Since World War II, it’s almost cliché for people in power to be occasionally compared to Hitler by their political rivals. In reality these comparisons have never measured up, as no one has come close to the absolute evil that was personified by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime. In spite of this, it is important for us to look closely at our leaders and potential leaders because if we can spot the signs of another Hitleresque politician and stop him before he ascends to power, that is a very worthy goal (check out comedian Louis C.K.’s recent rant on this, Bill Maher’s send up, or even conservative Glenn Beck’s cautionary words.) So bearing this in mind, do you think that there are too many similarities between Trump and Hitler?
1. Targeting Ethnic Minorities
Hitler blamed the Jews for all of Germany’s problems including their loss in World War I and their economic crisis in the 1920s. As a “solution” to this, when he was coming to power, he promised to banish the Jews from society.
In parallel, Trump constantly uses xenophobic references and promises discriminatory policies towards minority ethnic groups. He states that Muslims are a threat and promises to do what he can to keep them out of the country and away from American society. He also blames much of America’s job shortage and economic problems on immigrants from Mexico and Latin America and has famously promised to build a wall to keep them out — and make them pay for it to boot.
2. Pushing Military Spending
Obviously a strong military was key to Hitler’s expansionist plans. Between 1932 and 1938 he increased military spending to nearly 12 times its original level. He broke the Treaty of Versailles which had greatly limited the growth of the German army, and this military might was a key step in returning his country to a world power again.
“I’m gonna make our military so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody – absolutely nobody – is going to mess with us,” said Donald Trump, speaking about the US military, already by far the largest military in the world. He has also promised to use the military to expand bombing campaigns in the Middle East and to torture prisoners of war (note: he has flip-flopped on the torture position a couple of times).
3. Offering Hope During a Long Economic Decline
In the 1930s, the world was enduring the Great Depression and Germany had it worse off than most. Struggling under the weight of the Treaty of Versailles they printed too much money and made their currency worthless, completely bankrupting the middle-class. This generated a massive groundswell of discontent and made people look for a strongman who could take control again and help them recover their lost prosperity.
Since the great economic meltdown in 2008, America still has not recovered. There are fewer jobs and the jobs that are there pay less than they used to. Debt levels continue to climb to crazy heights, interest rates remain stuck at zero and the middle class seems to be eroding away. Americans feel that their current government is corrupt and ineffective and are desperately looking for someone with a strong enough personality to cut through Washington’s red tape and make the government work for them again. Trump is positioning himself as the guy who’ll save America.
4. Blaming Other Countries for Our Economic Problems
In addition to blaming Germany’s economic misfortunes on the Jews, Hitler also railed against the economic sanctions imposed by France and Britain through the Treaty of Versailles. He vowed to (and succeeded in) breaking that treaty so as to allow Germany to recover and grow strong again.
Trump blames Mexico and Latin America for stealing US jobs. He blames China for off-shoring production. He said he was going to force Japan to stop lowering it’s currency’s value. In other words, he claims America is inherently great, and all it’s problems are someone else’s fault and he is going to bully them until they stop.
5. Sexually Slandering Ethnic Groups
As part of his campaign to sow distrust and hatred against the Jews, Hitler attempted to make Germans feel like they were being maliciously and sexually targeted by Jewish males. He wrote: “The Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end…spying on the unsuspicious German girl he plans to seduce…He wants to contaminate her blood and remove her from the bosom of her own people.”
Donald Trump has repeatedly called Latino immigrants killers and rapists: “When Mexico sends its people…they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” On another occasion he referred to “people from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country” and also “somebody’s doing the raping, Don. I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping?” He’s a master at planting seeds of fear, just like Hitler was.
