Trump A Hitler? Not A Chance
There being a lot of “stuff” out there about Trump allegedly being a fascist, as well as being comparable to Adolf Hitler, I decided it was time to look into to this comparison, to see if it can bear any weight. So, I bought a recently published Hitler biography at Barnes and Noble entitled “Hitler: Ascent, 1889 – 1939,” by a German historian and journalist, Volker Ullrich to investigate. And I have concluded that we have not a thing to worry about because if Hitler is seen as playing in the major leagues of political actors called “leaders,” Trump is playing in the minor leagues, not a level above Double A ball, at best.
Let me be clear: I am not endorsing in any way, shape, or form Hitler’s inhuman, barbaric, and racist politics. Rather, I am simply assessing Hitler – and Trump – in terms of their capacities for what is labeled today “leadership,” which is taken by many to be the epitome of political virtue, and also by many as the epitome of human virtue. When I was teaching, it seemed to me that almost everyone thought that if we could just find and empower “leaders,” everything would be alright! It was, to me, comical. But that’s another story.
Of course, Hitler claimed and Trump claims to be a leader, even indispensable leaders for returning their respective nations to “greatness.” Whereas Hitler promised to “purify” Germany of its internal enemies [Communists, “internationalists” Jews, gypsies, etc., etc., etc.] Trump has promised to “drain the swamp” that is Washington D.C. The question is: Who was the better leader, the more capable leader, Hitler or Trump? And, to me, the answer is clear: It was Hitler.
What could that mean? Weil, in one regard, one especially important for our modern understanding of “leadership,” viz., the power of a leader’s rhetoric or speech, clearly Hitler had the capacity to move – both visibly and emotionally – large numbers of people as well as varied categories of human beings, a capacity that Trump clearly lacks. Again and again, Ullrich illustrates – without approving – Hitler’s ability to virtually mesmerize human beings with his speeches, as well as illustrating how Hitler could appeal to different classes of people – that is, the “higher classes of people” – by adopting a different persona than that which he displayed at such huge rallies as Nuremberg. No one, to my knowledge, has noticed that Trump possesses either of these traits, contenting himself with posting rather banal and utterly predictable “tweets” that no one would care about were he, Trump, not president.
And this points to another significant difference between Hitler and Trump, viz., that almost no one would have taken notice of Trump if he didn’t possess the wealth needed to buy his way into our social and political arenas. Trump did not appear from obscurity by virtue of his capacity to foment and then organize, successfully, a political movement. And this is precisely what Hitler did. Hitler was a veritable nobody, hanging around Munich as it were, who managed to plant or recognize the seeds of a radical political movement, cultivate those seeds, and then harvest them as he achieved supreme power in Germany. And he did this despite being imprisoned for six months and being forbidden from public speaking in several of the German states. Hitler, unlike Trump, did not garner his fame by hosting a “reality TV show” or by parading himself – thanks to his great wealth – publicly throughout society.
What helps accounts for these differences? Well, as uncomfortable it might be to admit, I would suggest that Hitler had more “depth” than Trump. Without endorsing Hitler’s politics, his inhuman, barbaric, and racist politics, he was “deeper,” less superficial than Trump, who has recently been quoted as saying it was harder to be president than he thought it would be. It is hard for me to imagine a more inane statement, especially as it was made with the idea of disarming some of Trump’s critics. Call it the banality defense of one’s difficulties…..Is that all you’ve got, Donald? Really?
Hitler successfully overthrew a representative democracy, rising from obscurity to do so. He epitomized great political evil. Trump, on the other hand, will be unable, I predict, to even significantly change our embedded establishment because he is so superficial. A person like Hitler would have great trouble overthrowing our constitutional order, in large part because the men who wrote the Constitution were fully aware of “Hitler types” – that is, despicable demagogues - and created a political system calculated to thwart them.
So, a Trump: What of him? Fear not, people. He will be stymied, he will be played, and in the long run he will come to look a lot like other mediocrities who became president, like Polk, Buchanan, Cleveland, Taft, Harding, Hoover, and Carter, etc., etc., etc. A mediocrity like Trump need not worry us. Ah, but a Hitler? Well, that is another story.