The Rise of Two Demagogues

I heard a story about someone comparing Donald Trump’s tactics to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany after the First World War. These remarks provoked a heated response. After all, Trump is not proposing concentration camps. No. And he is not proposing an invasion of Canada or Mexico either. But then, at the outset, Hitler did not propose death camps for the Jews or an aggressive territorial war either.

He began his involvement in politics while serving as a spy for the German army after the war. He was sent to report on an anti-Marxist, anti-democratic party called the DAP. He was immensely impressed by the anti-semitic rhetoric of the leader. Eventually he obtained permission to join the party from his Army commanders and became a leader in what was to become the National Socialist Party. Not fearing to use violence, the party agitated constantly until finally Hitler became Chancellor of Germany after having been elected by democratic vote.

Trump of course had a very different history. He never joined the army. He parlayed a large inheritance into a fortune in real estate, while going bankrupt several times. He contributed money to politicians of all persuasions, including Hillary Clinton. He did not formally join the Republican Party until 2012. When he began his campaign for President this year, he did it with a bang, attacking Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers”, while allowing smugly that some were probably “good people.” He then proposed a program to expel all illegal immigrants and build a physical wall on the border with Mexico to shut down the flow of these people into the United States. Later, he added to his list of the proscribed by proposing a ban on the entry of Muslims into the country. Really, here the comparison with Hitler stands up pretty well. Just substitute Jews for Mexicans or Muslims in Trump’s rhetoric and you have a plausible Hitler quotation.

The comparison is inexact. But the parallel of racism is unmistakable.

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