I have a Twitter account, but I’m rarely on it. I know it is a tool I should use to expand the reach of this blog, but I haven’t had time yet. What I did this morning, however, is follow @realDonaldTrump. Since I am writing a blog with (I hope) thought provoking analysis of current affairs, the President-elect’s Twitter feed is a source I should use. If you would like to follow me, I’m @tonyj126, but so far my only tweets are generated by WordPress when I have a new post.
My decision to follow Mr. Trump paid immediate dividends with this tweet:
“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump: Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
It’s safe to assume that the President-elect is comparing himself to a victim of Nazi aggression, but there is another way to think about this. What do we discover if we compare Mr. Trump’s rise to power with that of Adolf Hitler’s?
Mood in the Country – Early 1930’s Germany
The bank-caused Great Depression in the U.S. led to a worldwide economic depression that affected Germany worse than any country in Europe and Asia. Germans lacked confidence in the Weimar Republic government and “Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class….” – www.ushmm.org.
Mood in the Country – 2015-2017 United States
The bank-caused Great Recession in the U.S. led to a worldwide economic downturn that affected most countries because Americans purchased fewer goods from abroad. U.S. based employers, especially manufacturers, accelerated the trend of moving jobs overseas that began in 2001 following the granting of permanent free trade status to China. Unemployment spiked and many people were unable to find jobs that paid as well as the ones they had lost. Many lacked confidence in the Obama Administration because, even though the country was experiencing one of the longest periods of economic expansion, reporting from right-leaning news sources emphasized the bad news.
Donald Trump entered the political scene as a reality TV star and a significant portion of the country trusted his claims because he was successful in business and a larger-than-life character. He also undermined more traditional media outlets with denials of their reporting and insults about their value, and spread his unique message via his Twitter account. Mr. Trump promised the disenchanted a return to manufacturing jobs of past decades and a new and glorious United States with his slogan “Make America Great Again.” He also tapped into white supremacy beliefs, and attacked illegal immigrants, Muslims and those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. Mr. Trump’s appeal was especially strong with poorly educated white middle-aged men and evangelical Christians.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor – January 30, 1933
With 40% of the vote in the July 1932 Reichstag (German Parliament) election and 33% of the vote in the November 1932 election, the Nazi Party’s leader, Adolf Hitler, becomes Chancellor on January 30, 1933.
Trump Becomes President – January 20, 2017
With 46.1% of the popular vote, Donald Trump will become president on January 20, 2017. Voters reduced the Republican majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, but for 2017 and 2018, Republicans will control both the executive and legislative branches of federal government.
‘Guided by racist and authoritarian ideas, the Nazis abolished basic freedoms and sought to create a “Volk” community. In theory, a “Volk” community united all social classes and regions of Germany behind Hitler. In reality, the Third Reich quickly became a police state, where individuals were subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. In the first month of his chancellorship, Hitler began a concerted policy of ‘synchronization,’ forcing organizations, political parties, and state governments into line with Nazi goals and placing them under Nazi leadership.’ – www.ushmm.org.
We don’t know yet, but I see some troubling signs, especially from the House of Representatives. First the leadership attempted to strip independence from the Office of Congressional Ethics and then they changed the rules so federal land could be transferred to local governments without considering the cost to the American people. Both moves suggest that House Republicans intend to provide favors for their supporters at the expense of the American people, and I suspect these moves are just the tip of the iceberg.
Republicans may take this opportunity of control of Congress and the Presidency to push through many such quid pro quo arrangements, and it seems to me that the average American citizen will be victimized. This early behavior has convinced me that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed without a replacement because the vast majority of Americans who will suffer are not the ones who will vote Republican in the future.
Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations also suggest a disregard for the needs of the average citizen, but there is another way of seeing his picks. He has appointed many people who have been strong supporters and once again, his choices may simply be a reward for loyalty. Time will tell because his plans are not well known.
What People Said About Hitler
- American junior military attaché Truman Smith following a meeting with Hitler in the 1920s: “This is a marvelous demagogue who can really inspire loyalty.”
- Hearst correspondent Karl von Wiegand was the first American journalist to interview Hitler and came away from the 1922 encounter struck by Hitler’s oratorical skills and his ability to whip people into a frenzy.
- “Who is the true friend of the people? Fascism is. Who has done the most for the working man? The USSR or Hitler? Hitler has… Who has done the most for the small businessman? Not Thorez but Hitler!” Louis-Ferdinand Celine in L’école des Cadavres published in 1938.
What People Say About Trump
- “To call Trump a ‘Demagogue’ is to do two things at once: to dismiss him as a political candidate and amplify him as a political threat. … [Demagogues] undermine the stability of a ‘by the people’ form of government particularly by turning ‘the people’ against each other. They represent a danger not just to electoral outcomes or political parties, but to democracy itself.” – “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Demagogues,’” The Atlantic, December 10, 2015.
- “Trump’s rhetoric is working his supporters into a frenzy. Seventy-three percent of Republicans believe the election could be stolen from him, and Trump’s supporters are explicitly calling for ‘racial profiling’ at the polls….” – billmoyers.com, originally published in The Nation, referencing a report in The Boston Globe.
- “Donald Trump may not be the ideal role model, but the president-elect definitely favors pro-business policies, especially when they are in favor of small business. Scott Pruitt … has been selected to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency that has destroyed many small businesses, ranches and farms.” – “Making Small Business Great Again Under Trump,” Mark Skousen, posted at finance.townhall.com on January 5, 2017.
I wouldn’t have made this connection of the similarities between Donald Trump’s and Hitler’s rise to power if it wasn’t for the President-elect’s tweet this morning. I’m pretty sure it’s not the connection Mr. Trump intended.