It never really occurred to me until now (since Trump = Hitler comparisons are rife) that there is some debate about whether or not Hitler was ever democratically elected.
There is some merit to the idea that Hitler was never really elected to office. The only vote he won directly was a plesbicite that combined the office of Chancellor and President.
Still, the Reichstag was a Parliament and voters chose parties not specific candidates. In 1932, the Nazis won a plurality of seats in both the July and November elections and Hitler eventually formed a coalition government with the conservatives, whereupon he was appointed Chancellor.
Voter intimidation and suppression aside, this does not seem significantly different than how David Cameron was appointed Prime Minister.
While the Chancellor is not directly elected, it was still the result of democratic elections. And while the systems are dramatically different, the POTUS isn’t directly elected either.
There may have be political fuckery, but that does not negate the fact that there was a vote and that significant segments of the population actually supported the outcome of that vote.
Hitler did run for office and acquired political power because of elections. Sure, he lost the presidency, but by virtue of being the leader of the NSDAP, he was granted de facto power in the government. It is not unlike the position of House Speaker1 or Senate Majority Leader2, really. They are clearly not directly elected by voters, yet their positions and their power are nevertheless the result of elections.
More broadly, the idea that democracy never leads to dictatorship is hilariously laughable. There are plenty of ex-colonies all over the world to disprove that point.
Historically, the Speaker of the House has always been an elected representative, but there’s nothing in the Constitution that species the Speaker must be a member of Congress.
Can Anyone Be Speaker of the House? • 1998 Nov 9 • Slate
Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, not directly elected by voters.
17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Direct Election of U.S. Senators • National Archives
After the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the Senate Majority Leader has always been an elected Senator, but this need not be the case, since (at least in some states), the state’s governor can appoint a Senator whenever there is a vacancy.
Apponted Senators • United States Senate
I’m not really saying anything about the morality of someone subverting the law and seizing power undemocratically in the guise of abiding by democratic processes. I’m just saying the notion that democracy can never directly lead to dictatorship because of ochlocracy is an insane idea.
Hitler was the end result of a breakdown of a constitutional republican regime that was at least partly the result of populist politics.
If the NSDAP wasn’t as popular as it was and didn’t get as many votes as it did, it seems pretty unlikely that Hitler would’ve had any leverage to pull the fuckery that he pulled.