Right now, lawyers do his bidding, then it will be generals. Trump is Hitler. Yes, that Hitler. Or rather, he is in danger of becoming that Hitler–or of bringing us to that Hitler.
Take his use of lawyers. Has Trump ever shown restraint in his aggressive deployment of lawyers?
What makes one think he would show restraint in his deployment of other forms of power–the FBI, the CIA, police powers, and military assets?
What makes one think he wouldn’t institute marshal law after a major terror incident, then provide a laundry list of excuses (generated by his lawyers) for never formally relinquishing it?
What’s immoral here? So it’s not immoral to call Trump Hitler. What is immoral is to risk exposing our democracy to an illiberal and authoritarian direction by voting for Trump.
As Andrew Sullivan has noted, Trump may be an extinction level event for the American experiment, with historians writing a hundred years from now (perhaps from a freer country) that the American experiment in Republican constitutional democracy started with Washington and ended with Trump.
Trump is a game changer. He could quickly make the nation into something quite different entirely if he is not defeated decisively in November. George Will is right that it is incumbent on every American–especially Republicans–to work for Trump’s defeat in all fifty states.
BT and AT (before and after Trump). If Trump wins, at minimum he is likely to make our nation into something like that of Putin’s Russia (essentially a one party state, led by a strongman, and with democracy surviving in name only). And from there, by the precedent Trump will have established, especially if superficially “successful,” it could become ever more difficult for the country to return to the way it was before he came to power (BT–before Trump).
For instance, Trump may deploy tactical nuclear weapons in a first strike manner as President, reintroduce Bush torture on a broader scale, ignore the Constitutional balance of powers, go after the press, and undermine the courts in ways as yet unseen by our democracy. He could prove to be the ultimate stress test for our democracy, generating a Constitutional crisis.
We are not even in recession–and yet the country’s politics has produced Trump. A mercurial man with power is, by definition, unpredictable. And for what? The country is not in economic crisis. We are not even in recession. Terrorism is a lowgrade and manageable phenomenon, though it makes headlines. (The risk of death 20 or 30 years after exposure to body scan radiation is greater than dying of a terrorist attack over those same years, statistically.)
Thus, to give an authoritarian, panicky, and paranoid temperament the presidency, when we’re not even having a Weimar-style crisis, conditions the country for yet other strongmen in response to harsher future conditions. (Ironically, Trump is actually no Mussolini or Hitler strongman in character, only in style. He’s a “tough guy” who actually avoided when young his opportunity to participate in a war.)
Mass deportation of Mexicans and the building of walls. The resonances between Trump’s temperament and Hitler’s are unmistakable to anyone who has studied history. For instance, in the 1920s and early-30s, Hitler’s obsessive interest surrounding Jews was in achieving their mass deportation–as it is with Trump with regard to illegals–the vast majority of whom are Mexican. Trump has been essentially targeting an ethnic group all year in his rise to power. He seeks to round up eleven million people and remove them from the country, then erect a thousand mile wall to keep them from ever returning. But if he actually followed through on his political promises as President, the country would very quickly take on the feel of a police state.
Terrorism and marshal law. We should not at all put it above Trump to declare marshal law at some point in his presidency–and if he does indeed do this, then all bets are off. Hitler acquired his strongman powers after a terrorist incident–the Reichstag fire. The signal in the noise here is that Trump’s potential is Hitlerian. He will play that full role if he’s ever given the opportunity–and history could readily supply opportunities were he to reach the Oval Office. He is not, temperamentally, a democrat, but an authoritarian.
Americans in denial. There were Jews in Hitler’s Germany in the early 1930s who thought Hitler wouldn’t be so bad and could be outlasted–and they decided to stay in the country and not speak out. But then they discovered, too late, that they had calculated quite inaccurately. We are at that moment now in the United States. Far too many people are nonchalant about what Trump means. Rather than complacency, we should speak and vote for Hillary, and have contingency plans for ongoing resistance if Trump wins. Some of us should even have plans for leaving the country if Trump wins. (Does anyone doubt there are wealthy individuals and corporations quietly and discreetly making such plans?)
This scene from Poltergeist (1982) is uncannily relevant to this American moment. A spellcasting confidence man is at our door. Let him in?
Since we’re going full Godwin here, this is what it actually looks like when a leader is going fascist:
Your links to stories on Turkey are my concern: Erdogan is the sort of authoritarian Trump could readily become under the right circumstances. Even with the country not in recession, Trump spoke tonight as if we live in a frightening dystopia.
