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MAGA Republicans and Neville Chamberlain

“Appeasement didn’t work then. It won’t work now.”

The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waving the Munich Agreement in the air upon landing in London on September 30, 1938. The agreement, signed by both Hitler and himself, committed Germany and England to only use “peaceful methods” to achieve their goals. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday, on September 30, Kevin McCarthy and most of the Republicans in the House turned away from the MAGA right-wingers and approved a 45-day continuing resolution to keep the government funded and open.

The CR that passed had almost none of the right wing’s fever dream requests. It kept government funding at current levels, instead of the dramatic cuts they wanted. It kept Social Security and other social programs intact. It even added funding, for disaster relief.

But, there was one MAGA win in the bill: it stripped out additional funding for Ukraine.

It is obvious that the MAGA crowd supports Russia and Vladimir Putin in that war. They are following the lead of Trump, who admires dictators – most especially Putin.

It seems certain that the Ukraine funding will be added soon, via a supplemental funding bill. But the significance of the date was not lost on former representative Liz Cheney. And it should not be lost on us.

Eighty-five years earlier

In 1938, Adolf Hitler’s Germany was flexing its muscles. Hitler had already annexed Austria in March of that year. He then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia. He began demanding that the Czechs turn the Sudetenland over to Germany, since it contained a large number of German-speaking citizens.

In September of that year, Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of Great Britain, traveled to Munich to try to negotiate an agreement between Hitler and the Czech government. Basically, he forced the Czech government to agree to give the Sudetenland to Germany, in return for a promise by Hitler that this was the end of his expansionist plans. Hitler agreed, and he and Chamberlain signed a paper laying out the agreement.

Chamberlain flew back to London, and on September 30, 1938, he gave a speech in front of 10 Downing Street, the residence of the prime minister, in which he read from the paper agreement, then said:

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

Of course, the Munich Agreement did not produce “peace for our time.” It merely delayed the inevitable: dealing with a dictator and his demands.

Liz Cheney’s remarks

After seeing a large number of MAGA Republicans demand removal of the aid for Ukraine, it was striking to read Cheney’s remarks:

Members of the House and Senate who are voting to deny Ukraine assistance on the 85th anniversary of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 “peace in our time” speech should read some history. Appeasement didn’t work then. It won’t work now.

Whatever one may think of Cheney’s policy positions, it has been obvious for some time that she knows her history, and accurately sees the parallels between earlier times and our current realities.

And she is right. Negotiation can work in some cases, and can be the preferable path in some cases.

But when you are dealing with an authoritarian, who will lie to get what he or she wants, trying to appease them only leads to more demands. The only appropriate stance is to stand firm and resist.

Appeasement will not work with Putin. Giving him part of what he wants only ensures he will come back for more. Cheney sees that, clearly. The far-right MAGA faction does not.

And, in a similar way, if you appease them, they will keep demanding more and more. McCarthy finally figured that out, and turned to the rest of the House to stop the MAGA demands.

“Appeasement didn’t work then. It won’t work now.” True for Putin, true for Trump, and true for the MAGAs in the House. Thank you, Liz Cheney, for reminding us of the lessons of history.

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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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