Historians warned President Joe Biden about the rise of totalitarianism and decline of democracy during a White House meeting last week.
"President Biden paused last week, during one of the busiest stretches of his presidency, for a nearly two-hour private history lesson from a group of academics who raised alarms about the dire condition of democracy at home and abroad," The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity to describe a private meeting."
Comparisons were reportedly made to the rise of secessionism prior to the 1860 election and rise of the initial "America First" movement and the rise of fascism before the 1940 election.
"Following a similar meeting with Biden last spring, the Aug. 4 gathering was distinguished by its relatively small size and the focus of the participants on the rise of totalitarianism around the world and the threat to democracy at home," the newspaper reported. "They included Biden’s occasional speechwriter Jon Meacham, journalist Anne Applebaum, Princeton professor Sean Wilentz, University of Virginia historian Allida Black and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. White House senior adviser Anita Dunn and head speechwriter Vinay Reddy also sat at the table."
The group heard loud thunder during the meeting and later learned it came from the lightning strike that killed three people across the street from the White House.
"Most of the experts in attendance have been outspoken in recent months about the threat they see to the American democratic project, after the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, the continued denial by some Republicans of the 2020 election results and the efforts of election deniers to seek state office," The Post reported. "Some of last week’s discussion focused on similarities between today’s landscape and the period leading up to World War II, when growing authoritarianism abroad found its disturbing echo in the United States. As Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini consolidated their power in the 1930s, the Rev. Charles Coughlin used his radio broadcast to spread a populist anti-Semitic message in the United States."
Read the full report.