If you watched Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, what you saw is a man who speaks and thinks authoritarian. A bourgeois democrat says, “Here’s what’s wrong, and here are the policies I want us to achieve together, and how I mean to get us from point A to point B.” An authoritarian says, “We live in chaos. Democracy is dysfunctional; the society is dysfunctional. I’M the solution. I’m going to notice your pain, not the pain of your enemies.” Trump spoke tonight unlike any American presidential nominee ever has. He was intemperate, unbalanced, loud, weird, and humorless. And he offered ZERO policy proposals. In substitute for policy, he offered himself, saying, in effect, “I’ll do it–and I’ll do it fast, believe me.” That’s not the voice of a would-be leader of a democratic country. He sounds like an arrogant Mugabe. He seems not to understand that he is in a power-sharing system with Congress, the judiciary, and a free press. He can’t just do anything fast, waving a magic wand–absent ignoring the separation of powers.
So it was the cultish performance of a charlatan that was on display last night, offering miracle, mystery, and authority.
And notice what the crowd started spontaneously chanting toward the end of the speech: “YES YOU WILL!” Sounds rather more like Nietzsche than Eisenhower (or Obama’s democratic and inclusive “Yes we can.”)
Hyperbole will only reduce your own credibility, not Trump’s. You’re now inches from the people who are insisting their opponents are worse than Hitler, because the Hitler currency has been so devalued. For you not to have cried wolf, Trump would have to attack several countries and kill off millions of Mexicans. Will you be betting money on this? I bet you would get a lot of action on that gamble ; ) And you can bet the people predicting imminent disaster if Brexit won are now regretting their words. This post may well become an emblematic example of this liberal alarmist attitude, unless you delete it in time.
Instead of becoming fixated with Trump, why not ask yourself what your team has done wrong. You seem puzzled by his success as America is not in any kind of crisis. Maybe this is where your analysis should be focused. Things happen for a reason, and Trump is just the type of candidate people will rallly around in a crisis. They’re seeing a crisis you aren’t seeing. Maybe they’re wrong, maybe you are. But screaming Hitler won’t help. They will only see this as more liberal contempt of White working class. Even from a purely strategic perspective, that’s putting out the fire with gasoline.
Trump has no credibility. And I’m prepared to bet on Trump’s killing of millions. America is on a modest but unmistakable incline down as the world’s dominant superpower. It’s going to have to share power more and more with the rest of the world. Because its military assets are vast, and the country is in (relative) decline, cool heads ought to be in control of them.
Trump is no cool head.
I recognize the danger of crying wolf here, but I think we have to name things accurately. As I believe Sinclair Lewis said, if fascism comes to America, it will come under the banner of patriotism and the Bible. And others have guessed that, naturally, any authoritarian demagogue is likely to rise out of the glamour that attends movies or television, as Trump indeed has.
So Trump’s random mentality, his ignoring of advisers, and his free-floating anxiety–combined with narcisissm and an authoritarian temperament–means that in a crisis you might find Trump doing something quite stunning, generating an international crisis. and setting in motion a Putin/Mussolini/Hitler-style scenario of war and domestic clamp-down. I don’t see Trump rounding up eleven million Mexicans in 2017, and most certainly not if he submits to the separation of powers (which is a possibility). There will be no concentration camps springing up in the first year of his presidency. Something serious would have to trigger it.
What I regard as the most plausible trigger is waking up one morning to learn that Trump has crossed a nuclear threshold in response to, say, a terror incident of some form or other. I can see him using a tactical nuclear weapon in the Middle East or on North Korea that kills hundreds of thousands of people in a flash.
From there, I can see domestic clamp downs on Muslims after their violent retort–and perhaps then, in the midst of crisis, aggressively running illegals out of the country in large numbers.
So it wouldn’t be one visually culminating horror, as with the Nazi concentration camps, but a crossing-over of, say, a nuclear weapons usage line. I’m saying that Trump is the sort of person to cross that line, and he’s also the sort of person who, on crossing it, would have no compunction about declaring marshal law as the crisis spins out of his control. I truly believe that if he reaches power, we will be in danger of a civilizational war with nuclear weapons, and with a Hitler-level of dead (50 million died in WWII).
Pakistan keeps Obama up at night, and has for a long time. Trump managing diplomacy with a nuclear-weaponized Pakistan–Pakistan has 100 nuclear weapons–is not something pleasant to think about.
So tell me why my tactical nuclear weapon scenario above is highly, highly unlikely with Trump in the White House.
As for the people rallying behind Trump in a crisis, yes, that will happen. Authoritarians generate crises that gather power to themselves. I have no doubt that the rallies will be large after a tactical nuclear weapon gets used, and the rhetoric toward Muslims and liberals will be heated.
As for an attack on Trump as an attack on the working poor, that’s deflection. Trump, of course, will say this as well.
