Think the Hitler / Trump Analogy is Unfounded? Not According to Historians...
As Independence Day approaches, it’s hard to see photos of military tanks arriving in Washington, D.C. and not recall images of Adolf Hitler’s military might parading through Nazi Germany.
In the Internet Age, there’s a name for that rapid-fire association: Godwin’s Law:
"As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.”
Created by Michael Godwin in 1990, Godwin’s Law notes the casualness with which online trolls compare someone to Hitler or Nazis – arguably the pinnacle of real-world villains.
In the age of Donald Trump, Godwin’s Law is no longer some glib insult thrown about in the waste bin of comment sections.
It’s become a legitimate comparison that grows stronger by the day. With the resurgence of Neo Nazis, white supremacists, and Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke, the line between Trump and Hitler is now so blurred, Godwin himself had to address its validity:
“Let me get this Donald Trump issue out of the way: If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump.”
The more one reads about the rise of Nazi Germany, the more one realizes that Trump and Hitler are more than just kindred spirits. They are cut from the same narcissistic cloth of arrogance and ignorance that make them such a danger to democracy.
Below is a list of historians’ acute observations written about Adolf Hitler that doubly applies to “Trump” in the most disconcerting Mad Libs this side of Mar a Lago.
HIS ARROGANCE, AMBITION AND INSECURITY
He was a world-class narcissist.
He was a social elitist obsessed with the media and celebrity, and often viewed himself through that lens.
He cultivated a cult of personality around himself to the point where he once described himself as the greatest actor in the country, and told a friend, “my life is the greatest novel in world history.’
He worshipped power and frequently praised fascist regimes and dictators.
He thought truth was negotiable.
He felt disrespected and treated unfairly and had many scores to settle.
He surrounded himself by “yes men.”
He thought his gut instincts were the nation’s best guide.
He thought he was infallible and smarter than his advisors and generals.
He hated being laughed at, but enjoyed it when other people were the butt of the joke.
He performed mocking impressions of people he disliked.
He also craved the approval of those he disdained, and his mood would quickly improve if a newspaper wrote something complimentary about him
He was a conspiracy theorist.
He routinely voiced scorn for intellectuals and experts.
Like most ignorant people, he had a complex about not needing to learn anything.
However, he was deeply insecure about his own lack of knowledge.
He was incapable of challenging his own misperceptions and misjudgments, and thus either ignored information that contradicted him, or lashed out at anyone who corrected him.
In many of his personal habits he came across as strange or even childish.
He hated having to read paperwork, and would regularly make important decisions without even looking at the documents his aides had prepared for him.
He was actually an incompetent egomaniac who was really bad at running a government.
Rather than having policy discussions with underlings, he’d subject them to impromptu rambling speeches about whatever was on his mind – which they dreaded, as it would mean no more work could be done until he was finished.
He procrastinated wildly when asked to make difficult decisions, and would often end up relying on gut feeling, leaving even close allies in the dark about his plans.
He was incredibly lazy and wouldn’t do much before lunch other than read what the newspapers had to say about him.
He didn’t enjoy being in the capital, where people kept trying to get him to do stuff. He’d take any opportunity to leave the seat of government and go to his private retreat, where he’d do even less.
His government was an absolute clown show, constantly in chaos, with officials having no idea what he wanted them to do, and nobody was entirely clear who was actually in charge of what.
His ‘unreliability had those who worked with him pulling out their hair.’
Rather than carrying out the duties of state, his officials spent most of their time in-fighting and backstabbing each other in an attempt to either win his approval or avoid his attention altogether, depending on what mood he was in that day.
He despised judges, lawyers, and held the law in low regard.
His tenure was one long assault on the rationality, predictability, and integrity of the law.
He and his administration were hostile to democracy and liberalism.
His administration successfully rolled back the ethical rules of the office.
His administration proved you don’t need a particularly competent or functional government to do terrible things.
He was a demagogue driven by hatred and abnormal obsessions.
He famously exploited the fear, anger, and resentment of the people, appealing to public emotions rather than intellect.
He harnessed the emotion of nostalgia by mythologizing the nation’s past.
He was an extreme nationalist who wanted to make his country great again.
He had contempt for minorities and painted them as dangerous to distract from his harmful economic policies.
He engaged in race baiting and promoted white supremacy for political gain to the point that the press observed he was copying the KKK playbook.
He promoted tribalism, casting his followers as lawful citizens and outgroups as lawless criminals whose behavior posed a threat to the nation.
When his followers engaged in violent behavior, he defended their actions.
His followers were mostly protestants from rural areas, and dismissed as hicks* by the rest of the country.
He had special success in areas with small farms, a rather homogenous social structure, strong feelings of local solidarity, and social control.
His followers were inclined to take a pessimistic view of human nature and were particularly partial to authoritarianism.
He promoted himself as the only solution to political deadlock that was manufactured by the country's rightwing to maintain power.
He benefited from the public’s rejection of a rational, factual world, and relied on them to believe things that were verifiably untrue.
He promoted the myth that hardworking rural residents pay to support lazy urban dwellers, when in reality the opposite is true.
He used lies as weapons, blaming those he imagined to be his enemies for being liars, while simultaneously telling huge lies for political gain.
When media outlets criticized him, he claimed the press was lying, and the media was conspiring against him.
He defamed journalists as liars, and claimed they were ‘enemies of the people’.
Most of what the public thought of him was propaganda: his image, his prowess, his leadership, his expertise, his competence, etc.
Many of his opponents had dismissed him as a joke for his crude speeches and tacky rallies.
His own party’s political peers thought he was a blustering idiot, who they despised and had little respect for.
They thought he could be used and manipulated by smarter people for their own purposes.
They repeatedly underestimated him, and failed to realize that his ignorance and incompetence wasn’t enough to stand in the way of his ambition.
He defied the political establishment and remained true only to himself.
Conservative politicians pandered to him and his followers.
Conservative political elites decided they had no choice but to find a way to work with him, and use him and his movement, otherwise they would have to give up too much of their own self-interest.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
He was a misogynist who claimed to be a Christian.
He never won a popular election.
Little of these traits or behaviors were secret or unknown, and it’s partly why so many people failed to take him seriously until it was too late.
* The word “Nazi” was originally a joke term of abuse for stupid, rural Bavarian peasants. It was short for the common name Ignatius, popular with Bavarian Christians, and taken from the Catholic St. Ignatius. Hitler's opponents used it to describe the rural hicks who followed him, as the slur could double as shorthand for Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist Germans Workers’ Party). As German refugees fled across the world complaining about the “Nazis,” everyone assumed this was the party’s official name. The term "hick" had a similar origin. It was a rural shortening of the name Richard and became a slur for uneducated farmers in America. See ETYMOLOGICON: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth