Donald Trump is no Adolf Hitler. Certainly there are similarities. They were obsessed with controlling their public image. They took great joy in affixing their name to public places. They enjoyed finding dirt that could be used for blackmail to manipulate, or threaten, people into compliance. They employed counterfeiting to achieve their goals. In Hitler’s case, it was the creation of counterfeit histories — the ‘stab in the back’ myth, the ‘Jewish cabal’ myth — in addition to the counterfeit signs and facilities meant to fool people into believing that the gas chamber was a communal shower. This list can go on. Trump employed the art of counterfeiting by creating a ‘university’ where he pretended to offer useful advice for a large sum of money. He created a ‘foundation’ that could accept donations. He lent his name to construction projects, giving them the veneer of respectability, when often they were scams. This list can go on. Still, Trump is no Hitler.
Hitler could act as his own lawyer in a court of law, as he did after his failed 1923 coup. Hitler possessed a core ideology, however reprehensible. Hitler could express himself using more than 140 characters. Trump, thankfully, possesses none of these qualities. For Trump to be Hitler, he would need to have characteristics that go beyond bombast, narcissism, and the ability to work a crowd into a frenzy. He’d need the craftiness of a Steve Bannon, the cynicism of a Paul Ryan, and the diabolical cunning of a Newt Gingrich. Yet even this would not be sufficient to create a Hitler – a human being capable of orchestrating the inhuman on a massive scale. However, let’s not break open the champagne to celebrate Trump’s shortcomings.
Trump has resuscitated the horrors of American history. If Reagan made us believe that greed is good, and Bush made us believe that torture is good, Trump has made a frighteningly large segment of the populace believe that hatred is good. He did not do this all alone. He had many enablers in the media, in the halls of Congress, and in the upper reaches of business. The three decades long I.V. drip of hate that has come out of the mouths of Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Coulter, and others, combined with nearly two decades of digitally distributed hate, combined with faux histories (counterfeit histories!!) put forth by O’Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Jonah Goldberg, and others, has prepared the hearts and minds of millions to embrace hatred, to cherish it as an unalloyed good.
On January 20, 2017, when we put a madman at the helm of the most powerful nation on earth, we should not think that America will suddenly have transit camps, work camps, or killing centers. We will not have Nuremberg Laws. But there may be faint echoes of these things. Our patriotic storm troops may be pulling people out of their homes, tossing them into detention centers, and sending them back home where, in some cases, death awaits. Our version of the Nuremberg Laws may be in the guise of exclusionary quotas, reverse discrimination lawsuits (Will our home-grown neo-nazis claim that they are being unfairly excluded from the halls of academia by the culture of political correctness?), and an even newer Jim Crow that goes beyond the nation-wide carceral state and which becomes international in scope. We may be marching towards an America that we have yet to fully imagine, an America where every crackpot Republican idea will be given serious consideration, and stands a serious chance of being implemented.
Trump may not be Hitler, but the psychological damage approaches the scale of a Hitler. Everything that we have cherished, that we have considered inalienable, that we have taken as the bedrock of America’s greatness, has been broken. On January 20, 2017, this can only get worse.
See: Part 2 of Trump…Hitlerby