Progressives Must Stop Getting Queasy Over Comparing Trumpism to Nazism
It’s not a topic that you can treat frivolously or hyperbolically.
Maybe, you find comparisons of Nazism to Trumpism uncomfortable and a bit of an hysterical overreach.
But you shouldn’t.
Yes, the most appalling and abominable mass killing of millions of Jews, gays, Germans with disabilities and political “enemies of the state” didn’t occur under Trump. And he didn’t start a war that killed 75 million people or more. I’ll grant that.
However, Trump has mastered both the propaganda techniques of Goebbels and the psychotic symbiotic bonding with his cult followers that Hitler developed. And he has an insatiable lust for cruelty and violence.
Moreover, the deaths and potential assassinations of January 6 should remind us that from his initial objectifying of non-whites (and the non right-wing media) as “enemies of the people” in his 2016 campaign to his big lie that votes of US Blacks were not legal (because Blacks are not really US citizens), Trump employed grievance politics to stir the boiling id of hate amongst whites to lead to an attempted coup, which might have led to Trump declaring martial law.
His incessant evocation of violence has made him a proponent of stochastic terrorism, as his followers committed domestic terrorism in his name, mass shootings such as the one on El Paso, as well as his policy of violence and cruelty on the Mexican border. Trump was test-marketing Hitlerian domination of his followers to the last minute of his presidency. And he’s not done yet, as he continues to stand by the big lie that he was cheated out of a massive election win.
Consider that a new conservative American Enterprise Institute survey finds that nearly 40% of Republicans,
think political violence is justifiable and could be necessary….Republicans gravitating towards violence while explicitly legitimizing it as a political tool is a dangerous precedent for the country. “I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that’s pretty scary,” Daniel Cox, director of the AEI Survey Center on American Life, told NPR.
Equally chilling is the delusional mind set that is allowing Republicans and some elected officials to dismiss the January 6 insurrection as the work of leftists. As a Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll just found:
Asked to describe what happened during the assault on the Capitol, 58% of Trump voters call it "mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters." That's more than double the 28% who call it "a rally of Trump supporters, some of whom attacked the Capitol." Four percent call it "an attempted coup inspired by President Trump."
That is resonant of Hitler making Jews into “enemies of the state,” a message which he repeated over a decade until he was granted full power over Germany following the Reichstag fire in 1933. In this case, since the Trump coup failed, it became necessary to blame it on Trump’s repeated invocation of the elusive antifa as “enemies of the people.”
But make no doubt about it, even out of office, Trump has normalized a deadly insurrection that if it had been conducted by a foreign power, we would be at war now. Like Hitler, Trump has been savvy at incrementally extending the boundaries of criminal and treasonous behavior until they have become tolerated behavior.
Hitler thrived on the toxic oxygen of the volatile Weimar Republic, after World War I, in which Germans were suffering economically and politically as a result of a Versailles Treaty that inflicted harsh terms on the defeated German state. He exploited the angry grievance and wounded pride of the German people by blaming the Jews, as BuzzFlash columnist Steven Jonas has noted, for “stabbing Germany in the back.”
An article in the Tablet, a contemporary journal of Jewish life, recounts how Hitler used the big lie of the Jews being responsible for Germany’s woes and evoked conspiracy theories like Trump:
The idea of Jewish betrayal during and after the war paved the way for a political party that saw Jews as not merely traitors, but a poisonous, subhuman riff-raff.
Stern in his book about the intellectual roots of Nazism, The Politics of Cultural Despair, wrote that “No single idea played so powerful and so pernicious a role in postwar Germany as the notion that an undefeated army had voluntarily laid down its arms in the hope of a just peace. Because of it, Germans were able to feel that the Allies had tricked, not defeated them,” and that sinister elements of German society had aided this betrayal: “socialists, liberals, and Jews.”
The Weimar Republic had been “fathered by traitors.” And so when the republic was swept away by the Nazis, Germans swallowed their reservations. They were certain that, whatever Hitler’s shortcomings, at least he would never double-cross them and lead their homeland to ruin.
Trump was test-marketing Hitlerian domination of his followers to the last minute of his presidency. And he’s not done yet.
As Steve Jonas documents in his commentary, you don’t have to look very far to see how Hitler’s big lie is precedent for Trump’s:
Indeed, the “Stab in the Back” metaphor is being used ever-more widely amongst Trumpublicans©. As Newsmax anchor Chis Salcedo said, in talking about the Impeachment Trial: “Let’s watch the dagger plunge even further into the backs of we the people and this country.”
Trump has relied on making whites — particularly of the working class, evangelical, petite bourgeoisie and white supremacy communities — feel a communal sense of smoldering grievance in a shared victimhood. In a rally in Valdosta, Georgia (in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Congressional District), just before the state’s two senate runoffs, Trump directly appealed to a “stabbed in the back” sense of being deprived of one’s due. He told the assembled crowd: “We’re all victims. Everybody here. All these thousands of people here tonight. They’re all victims. Every one of you.”
Trump’s objectification of the “enemies of the people” into vermin and other defamations turns anyone who doesn’t worship at this altar into less than human creatures that can be dispensed with. That is why Marjorie Taylor Greene has still not apologized for approving of Nancy Pelosi being shot in the head, Barack Obama being assassinated and brandishing an assault weapon at a poster of three members of the Squad.
Progressives who think that this is not something that can happen in America should think again. Trump has been slow walking us into this Pinochet-style state for more than four years now. He may not vie to become the dictator in 2024, but rest assured a Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton will be there with the guard rails already having been broken to ease the transition from a democracy.
An article on the National Communication Association’s website provides further insight into Trump’s “permission” to be violent against perceived “enemies.” It is entitled, “How Donald Trump Uses Ressentiment to Cast Supporters as Victims and Incite a Need for Revenge”:
Kelly argues that Trump frees supporters from the democratic norms against political violence and encourages them to engage in revenge against those who have wronged them. At one rally, the President encouraged supporters to beat up a protestor by saying things such as, “Do you know what they used to do to guys like that [a protestor] when they’re in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks,” and “knock the crap out of him [a Black Lives Matter protestor] . . . I promise you, I will pay your legal fees.” Trump’s words give his supporters permission to see revenge as morally acceptable because the supporters view themselves as victims who have suffered at the hands of political enemies.
Since the fall of the Third Reich, countless philosophical debates have ensued over whether the Germans who fell under Hitler’s spell were evil or just involved in a symbiotic psychosis.
That is indeed the same question that can be applied to the Trump cult. And the question of whether or not we are now in a state of uncertainty as to the fate of democracy will remain with us until Trumpism and its white supremacy, evangelical, anti-elitism and economic grievance origins are uprooted.
Trump came within a hair’s breadth of pulling off his coup. It was the real thing. We may not be so lucky next time.
Definition of stochastic terrorism: “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted: The lone-wolf attack was apparently influenced by the rhetoric of stochastic terrorism”
Definition of ressentiment: “a psychological state arising from suppressed feelings of envy and hatred”