I was born in 1955, ten years after the end of the Holocaust. Growing up, I was fascinated and terrified by thoughts of it. What would it have been like to have lived through that period? What would it have felt like? I am Jewish. Would I have survived? Would I have ended in a death camp, as a slave laborer, hiding in a cellar, or fought in the Resistance? How would other people who were not Jewish have treated me or my family? How could normal people let such a thing happen? Could it happen anywhere else? Were Germans different than other people or is any group of people capable of perpetrating such horrors? “Never again!” proclaimed the survivors.
In recent posts on Facebook, I have coined the term my “Never again radar.” It is going off now. The usual response to comparisons with Nazism and Hitler is that such comparisons are basically an admission of the weakness of the argument. The misuse of such comparisons runs the risk of trivializing the comparisons, and of not being taken seriously when the comparison is justified. With Trump however, I believe the comparison is justified for the reasons I argue below.
As I have thought about this blog for a while, I visualized about five similarities. But then when I started to list them, it became apparent that five was too limited. My first written list of ten grew quickly to eighteen. Here is the list, I offer brief descriptions of each below: persistent lying; alternative facts; attacks on the press; promotion of bigotry and racism; loss of civility and respect for government officials; gaslighting opponents; hypocrisy; attacks on judges; nationalism and demanding obedience to the flag; demanding loyalty; mass rallies with exhortations to radicalism; encouragement of violence against opponents; advocating jail for political opponents; support for autocrats and attacks on democratic leaders; Nazi dog whistles; Nazi support; studying Hitler’s speeches, and attacks on the rule of law. There is some overlap here. I don’t claim this is an exclusive list, and I have deliberately left out some other equally odious character traits of Trump’s that do not necessarily justify invoking the Nazi comparison, such as his misogynistic treatment of women, nepotism, narcissism, corruption, theft, or the Russia investigation. And my brief overview can’t possibly do justice to the myriad of ways Trump has attacked our country.
But crazy you say? German Jews couldn’t believe it as they boarded the trains and entered the gas chambers. To be honest, there is a part of me that cannot believe I am writing this. We are far from the death camps, but the death camps were the endpoint of Hitler’s evil spell on the German people and control of his government before Germany was defeated by the Allies. He had to start somewhere, and it is when it starts that it must be defeated. We are beyond that here. My never again radar won’t stop going off.
As I write this, it is July 4th, and it seems to me the most patriotic thing I can do is write this blog. Protect America from Trump! Happy 4th of July!
- Persistent lying
Trump is perhaps the most dishonest public official in history, perhaps the most dishonest human being. His lies are well documented, from the birther lie to the claim that his inauguration crowds were the biggest in history to the claim that Obama wiretapped his phones. The New York Times and Washington Post have documented these over 3,000 lies or falsehoods since taking office.
- Alternative facts
In a famous interview with Chuck Todd, Kelly Ann Conway coined the term “alternative facts.” Trump is deliberately making up things to inflame his base and support his misguided policies such as his denial of manmade climate change to support leaving the Paris climate accords; the false claim that we will be and are being overrun by MS-13, and that Democrats support open borders and crime as his justification for his cruel immigration policies and separation of families; his claim that we have a trade deficit with Canada to justify a trade war. The list is lengthy.
- Attacks on the press
When the press calls him out on his lies, he calls them “fake news.” He has called the press “the enemy of the people.” This is really beyond the pale, and not justified by anything the press has done.
- Promotion of bigotry and racism, and attacks on immigrants
Bigotry and racism runs through many of Trump’s statements and policies. His political career started with the phony racist “birther” lie and he began his campaign by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. He said, with respect to Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” He called for a Muslim ban. He called for banning transgender people from the military. He canceled DACA and then refused a bipartisan solution. He claims Democrats want immigrants to “infest” us. Dehumanization of the “other” is the first step toward dehumanizing treatment, including separating families, or jailing even legal asylum seekers and their children. Now the government is constructing tent cities on military bases to house immigrants and their children. Even Laura Bush compared Trump’s immigration policy to the internment of the Japanese during World War II.
- Loss of civility and respect for government officials
Trump’s attacks on Former FBI director James Comey, President Obama, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Former CIA director John Brennan and others are unparalleled. He has used insulting and derogatory nicknames such as “Lying Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” “low energy Jeb,” and “Pocahontas.” He called CNN reporter Jim Acosta “fake news” during a press conference. The New York Times published a list of Trump’s insults on Twitter.
- Gaslighting opponents
One thing Trump is very good at is making up lies about his opponents, denying that he was the one that said it, and publicizing the lie. Amanda Carpenter, no lefty, she worked for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign, highlighted this technique in her book Gaslighting America. He used the technique to perpetuate his phony birther claim, or to imply that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination.
Trump frequently does things he has attacked others for – such as his claim that Obama spent too much on vacation or played too much golf while he was president.
