The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Attributed to Edmund Burke, (by Charles Aked 1920)
Trump scares me. As his campaign that I thought of as a joke (just like all the late night hosts from Colbert to Wilmore), goes on gaining more and more steam it seems more like a nightmare. Worse than a nightmare really, it feels like history repeating itself. A demagogue fringe politician spouting hate and xenophobia, looked down upon by the political establishment; with support in the 30% range his power grows and soon he is not seen as a bumbling joke but a real political threat. He marches on gaining support and through luck and cunning winds up running the country. Running the country into the ground.
That scenario could be used to describe the Trump campaign, it also really happened in the Wiemar republic in the 1930’s as Hitler came to power. Normally I think Hitler analogies in politics are vulgar and lazy (as well as never close to being accurate). Unfortunately in this case the analogy seems apt. Let me illuminate why the Hitler/Trump analogy is not inappropriate.
“His chief assets were his speech making ability and a keen sense of what the people wanted to hear.” This quote is not describing Trump, it is describing Hitler. An electorate which is suffering wants a villain to blame for their woes, someone to focus on. Hitler gave the Great Depression era Germans the Jewish bankers and Jews in general as a target. Trump gives Great Rescission era Americans Muslim extremists and Muslims in general a target. Like Hitler who hated Communists and homosexuals (among others) as well, Trump attacks Mexicans plays upon sexist ideals and works the immigrant fears of many Americans.
More historical parallels exist, Trump’s polling began the race at 4% in July at the end of July he was polling 15%. From his peak at the end of September of 31% he has average about 28% to the present. The Nazi party won 18% of the vote in the 1930 election and when Hitler ran for Chancellor in 1932 he received 30% in the election and 36% in the run-off. The big difference is that Hitler won 30% and 36% of all German, while Trump’s polls are only for Republican voters who only make up 28% of registered voters.
Trump offers something for the suffering and afraid, his slogan is, “make America great again”. Trump tells his followers that keeping the immigrants out combined with vague platitudes about build jobs and industry will do the trick. Hitler also, “offered something to everyone: work to the unemployed; prosperity to failed business people; profits to industry; … restoration of German glory to those in despair. He promised to bring order amid chaos; a feeling of unity to all and the chance to belong.”
The thing that is most worrisome is that Hitler had a plan beyond demagoguery to deal with the imaginary enemies he conjured to get into power, the final solution. When Trump moved past his anti-foreign demagoguery of, “Mexicans are rapists”, to actual policy plans we moved from joke to the nightmare of history repeating. Trump wants to register Muslims in a central database and require they have a special form of identification (perhaps a yellow star and crescent patch). Trump also wants to put “certain” mosques under surveillance. Of course the latest outrage, is his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. Who knows what is next in Trump’s “solution” to the Muslim “threat”.
In order to prevent history from repeating itself all good people need to stand up and say no, that is wrong. We cannot stand by and do nothing. We cannot sit still doing nothing and merely say, Trump is a joke he’ll never get the nomination; he’ll never get elected president; President Trump can’t do that it’s against the constitution. If we just sit still and do nothing it may well be too late. Every time Trump says something dangerous we must call him out on it. Every time someone repeats one of his crazy lies or misstatements, it is our duty to stand up for the truth and not just let it slide. We cannot stand by and do nothing or Trump will triumph.
PS. for those who enjoy social media I think the Daily show hit it on the head when the show described Trump as white ISIS (#WISIS or #whiteISIS) because he is, “self-financed, recruits through social media, attracts his followers with a radical ideology to take over the world and is actively trying to promote a war between Islam and the West.” So anytime we call out Trump’s BS we should use the hash tag #WISIS.