By Dr David Laing Dawson
The Weimar Republic, a new democracy, was only 14 years old when Adolf seized power and dismantled it. The republic was young; there were insufficient safeguards; and it was actually an old and ailing Paul von Hindenburg who, as president, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor, and then suspended many civil liberties with the Reichstag Fire Decree.
The rest unfolded quickly as we know, and cost humanity a great deal.
Adolf and Donald use(d) the same techniques: Outrageous accusations and name calling without any regard for truth. Adolf spoke of this practice long before branding experts and internet trolls discovered memes. Both men assault(ed) the rules of civil discourse, the civil discourse, a social contract, absolutely necessary for democracy to flourish.
Adolf was clearly the better orator, but Trump has the alt-right bloggers and internet trolls to do his work for him.
Both have the ability to tap into the infantile rage that lingers in our brains from childhood. “Things are just not fair; someone is to blame; they took away my toys; it’s a disaster; they are (stealing, killing, controlling, raping, bombing) us; why can’t things always go my way; lock her up.”
Both men instill a terrible fear of impending doom, and then they say they have a solution. They don’t specify the solution. Trump probably has no ideas beyond walls, deportation, bombs, and torture. Hitler, as we know, had in mind a final solution.
Neither man was/is interested in governance. Neither man had any experience in governance. None whatsoever. Each is acting out a vision of himself: – a ten foot portrait on the wall of every public building, a statue in every square. Each wants to be the central character in an heroic myth.
It is easier to see why so many Germans were angry. They were living in relative poverty and disgrace following the First World War and the imposed reparations by the side that “won” that war. And the alternative to the Nazis Party was a true socialist future, possibly a communist future.
The angry alt-right Americans? Well, they are not living in poverty or disgrace, but they have been fed a diet of privilege or expected privilege for so long that it must come as a shock that to be a white, male, uneducated American no longer gives you the keys to a Harley, the open road, and the envious respect of the rest of the world. And it no longer guarantees them subservient females and black porters.
To be useful to a demagogue, anger needs a focus. We know Hitler pointed his followers toward Jews, but also Gypsies, communists, homosexuals, even the infirm and mentally ill. Donald points to Hispanics, Moslems, immigrants, “criminals”. You know he wants to point at other groups as well, but in 2016, he has to use code for liberated women, African-Americans, at least until he vanquishes political correctness (as some would call it) or civilized sensitive discourse.
In the Germany of 1933 the sane but conservative members of society, the privileged, the elite, the titled, the bankers, the businessmen, the officers, allowed the rise of Hitler. They believed he would be better for them than socialism; they believed he was, for them, a useful tool. Adolf would let them keep their privilege and power, they thought.
The same is happening in the US today. Many otherwise sane conservatives, republicans, believe Donald is a safe alternative to …..to what? “Crooked” Hillary, a woman in power, the Washington Elites; higher taxes on their wealth, restrictions on gun ownership, government regulation, and, I think, a truly integrated diverse population. But Donald will not serve their interests any more than Adolf served the interests of conservative Germans.
I do not understand the rules of American democracy well enough to conjure up any predictions should Donald become president.
A terrorist attack, a mass shooting, a Russian provocation could be the equivalent of the Reichstag Fire.
It was really not difficult for Adolf to dismantle German democracy, inflame his people, build up his armed forces and start a war. Apparently being saluted by adoring crowds screaming his name, having his portrait in every public building, having absolute power over one large country was not enough for him. (The hero in myth and comic books must overcome his fear, go to war and vanquish a foe, before receiving the adulation of his people.)
We can only hope that there are sufficient safeguards built into American Democracy to prevent Donald from dismantling it. But I fear enough power resides in the office of the President of the United States of America for Donald to do great harm to humanity should he be elected.
And, even if he loses, Mr. Trump has already opened wounds that will take a long time to heal.