For the four days of the Republican National Convention, ending on a White House lawn festooned with American flags, the American people were warned that failure to re-elect Donald Trump to a second term will result in nothing short of an American Armageddon. The American people will lose their basic freedoms and have their guns confiscated only to be melted down and molded into statues of Lenin as Joe Biden turns the Constitution on its head while turning mobs of anarchists and undesirables loose on city streets and suburban lanes,
This Republican vision of a Biden led collapse of law and order was to be expected even after Trump promised that the Republicans would deliver a positive message of hope. Trump denounced the Democratic Party’s Convention as the “darkest” and “gloomiest” in history, an opinion seconded by Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel who called the Democrats event a “depressing, doom-and-gloom convention.”
With the main event, President Trump’s acceptance speech, four days away, the warm up acts launched into their own somber prophecies of a Biden precipitated dystopia. Trump surrogate Kimberly Guilfoyle screamed, literally screamed, that Democrats “want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live. They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.”
Two days later Iowa Senator Joni Ernst warned that Joe Biden would “eliminate gas-powered cars.”
The following day, Vice President Mike Pence cautioned that “the radical left (read, Biden) believes that the federal government must be involved in every aspect of our lives to correct those American wrongs. They believe the federal government needs to dictate how Americans live, how we should work, how we should raise our children and in the process deprive our people of freedom, prosperity and security. Their agenda is based on government control. Our agenda is based on freedom.”
By the time Trump took the stage the Republicans had painted a black picture of Biden turning America into a lawless hybrid of Escape From New York and Mad Max. Trump continued the dire predictions while peppering his speech with a liberal (excuse the pun) dose of misdirection, disinformation and downright whoppers.
Merriam-Webster defines cult as “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work…” and “religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.”
As I watched the Republican convention, I had to remind myself that, yes, political campaigns often portray opponents as being out of touch and wanting to move the country in the wrong direction and in the process those politicians do tell some stretchers. This RNC went rogue. It reached heights of implausible hyperbole and mendacity on a level that I’ve never seen before. That people either believe the fabrications or excuse them as just Trump being Trump can only be described as cult behavior.
For three and a half years I’ve been loath to compare Trump and his cult to another, more infamous cult leader, Adolf Hitler. Loath because I don’t want to minimize Hitler’s monstrosity while on the other hand we’ve yet to see what levels of corruption Trump and his right hand man Stephen Miller can achieve. It’s an even bet that Trump will get another four years (and likely challenge the Constitution and go for more) so time will tell.
Clearly Trump hasn’t risen (or descended) to the level of the Hitler who is known and reviled by all except the most depraved Hitlerian sycophants. That’s the Hitler of the 1940’s, the Hitler who allowed the switch on the final solution to be thrown. But then there’s the other Hitler, the early version, the one that rose to prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s who Americans by and large ignored; just a crackpot with a silly looking mustache. Glossed over until 1939 when he invaded Poland. And just as it was a century ago many Americans today don’t really know how Hitler came to power. He was just there.
The early Hitler gained popularity and rose to power by threatening opponents, by branding the press with the pejorative Lügenpresse (lying press), by blaming unrest in Germany on Bolsheviks, Communists, anarchists and “elites.” His private militia the Sturmabteilung or S.A. intimidated and physically harassed the opposition and instigated violence in parts of the more liberal Weimar and then turned the blame for violence on the liberals.
Hitler presented himself as Germany’s savior who would rid the nation of the enemies of the state and return Germany to its past glory. The gullible among the German people soaked it in.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should.
Over the past 3 ½ years Donald Trump has:
Called for the firing of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
Threatened companies who’ve been unflattering towards Trump, the most recent being a call to boycott the Goodyear tire company.
He’s branded most of the media to be “fake news,”has on occasion leveled threats against some outlets and has sown such virulent hatred against the media that journalists going to Trump events literally fear for their own safety.
He is still, years after the 2016 election, calling for the jailing of Hillary Clinton.
In 2017, Donald Trump in an off hand remark said, “the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites.”
Through irresponsible tweets he’s encouraged right wing demonstrations including one in Michigan that had armed protesters in the statehouse after he tweeted, “Free Michigan.”
As of this writing Trump has issued a memo calling for the defunding of cities with Democratic mayors, cities that he’s termed “anarchist jurisdictions.” What seems like a twofer for Trump, threatening political rivals and denouncing anarchists, will likely be deemed another in a long line of unconstitutional acts.
Like other despots Trump claims that he is the only one who understands his nation’s problems and is the only one who can fix them.