6. They Both Started Out as Lighthearted Outliers
Many people balk at comparisons between Hitler and Trump because of Hitler’s ultimate manifestation of extreme evil. It seems inflammatory and inconceivable to insinuate that Trump would ever match that degree of horror. However, looking back to how Hitler was perceived before he actually took the reins of power, there are some striking similarities. Back when Aldolf Hitler was a fringe up-and-comer in German politics, he was just a refreshingly quirky kook outside the establishment who seemed prepared to shake up the status quo, and a desperate people ate it up. Nobody really took him seriously at first, but people were intrigued enough to keep watching the entertaining guy (much like Trump). Most reasonable Germans in the 1920s and 1930s couldn’t imagine the path they were eventually led down. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself in this case.
7. They’re Great Orators
When speaking publicly, Hitler was known to be a powerful, highly charismatic speaker. He pulled strongly on a combination of nationalism, patriotism and physical and political violence, and the end effect was mesmerizing for many downtrodden Germans. In many ways the entire success of the Nazi party was founded on Hitler’s appealing personality.
Trump is a billionaire businessman, TV personality and brand who has mastered the techniques of creating a commanding presence behind the camera. His speeches, while not intellectual, are (perhaps refreshingly) blunt and sharp. In debates, he dominates the stage by bullying his opponents and capturing the best sound-bites. Like Hitler, he frequently focuses on messages that highlight patriotism and promise violence to those who he says are a threat to his country. Regardless of how you feel about his politics, you can’t deny he’s entertaining, engaging and appealing to watch.
8. They’re Both Bullies
A bully is defined as “a blustering browbeating person; especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.” Certainly the German government under Hitler acted as a bully. They bullied Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. They bullied other weaker countries into multiple concessions until they eventually sparked World War II.
Trump seems to be more of bully on a personal level. An obvious example is the way he took pot shots at GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina’s appearance (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president. I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”). He even dared mock a disabled reporter. He insults, interrupts, over-talks, sues or fires anyone who gets in his way. It remains to be seen how this trait will manifest if he inherits the Oval Office.
9. They’re Supported by Racists
The core belief of the Nazi party was racism and the belief that Germans and the Aryan people were the superior race. Although it cannot be said that all of Trumps followers are racist, it can probably be said that a large part of the racists in America actively support Trump due to his negative comments on Muslims, Mexicans, Syrians, immigration and more. The most recent example of this is the public endorsement of Trump by David Duke, leader of the white supremacist KKK – an endorsement Trump didn’t immediately disavow (he danced around the issue, falsely claiming he didn’t know David Duke or enough about the group to condemn it. Really? Who doesn’t know the gist of the KKK?). Only under backlash did he blame this oversight on a “bad earpiece.”
10. They Attack their Critics
When Hitler was in power, he used the Gestapo to brutally punish people who spoke out against his policies and his rule. Public opposition was impossible and even people who complained in private could be tortured, sent to a concentration camp or killed outright if the Gestapo found out about it.
Trump hasn’t had the power yet to match Hitler’s attacks on his critics, but as a private citizen he has a history of hitting out at people that criticize him as hard as is legally possible. For example in 2013 he sued comedian Bill Maher for $5 million dollars for not being able to prove his comedic allegations that Trump was related to an Orangutan. Trump has said, “I would open up the libel laws so we can sue them and win lots of money” about people who openly criticize him, so he’s essentially willing to mess with the First Amendment.
11. Bedside Table Reading
In a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump revealed that “The Donald” kept a book of Hitler’s speeches “My New Order” on his bedside table. Just sayin’.
12. Iconic Hair
Both Hitler and Trump have unique, iconic and unmistakable hair. For Hitler, it’s his mustache and comb-over. Although the style was once known as the toothbrush mustache and originally came from the US in the 1800s, after World War II it would be forever recognized as the “Hitler Mustache”.
Trump’s often ridiculed “hair-style” is arguably the most emblematic in the world right now.
13. The Trump Salute?
This is a cheap shot, but come on! What are all those guys doing with their hands in the air like that? They’re just asking for people to write Hitler/Trump comparison posts like this.
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