It’s Time to Take the Nazi-Trump Comparisons Seriously

By Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker | ( Foreign Policy in Focus ) | – –

The slide towards bleak historical periods can be difficult to recognize in the moment. But in this moment, it’s glaringly obvious.

The slide towards bleak historical periods can be difficult to recognize in the moment — often it only seems obvious in retrospect. But it’s hard to miss in the U.S. in this early part of the 21st century.

Dangerous signs are everywhere. In the New Yorker, Robin Wright writes of a coming Civil War. Holocaust survivors are issuing warnings about the similarities of this period to the rise of the Nazi era.

While no two events are the same, there are lessons and events in history that can be used to shine a light on the present. Those lights, if we choose to follow them, can guide us to avoid the tragic errors of the past.

The presidency of Donald J. Trump, hoisted on the shoulders of white supremacists, is a glaringly dangerous period for our country. It’s important to recognize this dangerous mix of moral turpitude, dereliction of duty, and incompetence before we fall deeper into fascism and moral tragedy.

Similarities to Hitler

There are some similarities between both Hitler’s and Trump’s rise to power.

For starters, both rose to power with minority support. The Nazi party received just 3 percent of the vote in the 1924 parliamentary election; in the 1933 election, the party won 33 percent of the votes. At his peak, Hitler managed to muster just 39 percent. (Contrary to myth, he never won a popular election outright.)

Trump took over the Republican Party with a similar style of demagoguery and dumb luck, ultimately winning the presidency with 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton due to the arcane Electoral College process.

Likewise, both Hitler and Trump used decrees as a tool for consolidating authoritarian powers and disorienting the opposition. Trump’s continual issuance of executive orders, starting from the first days of his presidency, has served to not only subvert the normal legislative process, but to destabilize opposition by scattering the efforts of the left. By comparison, Hitler issued more than 400 decrees against Jews over a six-year period, in a constant and brutal decimation of rights, and ultimately, lives.

Trump’s recent move to try to compel the Department of Justice to seize 1.3 million IP addresses on a Trump protest site’s visitor logs is just the most recent nibble at the rights of his opposition. The department was forced to back off that request under pressure, but more efforts will follow.

Both Hitler and Trump have used bullying and threats to keep government officials in line. Nazi supporters intimidated, beat, and assassinated some of their opponents. Trump is no Hitler — not yet — but he’s turned his Twitter account into an intimidation tool and managed to keep the majority of his party in line with him, even with neo-Nazis chanting “Heil Trump” in the streets.

Where Hitler manipulated weak top officials by joining the conservatives to win the majority in parliament, Trump has co-opted GOP leaders by allowing some to call the shots on their favored foreign and domestic policies.

Trumps’ Rise to Power

What were the conditions that brought us to a Donald Trump presidency?

First, Republicans systematically weakened the labor class and their unions with a relentless dismantling of many of their hard-fought rights, beginning in the 1980s during the Reagan administration.

Second, the Democratic Party took labor for granted. During the Clinton administration the ill-conceived North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1993, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) was formed in 1995. While both garnered support as a means for more U.S. jobs, the reality was a loss of jobs or a decline in wages for many, causing hourly labor wages to decline from $40-50 to $10-15 an hour in some sectors.

Democrats continued on the same path during the Obama administration, pushing new and even more ambitious trade pacts like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The result of this decades-long assault? Millions have moved from the middle class to lower middle class and into poverty, while upper corporate executives and stockholders reap the rewards. Is it any wonder that disaffected Democrats moved away from their party?

In his 2004 campaign for president, candidate Howard Dean (full disclosure: one of us privately worked for his campaign in Maryland) recognized the rising anger among the poor and lower-middle class at forces beyond their reach. Dean described his approach in 2003 by saying that he wants to be a candidate for the “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.” The corporate media widely panned his description, and yet Dean’s remark predicted Trump’s rise in this last election.

Later, Barack Obama pointed out that same group of Americans at a private campaign fundraiser in California in 2008, albeit in more disparaging terms. “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Obama suggested, seemingly embodying the exact sort of condescension these voters suspected top Democrats of harboring for them.

Recognized but not addressed, these groups fled the Democrats who failed to acknowledge the degradation of jobs and lives for a large swath of America. Many ran right into the arms of a demagogue.

Charlottesville

Yet recent events prove that it’s not just economic inequality that threatens the foundations of our society. Also to blame is a resurgent white nationalist movement that’s been emboldened by this administration’s refusal to condemn it. Charlottesville was ground zero in a clash of fascism versus movements for equality, peace, and justice.

Yet for traditionally minded Americans, including many conservatives, seeing the home of Thomas Jefferson overrun by Nazi symbols can be a catalyst for change — if more Republicans find their moral courage and Democrats develop a consensus to begin to address the needs of Americans who have been forgotten.

Trump’s impromptu news conference on August 14 exposed a president denuded of any principles and knowledge of our history. Extolling racism and favoring fascism, Trump solidly demonstrated his unwillingness to change. A few Republicans have begun to publicly express their repugnance, notably Senators Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker. Corker gave perhaps the strongest statement, declaring, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Where are the rest? Heather Heyer, the young woman who died in Charlottesville when she was mowed over by a fascist terrorist, had more courage in her convictions than any of Trump’s miserable looking staffers and congressional cronies.

The great enablers of Trump must be exposed for their immorality and lack of courage. More members of the Republican Party must gather their courage and come together with Democrats and independents to hold Trump and his lackeys accountable. Meanwhile, progressives need to come up with a compelling left populist alternative to the far right’s racially tinged fascism.

The signs are evident, and the time is now, before it is too late. We have no time to waste.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth — When Humanity Will Have Peace. Download a free copy. His email is ashamoo@som.umaryland.edu.

Bonnie Bricker is a contributor to FPIF.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

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10 Responses

  1. “A few Republicans have begun to publicly express their repugnance, notably Senators Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker.”

    This is the cheapest coin of the political realm. Repugnance means nothing unless backed up by concrete action to impede the program. So far only McCain and Murkowski have cast a contrary vote.

    Let me go off topic to point out one positive development: Oberunsinnsprecher Gorka has been relieved of duties. He is rumoured to be establishing the Sebastian Gorka Institute of Faulty Conclusions and Absurd Accents.

    • Republicans are setting themselves up to justify secession no matter how they feel about Trump. The real problem is that Whites are losing their majority status in a generation. Because most bigots will not admit in front of a microphone that they intend to ensure White rule by undemocratic means, they need to claim that they were forced to do it by murderous minorities presenting an immediate threat. Thus even if they dislike Trump, the sight of us organizing against him serves as their excuse, whether their weapon of choice is control of the Federal government, secession by State governments, or armed terrorism. If we somehow remove Trump, they suddenly become secessionists again claiming that they can’t be free under our oppressiveness. If, by that time, minorities are numerous enough in their states to block secession, out come the assault rifles and the death lists.

      There is nothing you can do to avoid this clash. You can’t negotiate with a Master Race.

  2. James Adler

    I would think more like George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Huey Long, or Juan Peron… Very unpalatable characters to be sure, and especially shocking if one of them had gotten to be President of the US…. Peace…

    • And now this -The Trump maladministration will remove limits on a program that provides local law enforcement with surplus military gear, limits placed by Obama.

      Soon, your local PD can again acquire armored vehicles, high-caliber weapons and stealth military gear at surplus prices.

      It’s very clear the Trump policy indifferent to collateral damage demonstrated repeatedly overseas extends to our shores as well.

      link to usatoday.com

  3. The parallels of President Trump to American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell bear mentioning:

    (A) both attended Ivy League schools – Rockwell at Brown University and Trump at the University of Pennsylvania;

    (B) both held executive positions in Manhattan – Rockwell at an advertising firm and Trump in real estate;

    (C) both had their sanity questioned – with Rockwell once being committed by judicial order to professional mental health provider custody;

    (D) both admired militarism – with Rockwell smoking a corncob pipe to emulate Gen. MacArthur and serving as a U.S. Navy officer during WWII;

    (E) both ran for public office with Rockwell running for governor of Virginia.

    Although Trump has not directly identified with Nazism or white supremacy in general, it is clear that he has been reluctant to criticize neo-Nazis or the KKK as even President Reagan did in 1984 when he expressly disavowed a KKK endorsement in no uncertain terms.

    Many observers felt that the Nazi-KKK movement in the U.S. effectively died with the federal conviction and imprisonment of David Duke in the 1990s and the subsequent passing of Dr. William Pierce – but the political candidacy and presidential victory of Donald Trump has refuted this.

    As during the 1960s, the federal court system will be relied upon to enforce the rights of minorities and political activists who may be politically targeted. The throngs of Iraqi-Americans outside the United States District Court in Detroit cheering Judge Mark Goldsmith in his injunctions against the deportations to Iraq of resident aliens are evidence that those targeted have confidence that they will have the protection of an honest judiciary – much as Martin Luther King, Jr. did in Alabama in the 1960s.

    • I unfortunately had to see part of those fascist-rhetoric ads on YouTube. How dare we assume when a heavily-armed White man who embraces our racist past says that he’s under attack by evil Negroes, that he’s organizing violence.

      Hit them again and again with the key questions: Do you believe that all people are created equal? Do you accept that voters different than yourself have the right to defeat you in fair ungerrymandered elections? Do you believe that a non-White person has a right equal to yours to organize armed militias – or do you have an asterisk saying ” only if they support the laws and culture of 220 years ago”?

      I used to think they were smart enough to lie about these things, but Trump’s ascension has suddenly got them cracking their veneer and spouting bits and pieces of their Apartheid vision for America. Make them own it.

      • Your second paragraph is far beyond the capacity of a far-right zealot to ponder.

        Those who would respond to obvious NRA dog-whistles which imply violence simply hate anyone who doesn’t look like themselves in a mirror. They are DEFECTIVE sub-humans who need a defective leader to follow.

        Simple as that.

  4. there is an old saying about if you do not learn from history you will repeat it. here is take 2 for the U.S.A., THIS time however, it will be Americans who go facist/racist.

    While Trump was running for the nomination I watched in horror and remembered the words our Mother said to us in the 1950s, Always remember it can happen again (referring to the holocaust.)

    Americans started this down ward “spiral” in the 1970s with the Vietnam war and things never got that much better. Each time a recession was “over” the working/middle class never recovered. There has been since then a growing segment of American society which has no hope of attaining a “middle/working class” life. There is nothing quite as dangerous a people who have lost all hope.

    Trump doesn’t care about the law. The law is what he wants it to be. the congress is too “chicken shit” to do much, afraid they will loose their cussie jobs in Washington.

    Leadership is doing the right thing as a politician even when you know you will loose the election next time round. There aren’t many leaders left in the U.S.A.

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