how much proof is there really to be absolutely certain of any of those things. That seems to be the current convention; unless you have a busload of eyewitnesses, videotape, sworn depositions, and a papal decree, you have no proof. And even if you do have proof, it can still be denied.

          • Christopher Lizak

            Indeed, our failures in the recent past to confront utterly blatant lies being dished out by our government on matters of serious import has had grave consequences.

            The American People routinely accept nonsensical tripe simple because somebody on TV has pronounced it to be “True”.

            Fake news has become the norm in nearly all of our mass media outlets, not just Fox News.

          • Apply Liberally

            Fake news is propaganda purposely used by organizations to skew the truth. It’s never retracted, never corrected, never apologized for. Those fake news groups do not adhere to any journalistic standards, and seek only to promote false “alternative” beliefs (i.e., lies) within the world community.

            You say, and I’ll thus assume you believe, that fake news is now the norm throughout the entire news media. News flash: it isn’t. You’ve been appropriated and compromised by the fake news spewers.

    • Christopher Lizak

      What does this have to do with comparing Trump’s claims of Voter Fraud to the burning of the Reichstag?

      The two are in no way comparable.

      One is an accusation, the other is the destruction of a physical national symbol inflicting trauma on the body politic.

      “America’s Reichstag Fire” would need to be the physical destruction of a prominent national symbol that was done to impact the political situation through traumatizing the citizenry.

      • Christopher Lizak

        So you maintain that an accusation of voter fraud is the equivalent of burning down the most prominent physical symbol of democracy in the nation to create political trauma?

        That is simply hysterical.

        I understand perfectly what Thomas is trying to say, and it falls in the category of utterly ridiculous hyperbole. Especially when we DO have examples from our recent history that VERY CLOSELY RESEMBLE what happened with the Reichstag fire. We HAVE in fact witnessed the destruction of a prominent national symbol that created emergency powers and the “end of history” – but that was long before Trump’s watch.

        Once again – an accusation of voter fraud is in no way analogous to physically destroying national symbols, displacing one of the branches of government, and ending the normal functioning of government.

      • Christopher Lizak

        All of what you say is true, but it is in no way analogous to the panicked stampede that followed the burning of the Reichstag.

        We DO have a perfect example from our recent history of the Reichstag fire – but Thomas’ misplaced metaphor obscures that fact.

        Let us at least call things by their right names.

        “Ridiculous accusation” does not equal “Reichstag Fire”.

      • Ebrun

        Chris, surely you don’t expect the far left liberals who post here to acknowledge any rational thought process when their biases are challenged. They are so obsessed with hatred of Republicans, conservatives and the President that their understanding of social and political issues is, at best, irrational. But your critique of Mr. Mills’ essay does expose their inability to accept even the most trivial of objections to a faulty analogy when put forward by a liberal pundit.

        • Troy

          Yes. Because anyone who disagrees with you is irrational and biased. Anyone who chooses to think outside the party or dare I say, disagree, or voice something counter to what is posited is guilty of a “faulty analogy.”

          No one hates you. I disagree with you. Yet you consistently insist on coming on here and stereotyping and labeling in your own narrow-minded style. You pigeon-hole and categorize into a neat little manageable bundle of ‘Us vs. Them’; ala Liberals and Conservatives. Life should be so simple.

          It’s really sad and pathetic Eb.

        • Christopher Lizak

          Actually, I see the inability to engage in logical discussion due to partisan blindness all across the entire political spectrum.

          Most people take the attitude of “cheerleader” for their “team”, rather than that of rational, objective citizen. My team = good, their team = bad.

          It’s not a liberal trait, its a human trait.

        • Ebrun

          No doubt you don’t hate me personally, Troy, but you and other liberals who post here often engage in over-the-top invective when your political opinions are challenged. D.g.’s reply to your most recent post on this thread is a typical example. Even your “sad and pathetic” characterization of my posts is, IMO, a personal insult.

          But such responses are the reason I continue to post on this blog–not to change any minds or even debate the issues, but to elicit the hypocrisy and intolerance that usually emanates from those on the left when their ideology is subjected to critical review.

