How Fair is it to Call Trump the Next Hitler?
As soon as the Republican National Convention began, I started keeping a tally of how many comparisons would be made between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler. I didn’t have to wait long: analysts were as quick to jump on Trump’s raised-arm salute to Laura Ingraham (pictured) as they were to his awkward displays of affection towards his wife and daughter Ivanka.
A cursory Google search will show a history of Hitler-Trump comparisons that goes back to the beginning of his campaign for the Presidency. Many of those comparisons came from pranksters, like the comedian who posed as a Trump employee and handed out red Swastika-stamped golf balls at a rally. Still, other times the comparison was well-researched and foreboding.
With the RNC now over and the focus shifted to Democratic party politics, the Trump-as-Hitler parallels tally runs pretty high.
Clinton supporters citing his German heritage as a weak link to Hitler’s Aryan heritage
His association with openly anti-semitic (former) Klansmen
His many unabashed declarations about barring Mexican and Muslim individuals from relocating to the US. In fact, the candidate known for his lack of any core values, has made immigration the target of the only explicit policy suggestion outlined by his campaign. That he would target specific religious and ethnic groups and exclude them from what it is to be American should be very alarming.
By many accounts, Trump fits the bill for a demagogue in the true sense of the word. He has played on one of democracy’s essential weaknesses: that government is decided by the citizens’ rationale–and in the worst of times, their passions, their fears, their desperation. McCarthy fueled the Cold War with the Red Scare–and Adolf Hitler mastered the democracy of desperation to a terrible end.
With the Democratic Convention closing on Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination, the Trump Campaign continues to scramble for the spotlight. At a press conference in Florida this week, Trump casually let it slide that if Russian hackers found their way in to Hilary Clinton’s email account, “they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do”. … Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Butter my ass and call me toast, but baiting the former Cold War adversary to prove Clinton endangered national security qualifies as a play on voters’ fear and desperation.
Jokes aside, we can acknowledge that the 2016 Presidential campaign has been rife with mudslinging–and political correctness has gone out the window. Yet despite the mountain of anecdotes pointing to Trump as a ‘homegrown demagogue’ and threat to national security–is it right to compare him to the twentieth century’s most infamous demagogue, the Fuhrer himself?
Adolf Hitler’s name has become so synonymous with death, genocide, and racism that the European Union considered criminalizing the display of the Nazi swastika. Although the movement did not ultimately pass, the public display of the swastika is a criminal misdemeanor in Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania. Part of this is rooted in Hitler’s responsibility for the world’s most infamous genocide, which resulted in the death of over 6 million Jews, 1.8 million Poles, 200.000 Roma, and over 300.000 Balkan Slavs targeted for their ethnicity. This is before we count the 3 million POWs and hundreds of thousands of criminals, people with disabilities, homosexuals, members of the intellectual elite, and dissidents.
The other part of it perhaps comes from our residual guilt over active participation or non-action. Too many Poles sold out their Jewish neighbors, hoping this would ameliorate German offenses on Polish territory. Too many Allies joined forces when death camps were already operating in full steam. The US joined at the last hour, only to wreak such havoc on Japan that current generations suffer the effects of the atomic bomb. Decades later, much of the world feels responsible for a tragedy that began with a single demagogue chosen by the local electorate.
I could go on about tragedies that began when a population brought a demagogue into power and it backfired–but our collective shame and guilt over Adolf Hitler has brought his name and legacy to the point that it gets censored. We do not need to look far to see that jokes about nazism are not politically correct. Getting annoyed when someone confuses “it’s” and “its” does not a Grammar Nazi make. It makes you fastidious, not Fascist. The comparison doesn’t seem right. Similarly, I can’t help but wince at myself anytime I laugh at my beloved Seinfeld’s ‘Soup Nazi’ episode.
Likewise, Donald Trump’s racism, misogyny, political ineptitude, and blatant defensiveness about the size of his phallus phalanges can never compare to the pain, suffering, and loss that remain with the world post-WWII. He is only one person–and he has not been elected. YET.
And there’s the operative point. Trump is a loose cannon and threat to national security. And like Hitler, he preys on the population’s hopes and fears to propose dangerous policies. So, does it feel strange to call him a Nazi, to call him the next Hitler–Or should we trust our gut on this and look at the situation in a vaccuum?
I don’t take the term Nazi lightly, and the Holocaust is not fodder for cheap jokes. But we are having this conversation now because Nazism was rooted in a choice the electorate made when Hitler rose to power. Like Trump in US conventions, Hitler made captured people’s imaginations and fears in speeches at the Hofbrauhaus. We don’t like to admit it, but he made people listen.
Seventy years later, we have the opportunity to make a choice. Trump may not be Hitler, but Donald Trump is his own category. And if hindsight is 20–20, we need to learn from one of the greatest mistakes our civilization has ever made.
For the love of all that is good and rational, just register to vote.