Will You Become A Nationalist For Trump?
Marco Emilio Valle has dared to ask the more important, and more challenging, question that lies beneath the growing number of comparisons between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler: “If Trump is the new Hitler, are we the new Germans?”
Valle’s article identifies one of the difficulties in noting the likenesses between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump: It puts all the responsibility onto the leader of violent nationalist movements, and allows the people who prop them up to fade into the background.
Hitler certainly had responsibility for the formation of the Third Reich. However, he was not alone. He had millions of Germans on his side, eager to accept political brutality. Even if they didn’t explicitly know the full extent of Hitler’s cruelty, there were enough strong hints from which to make a reasonable judgment. Though some resisted, many Germans in the Weimar Republic simply chose to overlook their reservations and back Hitler anyway.
Today, we have a similar dynamic, even as large numbers of voters acknowledge that much of what Donald Trump proposes (torture, massive new wars, rounding up millions of Hispanic outsiders, imprisonment and religious IDs and travel bans for Muslims, mass executions of prisoners) are outrageous, and deplore his connections to the KKK and neoNazi groups, they choose to believe that Donald Trump doesn’t really mean what he says, and doesn’t really like white supremacist groups. They presume, although their candidate gives no basis for the presumption, that Trump is just joking, just saying what he needs to say in order to bring larger numbers of bigoted Americans out to vote for him.
This belief that Donald Trump is only pretending to be a racist nationalist in order to win the Republican nomination, as tenuous as it is, requires that we accept that most Republican voters are, themselves, racist nationalists. So, we return to Mr. Valle’s central point: Whether or not we accept that Donald Trump truly believes what he says, it seems that a strong plurality of Republican voters zealously approve when Trump blames all our problems on Mexicans, or Muslims, or other minorities.
The only way to deny the growing wave of xenophobic Republican nationalism is to suggest that both Donald Trump AND Republican voters are only pretending, that the voters who push him forward in state after state as the GOP nominee understand that it’s all just a game, that underneath all the violence and shouting and ugly insults and frightening policies, both Donald Trump and his supporters actually value a free, inclusive, compassionate society where everyone is treated equally and their constitutional rights are respected.
This argument requires us to believe that when Trump and his supporters openly use Fascist and Nazi language, ideology and symbolism, it’s just some kind of satire the rest of the country is too dense to understand.
Are we willing to risk the American nation on the basis of this contorted justification? The simplest explanation, the Occam’s Razor of 2016, is that when Trump and his followers behave like Nazis, it’s because they intend to rule like Nazis after they win the election in November.