(The above is just the short list).
Hitler and his cohorts were unabashed liars. Hitler knew that if you told a lie enough times it would magically sink in as “truth.” As of July of this year Trump has told 20,000 lies in fourteen months in office and his cronies have either defended or doubled down on the mendacity. His followers take every word as gospel.
In 1936 at Nuremberg Hitler proclaimed, “I can come to no terms with a Weltanschhauung [bolshevism] which everywhere as its first act after gaining power is – not the liberation of the working people – but the liberation of the scum of humanity, the asocial creatures concentrated in the prisons – and then the letting loose of these wild beasts upon the terrified and helpless world about them….”
In 2020, Congressman Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump sycophant warned that Joe Biden would “empty the prisons,” while four years earlier Donald Trump made his bones by painting Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals and rapists.”
Trump, his administration and most of the GOP in government are taking a page straight out of Hitler’s playbook. A strategy of mendacity, fomenting unrest, spreading fear and then claiming that he is the one man who can bring order and greatness back to America.
But we don’t have to go all the way across the Atlantic to find an example of fear as a political motivator. Just look to the South, to the former Confederate States of America (CSA).
Just how was it possible in 1860-61, one might ask, that 360,000 slave holding, fire eating secessionist white men could convince 3 million white non-slaveholders with no real skin in the secession game, to sign on to an idea that very well might (and did) get them embroiled in a war? The answer is, you gaslight the hell out of them and scare the shit out of them.
And so the secessionists put together a propaganda machine that churned out dire prophecies of freed black slaves being let loose to pillage the white communities.
John Townsend of South Carolina prophesied, “…pillage, violence, murder, poison and rape will fill the air with the demonic revelry of all the bad passions of an ignorant, semi-barbarous race, urged to madness by the licentious teachings of our northern brethren.”
A North Alabama man foretold of “..our lovely state…converted into a kind of American Congo.”
One might have thought (at least hoped) that this sort of racist fear mongering would be extinct 160 years later but who would have conceived of Trumpism in America? And so, in an August 12th interview the sitting President of the United States warned of an “invasion” into suburbia if Biden wins the election.
“They’re going to destroy suburbia. And just so you understand, 30+% of people living in suburbia are minorities — African American, Asian American, Hispanic American,” Trump said. “The number’s even higher; they say 35, but I like to cut it a little lower. When they go in and they want to change zoning so that you have lots of problems or they want to build low-income housing, you want something where people kind of aspire to be there, not something where it gets hurt badly,” he continued. “They fought all their lives to be there and then all of a sudden, they have something happen that changes their life and changes what they fought for, for so many years.”
Later at the RNC, Matt Gaetz warned, “They will disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the police aren’t coming when you call in Democrat-run cities. They’re already being defunded, disbanded.”
Ten days after Trump warned of the collapse of suburbia, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who waved weapons at protesters walking past their house continued the Trumpist propaganda. Calling BLM protesters, “Marxist liberal activists” and “criminals,” the McCloskeys warned, “Make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America,”
The entire presentation dog whistled two shop worn racist tropes. One, a truly American one, goes back to the antebellum and Jim Crow south and plays on the fears of bestial Black men ravishing white women. The other promotes the notion that minorities moving into the suburbs will bring with them rusted out cars sitting on balding front lawns, unruly kids running wild in the streets and houses painted in gaudy colors. And that’s not to mention MS-13 carrying weapons and dispensing drugs.
In mid-1930’s Germany there were Jews, Gypsies and other so called “undesirables” who soothed themselves with the notion that things couldn’t get any worse. The foolish man with the silly mustache would certainly be revealed as a charlatan who would sooner or later take things so far that he would be rebuked, or jailed or simply disappear in the maw of German politics. Things got worse.
In 2015, Donald Trump was seen as a caricature, a blustering fool who knew nothing about the Constitution or how government works. His Republican opponents branded him as a blustering brute who would shame the office of the president. Now most of those former opponents have signed on to Trumpism, made their deal with the devil and continued that evil contract by enabling Trump. Why? That mystery will likely have to wait years for the history books to unravel.
Just a few weeks ago Michelle Obama admonished a foundering nation, “So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.”
In the end both the Third Reich and the Confederacy failed (Incredibly in 2020 we’ve found that both are cohabitating together under the same roof of hate right here in America, spreading poison, trying to subvert the Constitution and hijacking a once creditable political party, the GOP). In the end Trumpism, will, like other political cults, fail. The question is, will it meet it’s demise this coming November or will it be allowed to continue it’s path of destruction?