Is it Fair to Compare Trump’s Rise to Power with Hitler’s?

Alan Zendell, February 23, 2017

Google “Hitler and Trump”, and you’ll be shocked at the number of websites that come up.  They by no means agree with each other, but it’s significant that so many diverse people thought to make the comparison. Even Harry Potter chimed in, as a Twitter war erupted between his creator, J. K. Rowling and the British interviewer, Piers Morgan (https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2017/02/11/j-k-rowling-mocks-piers-morgan-for-refusing-to-compare-donald-trump-to-adolf-hitler/).

I did my own comparison shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for President. It seemed to me that he was running his campaign directly out of Hitler’s playbook, otherwise known as Mein Kampf. I imagined I had originated that notion, but Hitler biographer Ron Rosenbaum used it prominently in the weeks after Trump’s inauguration (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/adolf-hitler-donald-trump-mein-kampf-bluffed-way-to-power-nazi-leader-germany-fuhrer-us-president-a7568506.html).

That is not to suggest that Trump will govern like Hitler or that he aspires to the kind of atrocities Hitler’s Reich committed. That his tactics were similar is undeniable. We all saw the election campaign, and most of us on all sides were revolted by it. But employing similar tactics doesn’t imply having identical goals and ideologies. Only time will tell.

Scapegoating: Hitler demonized Jews throughout his career, labeling them pure evil. That view wasn’t original to him; it grew out of the neo-Darwinist ideas of two generations of antisemitic writers and philosophers who preceded him. He played on the frustration and fear of a population dealing with the aftermath of World War I, in which the rest of Europe brutally punished Germany. Hitler used Jews as the scapegoats for his ultra-nationalistic rants, accusing them of stabbing Germany in the back and causing their defeat, and his hyperbolic appeals to the unemployed and impoverished survivors brought him to power.

Trump began by demonizing whole nations and religious groups; unless you live in an alternate reality that’s a fact. I don’t believe Trump hates Muslims and Mexicans the way Hitler hated Jews, but the strongest weapon in his campaign was his appeal to fear and bigotry, with precisely the same kind of hyperbole that Hitler used so effectively.

The News Media: Hitler understood that to rise from an insignificant member of a fringe political party to national prominence he had to discredit the press. He did it within the law, using wealthy contributors to force opposition newspapers and radio stations into bankruptcy, until the Nazi Party controlled all the major news outlets.

Trump’s people coined the terms “alternate facts” and “fake news” to capitalize on the general disdain most Americans, myself included, felt for the media. Looking back on 2016, it’s almost surreal to imagine that a candidate could successfully label every opinion he didn’t like a lie, and convince a large portion of the electorate that every media outlet but one was part of a vast anti-Trump conspiracy. Is the United States entering a period of buyer’s remorse?  The latest Quinnipiac Poll reported that Americans now believe the press more than they believe Trump by 52% to 37%. Only three out of every eight Americans believe he’s truthful after one month in office.

Consolidating Power: In 1923, Hitler was convicted of treason and spent nine months in prison for provoking a failed coup in Bavaria. After that, however, his rise to power was entirely lawful. Political bullying and threats by the growing Nazi Party, an extension of Hitler’s decade long politics of hate and fear, forced German President von Hindenburg to appoint him Chancellor (Prime Minister). Trump’s rise to power was also accomplished within the bounds of our legal structure, in a populist wave of masterfully orchestrated rage against the establishment.

My question is, what can we reasonably infer from the disturbing similarity of Trump’s tactics to those employed by Hitler? Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, made no secret during his years of extremist writings, that a strong executive powerful enough to neutralize all opposition would be best for the country. Does Trump believe that too?

Americans need to pay close attention to everything this administration does. No more burying your head in the sand because you’re so horrified about the outcome of the election. Passivity is the surest course to disaster.

There is no evidence that we’re headed toward autocracy, but there’s an essential lesson in Hitler’s actions as Chancellor. In 1933, political violence instigated by the Nazis escalated almost to the level of civil war. In an effort to maintain order, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which granted the Chancellor (Hitler) emergency powers to act without consulting the rest of the government. Those emergency powers were never rescinded, and most historians cite the passage of the Enabling Act as the pivotal event in Hitler’s rise to absolute power.

Could that happen here? My concern is that if any sort of terrorist attack were to occur on American soil, the Bannon/Trump administration would immediately react by asking Congress to grant Trump emergency powers for “the duration of the crisis”. That must never be allowed to happen. That is when millions of Americans must raise their voices in protest.

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6 Responses to Is it Fair to Compare Trump’s Rise to Power with Hitler’s?

  1. Not only has he railed against the media and called them the enemy, but today several news organizations (CNN, the New York Times, and others) were barred from a White House press briefing. Frightening.

  2. alanpzendell says:

    Yes, it is. But I’m confident that the press won’t back down.

  3. Norman Bickman says:

    It is fair to make the comparison but Hitler established the Natzi party which had unlimited power.
    As long as the Press keeps calling him out I believe that Americans will be a threat to the Republican Party by use of the voting booths. If he is not impeached by the mid-terms I see a change in his power in congress.

    • Joel Liebesfeld says:

      A Free Press is a Pillar of Democracy, but does the current press and the news media, as a whole, report the news with political bias? And does the current news and media report the news in a way that really benefits U.S, citizenry? The U.S. News, today, March 2 stated “Officials: Still No Actionable Intel from Yemen”. While this message may be true, is it realistic or more to the point, wise for this Nation to expose what it garners from secret military missions to the rest of the planet. Being blessed to be born a citizen of the USA, I have learned that people like President LBJ did many things over their lifetime that would not be disclosed until many years later and for good reason, for example, “But few know about LBJ’s actions to rescue hundreds of endangered Jews during the Holocaust – actions that could have thrown him out of Congress and into jail.” See this article that I visited today at http://5tjt.com/our-first-jewish-president-lyndon-johnson-an-update/.

      It has often been stated that Democracy is an imperfect system of governance, and of course that is true, but our system of ‘checks and balances’ is ultimately controlled at the voting booth. I was a lifelong Democrat that has witnessed the party leadership transition itself in a seemingly hyperbolic pattern to some of its traditional major party constituencies.

      Will this pattern change? Would someone like me come back to the Democratic Party? I’ll keep an open mind, but for the time being, the country, like myself felt that it was a time for a change of leadership.

      In my opinion President Trump beat Hillary Clinton because while her polished articulations sounded good they echoed dogmatic stances that were leading this country and major parts of the polity into a state of malaise. Whereas Donald Trump was hitting issues e.g. such as Homeland Security that aroused the concern of across-the-board voting groups, Hillary Clinton failed to get the needed Millennial turnout, a group that seemed and appeared to heavily populate her rallies and be so supportive. Many of the red versus blue states could have easily shifted to blue had the Millennial turnout gone to the voting booths in support of the Democratic candidate.

      • Norman Bickman says:

        Joel,

        Sorry, I’m not playing the “if” game on why Clinton didn’t win the election and blame the media for being bias against Trump. The facts are the media gave Trump a huge advantage by giving him a monopoly of air time during the election. They allowed him to constantly lie about Clinton and not fact check him. Clinton was leading by double digits in the final two weeks when James Comey came out in the last ten days to re-open the Email investigation.

        Trump is now being fact checked and when he does not like being called out for his lies he complains the media is doing fake news and is the enemy of the people. The media got him elected and the media will expose him because of the way he tries to censor them. Trump has had more scandals in his life then the first 44 presidents put together. He has been the biggest divider of our country in history. These are the facts.

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