- Attacks on judges
Trump has shown no hesitancy to personally attack judges with whom he has disagreed. Thus he attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel for being of Mexican descent in the Trump University fraud case. And he has unloaded personal attacks on federal judges issuing decisions with which he disagrees, beyond simply disagreeing with the rulings. The lack of respect for an independent judiciary is a necessary step to totalitarian control. See what is happening in Poland and Turkey.
- Nationalism and demanding obedience to the flag
Trump has promoted his “America first” philosophy and literally wrapped himself around the flag, while attacking the things the flag represents, as indicated in this list. He said that NFL players should be fired for taking a knee to protest police brutality directed at African Americans during the National Anthem before football games, and claimed that taking a knee was disrespectful to veterans. He recently said that football players who take a knee “shouldn’t be in this country.”
- Demanding loyalty
Trump has demanded loyalty from officials with institutional independence, such as the Director of the FBI, James Comey. His first cabinet meeting where, where members of the cabinet virtually prostrated themselves and his first Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said it was a “blessing” to serve him were unparalleled.
- Exhortations to radicalism
Trump’s rallies are one step removed from mob rule. He lies to inflame his followers. These are lies that are easily refuted, for example his claim that immigration causes crime or is bad for the economy. Here is a remarkable clip from Morning Joe where Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign manager talks about the rallies and the lies, Trump’s scapegoating of vulnerable populations, and his claim that he needs to use extraordinary powers to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
- Encouragement of violence
At his rallies, Trump actively encouraged violence against protesters, and offered to pay for the lawyers of those who did.
- Advocating jail for political opponents
At Trump rallies still, fans yell “Lock her up.” This is what the Nazis did to political opponents and is what happens in dictatorships.
- Support for autocrats and attacks on democratic leaders
Trump has allied himself with autocratic leaders like Putin, Kim, Erdowan, and Duerte, who kill and/or jail journalists and political opponents and criticized leaders of democratically elected allies such as Trudeau, Merkel, and Macron.
- Nazi dog whistles
After Nazis and white supremacists demonstrated in Charlottesville last summer, and one drove a car at a high rate of speed into a crowd killing one and injuring others, Trump initially avoided condemning them, claiming that there were “good people on both sides.” He condemned them but then doubled down on his defense of the Nazis and white supremacists.
- Nazi support
The Nazis can read between the lines, they support Trump. Why? Trump does not disavow their support. They rallied in DC, where crowds yelled “Hail Trump” and gave the Nazi salute.
- Studying Hitler’s speeches
The above list should not be that surprising when you consider that Trump reportedly studied Hitler’s speeches and learned from the master how to lie, and repeat the lie often enough to manipulate public opinion. The author David Cay Johnston stated in his book:
Trump’s dog-whistle support for racists and neo-Nazis has a long history.
When Trump was divorcing his first wife, Ivana, he planted news stories—some ran as covers of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post tabloid—that publicly humiliated the mother of his children. Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric became estranged from their father, as they wrote and talked about for years, until as adults they went on Daddy’s payroll and became his loyal aides.
Ivana’s friends circulated a story she told them about a Trump Organization employee, John Walter. Each time he came into Trump’s office Walter would click his heels and say, “Heil Hitler!”
Ivana also put into the public record in 1990 that Trump read now and then from a book of Hitler’s speeches, which he kept in a cabinet next to their bed. Anyone seeking power and wanting to know how to manipulate people, especially in crowds, would do well to study Hitler’s public addresses.
Marie Brenner asked Trump about the book of Hitler speeches while writing a 1990 Vanity Fair profile of Trump. Trump said the book was Mein Kampf, a gift from businessman Martin Davis, who Trump said was a Jew. Davis confirmed the story, but with two significant changes. Davis was not Jewish and the book was My New Order, Hitler’s collected speeches, just as Ivana had told the story.
When Brenner went back to Trump he told her, “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”
18. Attacks on the rule of law
Last, but not least, are the attacks on the independent counsel, Robert Mueller, a Republican who is beyond reproach and the concurrent attacks by Trump’s supporters in Congress on Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General and Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI. These partisan and baseless attacks are without any justification, other than to shut down a legitimate investigation into Russian interference in our election. Lately, Trump also says he wants to turn people away from the border even if they are legitimately seeking asylum, without due process. Asylum seekers are given a choice, leave with your children, or leave without your children. It is not the America we believe in. And it is not how we want the rest of the world to see us.
I have faith that the American people believe that our country has great potential to become an even greater inspiration than it has been to citizens, immigrants, and other people in this country and around the world to support liberty and due process, to continue to be a leader by words and action. I believe that this Trump detour is not permanent and that it is critical that the vast majority of Americans who believe in the promise of this country, the true patriots, will vote in November and declare the Trump is not and will never be us. Vote in November! Protect America from Trump! Never again!
Happy July 4th! Long live the real America!