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Donald and Adolf

Trump and Hitler have much more than hair issues in common.

Of course, the America of 2016 is not the Germany of 1933, and Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. That said, there are a number of chilling similarities in their approaches and eerie parallels in their propos.

Hitler was anti-Semitic, anti-Gypsy and anti-Handicapped.Trump has taken hostile positions against Mexicans and Muslims. He has insulted Invalids. On top of that he has shown himself to be a Misogynist, something that to my knowledge Hitler was never guilty of. And as far as I know, Trump unlike Hitler, does not have blood on his hands. His utterances, however, suggest that he is championing policies that could well mean that he will.

Hitler was the ultimate outsider. After being discharged after World War I, he was a penniless house painter and political activist. Trump has been trying to give himself an anti-establishment sheen. True, he is not a professional politician but for decades he has been in and out of the corridors of power in an effort to promote his business interests.

In opposition, Hitler gathered around him paramilitary forces that would later be used to squash resistance to his policies and to round up Germany’s Jewish population for expedition to the gas chambers. Trump – with his claims that the elections are rigged and that Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will have conspired to steal her victory – is aiming to recruit from amongst heavily-armed and lightly-educated Americans his own would-be paramilitary forces.

Hitler railed against an international Jewish conspiracy that was purported to control and manipulate banks, commerce and almost everything else which, he claimed, resulted in enfeebling the German state. Trump contends that there is an international globalist cum free-trade conspiracy that seeks to steal American jobs and hollow out middle America.

Hitler was a national-socialist. As a socialist, he sponsored programmes that were supposed to restart the economy and lift up the little man. Trump is taking a similar tack on the American domestic front with positions on social policy that are to the left of those of the Tea Party.

As a nationalist, Hitler wanted to make his country great again with an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. In contrast, Trump’s recipe for Making America Great Again is to retreat from the world and use walls to keep out those he and his supporters consider to be unworthy. But this is a policy course that could end up creating as much strategic havoc as did Hitler’s.

In 1939, Hitler and Stalin agreed to a non-aggression pact that foresaw their occupying and dividing up six countries in Eastern Europe. This was the opening salvo of World War II. In 1941, Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR initiated hostilities against one another, plunging their two countries into a military confrontation that has since seen no equal.

The Putin-Trump connection, whether organised or spontaneous, seems similarly unstable and could prove equally dangerous. For the time being, whatever the link between the would-be American President and the sitting Russian one, it is objectively working to discredit American democracy and, by association, Western democracy in general. In the process, it is blurring distinctions between it and the «managed» democracy sham that prevails in Putin’s Russia.

Hitler and Trump rode to prominence because they successfully tapped into serious grievances that established elites had failed to effectively address.

So, in both Hitler Germany and contemporary America, society had to cope with a significant economic downturn. The Great Depression at the end of the 1920s spurred Hitler’s rise. The Financial Crisis of 2007-08, the concomitant discrediting of the banking system and the faulty economic governance of Congress have fuelled Trump’s emergence.

Hitler’s Germany and Trump’s America are also a response to foreign policy failures. On his road to power, Hitler sought to exploit the popular mood as the country was trying to come to grips with its defeat in World War I and the debilitating reparations exacted upon it by the victors. The United States appears similarly traumatized by its two incredibly expensive, borderline necessary and at the end of the day hardly successful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Then too, in the 1920s and 1930s, Germany’s nascent democracy was not robust enough to withstand the economic and political challenges of the times. Significantly, it was a member of the then German establishment, President von Hindenburg, who in 1933 invited Hitler to form a government, even though the latter had only won 33% of the vote.

America’s democracy is clearly in a different league but it has also been exhibiting fundamental flaws. Money often seems to count for more than votes. Congress has been in gridlock through the two Obama administrations. The political process fails to attract enough of the best minds and most honest spirits of the nation – et cetera. And key members of the Republican leadership have failed to demarcate themselves from Trump. Like Hindenburg, they are enabling his rise.

Of course, the United States have by no means a monopoly on democratic dysfunctionalities. But as leader of the Western World, America’s count for much more than those of other countries do.

For David Law’s other blogs on Donald Trump, see Trumping the Donald

(5 September 2015) and Trump’s Plan B: From demagoguery to violence

(16 August 2016)

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