The day of fate

What is now the past was once the future. What is now shame was once choice. Germany’s day of fate, November 9, belongs not only to the killers and looters of the Brownshirts but also to men like Elser, Scheidemann, and Blum, who offered Germans a different way from the way they took.

What is now the future will someday be the past. What is now choice may someday be shame. Rarely in history do people confront choices as extreme as those that Germans confronted in the 1930s and ’40s. The genius of democratic politics in normal times is that the choices are not extreme at all. Americans and their counterparts across the developed world usually find themselves arguing within narrow bounds about the inevitable trade-offs of collective life. Coalition-building and dealmaking define democratic politics when it is working properly.

It does not always work properly.