Trump has often been compared to Hitler. That’s not an accurate analogy. Hitler had a focused plan. Whatever the heinousness of that plan, Hitler had a vague endgame idea all along. Hitler was turned against the idea of multiculturalism long early in his life, as he watched Congresses with people of many languages yelling at each other in his native Austro-Hungarian Empire in which he grew up. Hitler believed his own hype, and his whole push was for an empire ruled by a single nationality (German) built on the backs of a literal slave population, while exterminating those that, according to his inhuman calculus, did not fit in his dark vision. Hitler believed his broken, nationalistic, morally bankrupt, and racist ideals.
Put simply, this is not Trump. Trump has said some terrible things that undoubtedly have empowered those that cling to the same ideas that Hitler pushed. But Trump is not focused. The fact that he has backed off on half of his campaign promises less than a week after the election is ample evidence of that. Trump is a bull in a plate-balancing shop and Trump says and does what he does for Trump.
While the analogy to Hitler is not accurate, there is a 19th-20th century German leader that can much more accurately be compared to Trump. Trump is much more like Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his presidency is very likely going to move us into something that resembles the pre-WWI geopolitical situation more than the interwar period between World War I and World War II.
Wilhelm II started his career in politics by breaking with not only the pre-eminent German politician of the day, but one of the most successful politicians in history…Otto von Bismarck. Wilhelm II made comments and diplomatic moves that left people aghast, even for the time. And he would make decisions that were not necessarily in line with the German Parliament of the time (but he did them anyway). While we don’t know exactly what Trump’s presidency is going to look like yet, if his campaign has been any indication, this will probably describe Trump’s relationship with other branches of American government.
Like Wilhelm II, Trump kicked off his political career started by breaking with political tradition and by distancing himself from entrenched politicians. Trump won the presidency by making people aghast with some of the comments he made…something which ended up paradoxically winning him the presidency.
Furthermore, the geopolitical situation now is closer to the geopolitical situation before World War I than it was before World War II. The world economy is not in the shambles it was during the 1930s. It is closer to the relatively stable period that the world economy was in before 1914.
The period before World War I also had seen general peace in Europe for a century, since the 1815 Council of Vienna. While the peace was based on a different diplomatic methodology…balance of power politics vs. shared security…the end result was the same. There were isolated wars between only two powers such as The Crimean War, The Franco-Prussian War, and the Austro-Prussian War, but Europe had not seen general war erupt across the whole continent since the Napoleonic Wars a century before. And ironically, Trump’s comments, for instance about NATO, may have singlehandedly broken the good-faith ideology behind shared security and pushed us back into balance of power politics.
So what does this ultimately mean? What can it tell us about what to expect? No one can predict the future, but if events play out similarly to how they have in the past, then as others have pointed out, we might be ready for another “population correction” as has happened from time to time in human history. And if there is one thing these events have in common, it’s that they are the truly equalizing force…they choose no favorites in the lives on all sides that they take.