In a recent issue of Der Spiegle, Germany's main news magazine, a writer wrote that Donald Trump "is the leader of a hate-filled authoritarian movement. Nothing would be more harmful to the idea of . . . world peace than if he were to be elected president." Perhaps we should listen to the Germans. If anyone knows the dangers of hate-filled authoritarian movements that threaten peace, it is the Germans.
Recently, there has been a lot in the media comparing "Trumpism" to German Nazism and Italian Fascism. Of courses, no analogy is perfect, but the comparisons between Trump, Hitler, Mussolini and their fans are just too frightening to ignore. This writer once wrote that the Tea Party was the closest thing to a mass fascist movement the country has seen in awhile. He now takes that back: Trumpism is much more dangerous but remember, many supporters of Trump are the same Tea Partiers, "patriots," and gun freaks that were bashing President Obama and spreading lies about him. Trump's followers are likely more dangerous than Trump himself.
First, all three movements had the same sort of "base:" disaffected, angry, middle-class (usually male) citizens who wanted to blame someone for their countries' problems. They all just wanted to make Germany, Italy, or America "great" again. Many simply wanted to return their countries to "traditional values." Remember, Mussolini, at least at first, had the support of the Catholic Church because he promised to defend Christian "family values."
Second, all three leaders were narcissistic, sociopathic politicians who preached platitudes but offered no real platform while seeking power. Initially, at least, Hitler had no clear message other than that Germany could be great again and his followers could not do it without him and that he could not do it without them. His brainwashed followers were left to take whatever meaning they preferred from those platitudes.
Others in these movements saw their leaders as a chance to push through their own agendas and ultimately gain power themselves. All were "populist" movements that promised everything to everyone and sought to create "national communities" where anyone, with the exceptions of the chosen scapegoats, could be a member.
Third, all three movements looked for someone to blame. Mussolini blamed communists. Hitler blamed communists and Jews. Trump and his supporters blame liberals, minorities, Muslims, and immigrants.
Moreover, all three leaders incited their followers to different levels of violence. Hitler had his brown shirts, Mussolini had his black shirts, and now Trump has his own thugs. Hitler probably never personally beat up a Jew. Trump tells his supporters to beat up his opponents. Doesn't that constitute the crime of "inciting to violence?"
Finally, none of these movements were "top down." Indeed, they were populist, "grass roots" movements which sought to gain power constitutionally. A lot of Germans liked Hitler.
Even many liberals make the mistake of not taking Trump seriously. Yes, he is a buffoon but he is a serious, dangerous buffoon. Many Germans made the same mistake and thought Hitler was a just a windbag who would tone down his rhetoric once he won office. Many think what happened in Europe could never happen here. But, no one thought it could happen in Germany, one of the most cultured, educated and civilized countries in Europe.
Of course, Trump is facing a lot of opposition from his own party but only because he has become an embarrassment. Many, including many on the "Christian" Right, prefer Ted Cruz as a "sane" alternative. But, is Cruz any better? Another analogy: if Trump and his supporters are like the KKK, then Cruz and his followers remind one of the White Citizens' Councils.
In the Jim Crow South, the "nice" white folks who supported segregation joined the councils which fought civil rights with "non-violent" harassment. Few of these segregationists would have ever burned a black church or burned a cross on someone's lawn like the Klansmen but their agendas and goals were basically the same. Trump is simply trashier that Cruz.
Some think comparing Trump or Cruz to European fascists is unfair. But, as someone once wisely said "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and likes to swim, it may well be a duck."
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford.)
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