Back on July 23rd, the blog “Defining Trump” appeared at this site. Therein, the case was made, based on compelling behavioral evidence, that this singular GOP presidential candidate is a “demagogue”. This was followed by a series of three blogs that contained critical examinations of Primadonald’s: (1) plan to round up and deport all undocumented US residents; (2) construct a wall along the US/Mexican border; and (3) grasp of our Constitution as it pertains to levying taxes, leaving gay rights up to individual states, and deporting birthright citizens.
In spite of the candidate’s demagoguery, unrealistic, exorbitant plans, and decidedly shaky understanding of our Constitution, he continues to ride high in polls of prospective Republican primary voters who are also exhibiting a strong bias towards other anti-establishment figures like Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. What is going on here? Why is it that a segment of our population seems so ready to embrace the likes of these individuals, but especially Trump? The answer may be found in history, dating back to the post-World War – 1 era in Europe; Germany in particular, but also Italy.
The end of the “war to end all wars” ushered in a period of great social, economic and geopolitical upheaval: The map of the world was re-drawn as the old Turkish Ottoman Empire was carved up into several separate nations (1). The Treaty of Versailles, consummated in 1919, took territories claimed by Germany and designated them for reassignment. Severe limits were placed on the same country’s freedom to form and maintain its own military, and Germany was forced to pay reparations for the pain, suffering and physical damage it had inflicted on the rest of Europe. All this was enacted because German envoys to Versailles acquiesced. To add insult to injury, Germany was excluded from membership in the nascent League of Nations, and was isolated economically by the unwillingness of other countries to engage in trade with it.
As all these events were unfolding, Adolf Hitler began his ascendance in his nation’s politics. A gifted, spellbinding orator, Hitler sensed his country’s deep resentments and frustrations. He played on them all; spoke of how the “politicians” had sold Germany out at Versailles, and how returning war veterans had no jobs to come home to because of the weak economy. He talked endlessly of Aryan pride and superiority with the intent of building a strong sense of mass nationalism and defiance. Add to this he made a concerted effort to find someone to blame for the fix Germany was in. His choice: The Jews.
Having done a superb job of feeding off his country’s deep discontent while scapegoating politicians of the established order and Jews, Hitler made Utopian promises to make it all right. The populace lapped it up. What followed was the long run-up to the start of World War – 2 with the persecution of Jews, the invasion of Poland and the march of the German army across the map of Europe.
If you thoughtfully read the contents of the last two paragraphs, you will find therein, similarities between the modus operandis of Hitler and Trump. They are not identical but sufficiently similar to warrant the comparison that follows: For Trump, undocumented residents of the US are the “new” Jews who will be rounded up and deported. A 2,000-mile wall will keep them out. Our veterans will get better treatment; the Washington DC establishment’s members (think career politicians) are “incompetent” and “a complete failure”; we’ll have so strong a military that no one will dare challenge us; we will bend everyone to our will because we are better negotiators and hard bargainers as we enjoy “so many victories”. En toto, we will “make America great again”.
This grandiosity and triumphalism is accompanied by nothing more than vague schemes on how all this will be brought about and paid for. None the less, there is a sizable segment of our population that hangs on every one of these words, without question or even skepticism. These people are the post World War – 1 Germans. They want their America back where people of color remain second-class citizens, gays stay locked firmly in the closet, only White males dare aspire to the presidency, and politicians do only their bidding. They hate change but love authoritarianism in the form of a demagogue who assures them that he will fix everything while mocking anyone who disagrees with him (2). He is tough, defiant and mesmerizing.
If the general public does not come to a keen understanding of just how dangerous all this is, then the next presidential election could be an unmitigated disaster should someone like Trump be installed in the Oval Office. Our country and the world cannot afford such an egregious mistake.
- It is an interesting footnote that the nation of Iraq was formed out of the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire. The British made themselves a presence in this new country and tried to establish democratic institutions therein. They found that impossible and left in disgust after a few years of failed efforts. Obviously, GW Bush et al learned nothing from this history.
- The only other GOP presidential candidate to even dare criticize Trump has been Jeb Bush. All the rest have either remained silent or actually thrown in with the latter (think Ted Cruz). To date, Bush’s attack has gained him no traction with Republican voters as he continues to lag badly in various polls.