        • Troy

          I regret you view it in that regard. It was not my intent to insult you. I likewise don’t regard myself as a “liberal.” Its too easy, too generic. I’m really anything but in my own analysis of self.

          My point sir is this. Despite the things you read here that you disagree with, and granted, it is the majority of things. Never, not once have you ever found pause to agree with anything either. Professing that while you may not agree with the status quo of your party in several posts, you will likewise not break from the herd either. You will not proffer those words, “Well, I do agree with________; however….”

          That is what I take the most issue with. Nope, I’m saying there should be a quid pro quo here. But I am saying that is what I find sad and pathetic. That when you do find something you can agree with in here, you find a reason not to and hold the party line. So it’s okay that you disagree. But when there is something that you do agree with, it would certainly be a fresh breath of air if you would say that as well. I promise not to report you to the oversight committee of the Republican Party.

  6. Jay Ligon

    The Republicans have become the party of gaslighting. Always the perpetrators posing as victims, the Republicans and their new leader, in particular, make everyone question reality.

    Disinformation through their mad media destroys our common perception of reality. In the film “Outfoxed,” the techniques of disseminating propaganda were categorized and exposed. The “echo effect,” for example, is the repetition of a false story throughout the alt-media world and out of the mouths of high profile spokespersons on the right. The message coming simultaneously from so many varied sources sounds very much like reality. But it is only a lie repeated.

    In his influential book “Cultural Literacy,” E. D. Hirsch, Jr. argues that there are hundreds or thousands of historical, literary or experiential references which define our common American experience. All Americans can relate to 1776 or Appomattox or the World Series or the Normandy invasion. These historical and cultural events are buried in our American memory. If we lose that memory, we lose our common reference points. The pernicious effect of rewriting reality as it happens profoundly undermines the stability of our culture as a nation. We lose common references and become estranged from other Americans.

    If we listen to the fraudulent voices, our own perception of known facts becomes questionable as if we must begin each day testing the existence of our world. Can we trust our own eyes and ears? We start by questioning our existence like the Rene Descartes process which resulted in his conclusion “Cogito ergo sum.”

    We watch the legitimate media engage in the torturous process of examining facts while they are stripped of the language necessary to call a spade a spade. They ask themselves if they are too sensitive and judgmental. Are they too biased? The media have only recently concluded that they will deal with liars by calling them liars, and some of them will stop being stenographers and become fact-checkers instead. This is a tepid approach to a frontal assault on reality.

    The job of fact-checking Republicans and the President is overwhelming because they have built massive institutions on false information, fake news and the denial of reality. The polar caps are not melting. Cigarettes do not cause cancer. Blacks are not being shot in the streets of our cities. Women are not being sexually harassed. Rape is not a problem in our military. No one will die for lack of healthcare in the United States. No child is hungry. Anyone who wants a job can find one easily with a little effort The financial meltdown was caused by too many poor people seeking a mortgage they could not afford. There are weapons of mass destruction buried in the sands of the Middle East. Fox News is fair and balanced. Banks can be trusted with our savings, and if I see snow in the winter, there can be no global warming.

    The right never needs to win these arguments, only to plant doubt. Your facts need further examination. Your science is not perfect enough; you missed a spot. If 997 scientists out of 1,000 agree, the fact is not perfect.

    And in so doing, the perpetrators buy time. Time to pollute, time to gerrymander, time to steal an election, time to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, time to burn your life savings in a bonfire of greed.

    And when you catch them, when you see the video of them beating a man to death. You witness the shooting of teenager running from the police, or a court rules that legislation has been crafted to deny black people the right to vote. The problem is not that Republicans lack a shred of evidence to support an extreme position. The problem is you. The problem is your lying eyes, not the crime you witnessed not the injustice itself.

    When you hear them call black people “niggers” or you hear him say he grabs women by the pussy, the problem is your lying ears. They attack your perception. They produce alternate facts. If you let them, they will convince that you are not good enough. You do not see or hear or think as they do, and you are wrong. You are flawed.

