TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

Laurence H. Kant

 

Many, including Melania Trump, have assured us that Donald isn’t Hitler. Some commentators object to the comparison outright; others simply bleat the equivalence hysterically, without further explanation. All should contend with the evidence:

 

  • Trump’s tweeting a Mussolini quotation and retweeting neo-Nazis, white supremacists;
  • Trump’s belated (and weak) disavowal of David Duke and the KKK;
  • Trump’s refusal to condemn or even rebuke Jew-hating tirades—including death threats and concentration camp oven imagery—against Jewish journalists who’ve criticized   him (Bethany Mandel, Ben Shapiro, and Jonathan Weisman);
  • Official association of Trump’s campaign with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, giving talk-show host, James Edwards, a VIP press parking space and interview with Donald Trump, Jr. at a Memphis rally, and designating William Johnson a California Trump delegate to the Republican convention;
  • Ivana Trump’s Vanity Fair statement (1990) that her husband kept a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order,” in his bedside cabinet (which Trump acknowledged);
  • The right-arm salute Trump invokes at his rallies, recalling the Nazi salute (some dispute this, but, given his media skills, it’s safe to assume that Trump knows the symbolic effect of every image he uses);
  • Trump’s use of “America First,” alluding to an isolationist, early-40’s U.S. movement that was rife with Jew hatred and called for negotiations with Hitler;
  • Trump’s October 13 speech that refers to international bankers, media, and global elites that allegedly strip the U.S. of its rightful power—a trope that recalls the classic Jew-hating screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” , and has numerous and widespread parallels in other Jew-hating rhetoric as well;

 

Does anyone really believe that this self-described “really smart” Wharton grad draws on the Nazi tradition of political rhetoric, symbolism, and ethnic/racial scapegoating unawares?

The onus should be on those who deny the obvious connections to explain in detail why they’re not relevant.

Countless other items of evidence connect Trump to fascism more generally:

 

  • Using threatening gestures, encouraging supporters to beat up protesters and intimidate critics;
  • Forecasting (and encouraging) “riots” at the Republican convention;
  • Calling reporters “scum” and implicitly threatening them, and barring major media organizations (left and right) from his campaign events;
  • Calling to change libel/slander laws to curb criticism of public figures;
  • Demonizing ethnic groups: labeling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug addicts,” calling for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented aliens, advocating a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and demanding the recusal of a judge as biased and unqualified because of his ethnic heritage;
  • Targeting the disabled by mocking the arm and facial movements of New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski;
  • Praising dictators, including North Korean Kim Jong-un, for murdering potential  enemies; Chinese rulers, for cracking down on Tiananmen Square protesters; and Vladimir Putin for being “a leader’’;
  • Openly and frequently calling for the jailing of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton—this happens as a matter of course in totalitarian societies from the Congo to Cuba to North Korea;

 

No, Trump doesn’t outline a genocidal philosophy or well-thought-out plans to implement discrimination—what coherent policy strategy has he ever enunciated?—but he is aware of Hitler and Mussolini and riffs off of them. He knows who they are and borrows their ideas—most notably the use of intimidation and violence to acquire political power.

Does this make him more like a third-world dictator (Marco Rubio’s assessment)? Would Mussolini serve as a better comparison than Hitler? Silvio Berlusconi?

We don’t know what he sincerely believes, but does that really matter? We can only judge him by his words, his actions, and what he promotes.

We d­­­on’t know what Trump would actually do if elected president. Given the American system of checks and balances, his attempt at authoritarian rule would likely be limited by the realities of governance. Yet, is that a risk worth taking?

Why don’t commentators address the specific evidence instead of asserting that Trump isn’t Hitler? Many in the press minimize the Trump phenomenon by laughing off his words or by rationalizing the crazy stuff he does. The reason is clear: because the evidence is so troubling and disturbing, and the implications so appalling, that they would rather it simply go away.

If we’ve learned anything from the holocaust, it’s that we can’t take on the role of bystanders and let troubling events transpire by ignoring or glossing over them.

Too frequently in the past, politicians and commentators trivially compared political adversaries to Hitler and the Nazis, leading to what many call “Godwin’s law”: the inevitable invocation of Hitler or Nazis to refute an argument. Neither mindless name-calling nor willful ignorance force us to face the facts before us.

The facts are clear: Trump uses language, images, and tactics that directly recall those of the Nazis and Hitler, along with other fascists. To allow him to speak destructively by incorporating this pernicious tradition and to permit him to encourage violence without calling him to meaningful account does nothing more than offer him a media get-out-of-jail free card. It amounts to an abdication of the sacred responsibility the founders gave the press in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Who is willing to stand up and be counted?

 

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Donald Trump: “BECAUSE YOU’D BE IN JAIL” (to Hillary Clinton)

Donald Trump: “BECAUSE YOU’D BE IN JAIL” (to Hillary Clinton).
 
These are the words of a dictator, a fascist, a tin-pot demagogue, not someone who aspires to lead a great country. If one candidate said this about another in another country, we would condemn that process as undemocratic, as would Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others. I would expect to hear something like this in North Korea or Uganda, not a democratic nation leading the free world. And to start the evening with a circus show of women accusing Bill Clinton of sex abuse (which was fully litigated almost twenty years ago and found to have no legal substance by Ken Starr of all people) recalls tactics used by authoritarian leaders of third-world nations who have no interest in democracy or free speech or freedom of the press or freedom of religion. It was a disgusting remark that everyone who cares about our country should condemn.
 
Unfortunately, it was not the only disgusting remark in this appalling spectacle that has lowered political discourse in ways I have never seen. We now have a self-admitted sexual predator running on a major party ticket for president of the U.S.A. who also stands opposed to the democratic values that undergird our government and political process. Sadly at least 35-40% of our population seems to think that’s all right. We can get through this, but we have serious problems to address even if Hillary wins convincingly.
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