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What will it take? I’ve got some bad news.

So, a lot of you are wondering what it will take to break the base’s cult like support of Trump. I think I have some clue about this after listening to The Death of Hitler on Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast. The clue came from the life and death of Magda Goebbels, wife of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s right hand man, in the last days of the third reich.

Magda was in the bunker in Berlin with Hitler and what remained of his command people. She knew the end was coming. The soviets were closing in on them. Hitler threw everything he had left at the Red Army but it wasn’t going to be enough. In this frame of mind, Magda looked back at her husband’s role in the third reich with remarkable clarity. Magda was woke:

We have demanded monstrous things from the German people, treated other nations with pitiless cruelty. For this the victors will exact their full revenge…we can’t let them think we are cowards. Everybody else has the right to live. We haven’t got this right—we have forfeited it. I make myself responsible. I belonged. I believed in Hitler and for long enough in Joseph Goebbels…Suppose I remain alive, I should immediately be arrested and interrogated about Joseph. If I tell the truth I must reveal what sort of man he was—must describe all that happened behind the scenes. Then any respectable person would turn from me in disgust. It would be equally impossible to do the opposite—that is to defend what he has done, to justify him to his enemies, to speak up for him out of true conviction…That would go against my conscience. So you see, Ello, it would be quite impossible for me to go on living. We will take the children with us, they are too good, too lovely for the world which lies ahead. In the days to come Joseph will be regarded as one of the greatest criminals that Germany has ever produced. His children would hear that said daily, people would torment them, despise and humiliate them. They would have to bear the burden of his sins and vengeance would be wreaked on them… It has all happened before. You know how I told you at the time quite frankly what the Führer said in the Café Anast in Munich when he saw the little Jewish boy, you remember? That he would like to squash him flat like a bug on the wall…I couldn’t believe it and thought it was just provocative talk. But he really did it later. It was all so unspeakably gruesome…

As you can see in the above quote, Magda knew right from wrong and she wasn’t stupid. She didn’t take Hitler seriously just literally, or whatever that nonsensical statement is the MAGA heads are always saying. In other words, the Nazi’s plans were provocative. They got her juices flowing. Being in power was intoxicating and ratcheting up the propaganda was thrilling. But she knew that what they were doing was unspeakably cruel. There was not going to be some insanity plea available to Magda.

That quote was written a month before Magda died. Just before she killed her children and committed suicide, she wrote another letter where she lamented that she could not bear to live in a post war world where the Fuhrer and all his plans were destroyed. She couldn’t bear the condemnation of the world and the humiliation to her children who would never live it down:

Our glorious idea is ruined and with it everything beautiful and marvelous that I have known in my life. The world that comes after the Führer and national socialism is not any longer worth living in and therefore I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand me when I will give them the salvation … The children are wonderful … there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son—I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country

Her values and priorities are pretty clear. If her leader can’t be in charge, if he doesn’t have power, she wanted no part of it. She’s very concerned with her image, humiliation and shame. And she prizes loyalty above all else.

So, she murdered her children and then killed herself. She didn’t ask her children if maybe they were willing to try to come to terms with what their parents had done. After all, they weren’t guilty of anything and children can be rehabilitated. No, she made the decision.

I know you’ve heard it before that religious cult members are like this. A good example of this is Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal of blood transfusions. Loyalty to Jehovah’s organization is paramount and salvation depends on not taking blood no matter how much you may need it. And that’s fine if you are an adult and you are old enough to make your own decisions.

It’s not fine when you take that decision away from your children who are already sentient human beings. They do it anyway and pressure their kids to die for their religion to the point where a guardian has to be appointed by the court.

We live in a country where there are millions of voters who are militantly loyal to Trump. The alternative to a Trump governed country is unthinkable. It would be not aligned with their vision of having unlimited power. Losing that power is the ultimate humiliation. They couldn’t live with the damage to their worldview. For them to change their minds about Trump, they would have to change their minds about the worldview that was created for them over the last 40 years. I’d like to believe that could happen but history and my own experience shows that it is very difficult.

The only people I can think of who have come close to breaking the grip is Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu with their truth and reconciliation commission. But note that they had to win elections first and that took years of struggle with very determined people. If we win back our country, it will be pretty broken. We will need a similar commission or the cycle will repeat.

They already know that what’s going on in the country is horrific to many people. They know about the cruelty. They’ve been shocked at the stuff Trump says and does. But he exercises power and no one has been able to stop him.

A few of them might change their minds. They will need to be personally affected in a way that they can’t claw their way back to the top. Then some of them might fall away. The pandemic *might* be a tipping point. But I suspect that a lot more of them will cling to their vision right up to the point when their war is lost.