    So Republicans give us Trump, a liar, a thief, a con man, a sexual predator, a man who undermines the United States with his tweeting thumbs, a man who comforts the enemies of our country, a man who will destroy our good name, our institutions, our economy and our people.

    Our eyes do not deceive us. He does. Our ears to not deceive us He does. He is the end product of a gaslight process begun by the far right long, long ago.

    If your facts conflict with his words, believe yourself. He will rob you blind.

    • Apply Liberally

      Write on, and right on, Jay Ligon! Depressing as hell, but as accurate, true, and real as can be.

    • Eilene1226

      Excellent response. I just hope we can bring about a peaceful solution, and that it doesn’t lead to mayhem as we protect our rights as US citizens.

    • Eric Smith

      Jay– Always eloquent. I worked for Hillary. I voted for Hillary. I was despondent when she lost. But we all knew that she herself was doing more than a little dissembling of her own on TPP. Rust Belt folks and North Carolina mill families sensed that she really stood for continued globalization. Trump apparently was not just bloviating on altering the trade balance and returning manufacturing to the US shores. He meant what he said, as misguided as his trade policy (if you can call it that) may be.
      One problem of writing as you do about disinformation is that it insults the intelligence of the American voter who did not vote the way that we did. They were misinformed. I marched with the Women in DC this past Saturday. Several speakers emphasized that we needed to reach out the voters who were hoping for change and not dismiss them as simply having been duped. Many of these same voters twice voted for Hope and Change with President Obama.

      • Jay Ligon

        Thank you , Eric. I hear your concern for binding the wounds that keep our friends and fellow Americans so far apart. Misinformation is not a label assigned to disagreeable facts. It is an industry, a new form of industry. In the past, there were always public relations firms that lobbied the news sources for a better corporate or political image, but nothing remotely compared to today.

        The problem of American politics is civic ignorance in general, a problem identified by Justice David Souter. (

        “An ignorant people can never remain a free people. Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance,” Souter said.

        Author Rick Shenkman wrote: “The most comprehensive surveys, the National Election Studies (NES), were carried out by the University of Michigan beginning in the late 1940s. What these studies showed was that Americans fall into three categories with regard to their political knowledge. A tiny percentage know a lot about politics, up to 50%-60% know enough to answer very simple questions, and the rest know next to nothing.”

        By next to nothing, he means that Americans do not know that there are three branches of government or that a senate term runs six years and or that laws come from the legislature. They do not know what the Supreme Court does. So, yes, some of the people who voted for Trump are extremely ignorant. Most were so filled with hatred for Democrats or women or homosexuals or Muslims or whomever, they pulled the lever for a fascist, sexual predator who promised a wall and a jail cell for his opponent.
        People were duped by Trump. He cons people, promotes his fraudulent university, lies about his taxes, lies about the crowd size, lies about pretty much everything. You have found something in his words that reassures you. I don’t believe a word he says, because it is impossible to sort out the truth from the lies. We have never had a president who lies so much, so often about so many different things. You are sympathetic to the people who were duped. I want them to take responsibility for their ignorance, to learn about our American political system, to read a book, take a course and engage in helping to solve the serious problems we face. It is not enough to hate black people, women, and people who believe in different religions. That has never been enough, and it never will be.

        The organizations that manufacture misinformation are a threat to our country, and the purveyors of misinformation should be tarred and feathered and run out of town.

  7. Eric Smith

    Thanks Tom. I might be willing to exchange a voter ID requirement in return for an Election Day national holiday and national early voting. Those who have not voted early, could celebrate our democracy by voting on Election Day w/o losing work time.
    I have always been focused on the contorted outlines of NC Congressional District 2. Someone sent me a link to the map of North Carolina Senate District 31. The hole is where African Americans live. Talk about surgical precision. Not only are the Republicans blatant, they are stupid. Even Art Pope favors a redistricting commission for North Carolina that would use apolitical guidelines like contiguity and compactness to create our voting districts. I think that has to be our #1 priority. The 2020 Census is fast approaching.

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