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:
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:
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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