On Facebook especially I keep seeing memes and articles comparing Trump to Hitler and the Nazis. They make me want to scream. (I do a lot of screaming these days, the cat is slowly developing an anxiety disorder because of it, and the neighbours give me a lot of funny looks.) They make me want to scream for two reasons. First, the comparison is facile and sophomoric, what similarities there are are dwarfed by major differences. Secondly, it’s a distraction from the real issues and dangers of the Trump presidency. Hell, Trump is largely a distraction from the dangers of the Trump presidency.
I should mention I’m reasonably knowledgeable about Hitler, certainly vastly more so than the typical American. I don’t claim expert knowledge though. That being said, here are some of what I see as crucial differences between Trump and Hitler. Possibly the biggest one is that Hitler was an ideologue, Trump is nothing of the kind. IE Hitler was consumed with his vision of how Germany should be, with grandiose plans he worked on for decades. And began to put into motion as soon as he seized power. If Trump has any ideology beyond “I want to be rich and famous,” he hasn’t shared it with the world. This is a huge difference, Hitler immediately began to reshape German society to fit his vision when he took power, like removing women from the workforce. Trump has busied himself with helping the rich get richer, and that’s about it.
Hitler had a vastly greater base of support, and worked hard at all times to keep his appeal as broad as possible. He never married for example, so that single German women could view him as available. That’s about as different as night and day. So Hitler maintained massive popularity across wide segments of the German population. Trump is riding on a very modest base and doesn’t really give a crap what most people think of him, certainly not to the point of moderating his behaviour to broaden his appeal.
Then there’s little things like Hitler being an actual decorated war hero and not being born rich. And Hitler got into politics at an early age, and was deeply involved by his early 30s. Trump never got into politics, in fact it’s unclear he has any political acumen at all. And lastly, 1930s Germany and 2010s America are vastly different creatures. Germany had just lost a terrible war, her government had collapsed, her economy was in utter ruins, and the political situation in Germany was chaotic at best. There are some similarities, but they are minor compared to the major differences. Trump and Hitler are both narcissists with autocratic populist tendencies. That’s about it.
Hasn’t stopped endless speculation of course. Hell comparing American presidents to Hitler is a cottage industry. Has been since Bush 43 at least. I remember then Naomi Klein making great book pointing out how Bush 43’s administration was about to morph into Nazi Germany. Pretty sure with minor editing she’s still spouting the same spiel today. Hell, any historian or pundit wants to get published all they need to do is write a “Trump is the next Hitler” article. And anyone who can use Google and make a meme can come up with something comparing Trump to Hitler. I could easily if I wanted to. Damn my mile wide honest streak.
This rankles because seeing people with a facile understanding of history is annoying. It’s more than that though. I think this obsession with Hitler has two serious downsides. The first is that if anything it drives his supporters more into Trump’s camp. Calling someone Hitler is pretty insulting, and not exactly going to get through to people who spent eight years being told Obama was going to seize dictatorial powers. So, basically, it’s at best preaching to the choir, and at worst, it’s not helping and may even be hurting the resist Trump cause.
Lastly, I think this Hitler trope is distracting people from the very real dangers the Trump administration poses. The danger isn’t that Trump is going to seize power and invade Mexico and round up all foreigners and Muslims into concentration camps, the danger is what he and the GOP are doing now. And that is gutting environmental and social justice programs, transferring ever more wealth upwards, and cementing their party’s hold on power through fair means and foul. It’s not that we are going to wake up to Fuhrer Trump, it’s that the GOP is going to get so solidly into power that it may take decades to unravel their grip.
And the Dems obsessing over nonsense like Russiagate or Trump’s moral failings isn’t going to help, if anything it’s hurting. Neither is going to change the minds of his supporters. Oh, and obsessing over the racism and moral failings of his supporters isn’t helping either. It almost seems as if the Dems are determined to drive GOP voters to the polls this November. I think the Dems should be screaming about the very real ways the GOP is hurting the middle class and working poor Americans, and what they are going to do to help them. Sadly I don’t think the Dem’s corporate overlords will allow that, so I think their party will continue to sink into irrelevancy.
If the GOP being full of crooks and sexual offenders was a problem, they wouldn’t be in control of Congress, the White House, and the majority of state governments, nu?
(Image: Public domain. Hitler and Albert Speer inspecting Schwerer Gustav, a German 80 cm (31.5 in) railway gun. The largest rifled gun ever used in combat, and the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built. It once destroyed a munitions depot that was buried 100 m (328 ft) underground! Trump has his Space Force. OK, both Trump and Hitler may be compensating for certain physical inadequacies, I’ll grant that. ;) )