As for Brexit, we’ll know exactly the consequence only after the Prime Minister submits the document to the EU, triggering Article 50–and I’m betting it will never happen (or if it does happen, it will be an exit in name only, with much of the underlying scaffolding of trade remaining in place). Scotland leaves if this document goes forward, and will probably have power to hold it up in court.
It’s not that I don’t think Trump wouldn’t like to be a fascist leader, I just don’t think he’s competent enough to pull it off. I think he’d quickly find the power of the presidency diminished and would likely want to spend more time playing the figurehead than actually making policy. As someone who is concerned over presidential overreach, one of the main appeals of Trump would be the unifying power he might have to restrict the scope of executive power due to his taking office.
What you’re describing, in my view, is a best case scenario. Trump is incompetent at bottom, and so will be happy simply for the adulation of the presidency, being largely a hands-off sort of guy. He will let the Republicans in Congress dictate policy.
I think it’s wishful thinking, and a risky bet. The problem here is nuclear weapons. If a Muslim terrorist uses one, or if Trump makes use of a tactical one, things could very, very quickly spin out of control–and not just in terms of the loss of life, but in terms of the loss of our democratic Republic.
We are larded in the Islamic world with authoritarians, some of whom have nuclear weapons (Pakistan), and the last thing we need is a temperamental authoritarian on our side of the table, ready to move up the ladder of escalation at a rapid clip. If there’s a 9-11 (or far worse) terror incident during the tenure of a Trump presidency (and I put this at about a 40% chance over the next eight years), I think we also lose our democracy. Trump won’t know restraint, either on the foreign or domestic side. It’s not how he is. He values loyalty above reason, and doesn’t suffer opposition gladly. He’s never exercised restraint when he’s had access to legal power or money–and these he has had his whole life. So I simply don’t trust him to have the patience for the sort of diplomacy that would be needed to avoid a full scale war after a major crisis. I think he would escalate very, very, very fast. He’s a man fundamentally wed to distrust, not trust, and the global economy and peace among nations is greased with trust.
For all of Hillary’s flaws (which I regard as absurdly exaggerated), one thing I have confidence concerning is that, in a time of crisis, her first impulse will be to work the diplomatic, Congressional, military, and legal channels vigorously for a menu of rational options in response to a large terror incident. She won’t go medieval on her enemies, foreign and domestic, half-cocked, convinced she’s got it all under control.
One thing that contrasts sharply between Hillary and Trump, and to Hillary’s favor, is that she is an organic thinker. She understands that most issues are about competing goods, not black and white, and she tries to attend to, and navigate, the complexity of the territory. Trump is a black-white (absolutist) thinker in many respects (though not all).
So tell me why you think this is an incorrect analysis, most especially surrounding the nuclear issue.
A Brexit aside: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/19/government-awaits-first-legal-opposition-to-brexit-in-high-court
Brexit is the result of years of treating White working class like trash. People are angry and had enough of the abuse. And unlike the Left, their voter participation is very high. So what exactly are you hoping this will lead to? Will people who have been bullied for decades calm down if the bully simply spit in their faces? Again you seem intent to put out fires with gasoline.
And also, Trump is Göring, not Hitler. That’s a much closer match in personality, and like Andrew said about Trump, Göring was also mainly interested in being a figurehead and enjoying the spotlight. As for the personality of Hillary Clinton it seems young female progressives are highly suspicious of her. You’d have to ask yourself why young idealists who want nothing more than GOP to lose are still reluctant to vote for her.
Oh, so he’s just Goring. But what you’re premising is that Trump will bask in the limelight while things remain more or less business as usual (lowgrade terror incidents, modest recessions when they come, etc., without any large foreign or domestic triggers coming into play).
But what I’m hoping to hear from you (and Andrew) is what you make of my trigger specific scenario (Trump uses a tactical nuclear weapon somewhere in response to a major terror incident or against, say, Isis).
What makes you think it’s highly, highly unlikely that Trump would escalate to the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in response to a major terror incident, and what makes you think that, were that to happen, Trump wouldn’t then be capable of domestic clampdown, mass imprisonments and deportations, large-scale use of torture, and the killing of additional millions in war?
I think Trump could quickly escalate us into a civilizational war with either the Islamic world or China–or have a nuclear exchange with North Korea or Pakistan. I think he’s a hothead akin to Curtis LeMay, Kennedy’s general who very nearly persuaded Kennedy to escalate during the Cuban Missile Crisis. So I want to know why you think I’m wrong; why Trump will keep his head when he has access to the ultimate weapons.
And you just said Trump has the temperament of Goring, and I doubt Goring would have had all that much compunction about leveling cities, rounding up political opponents, etc.
It’s not in a time of relative peace that Trump will be tested, but in a crisis–and I don’t want Trump at the helm in a crisis. He may not even listen to scientists who tell him that the consequences of even a limited exchange of nuclear weapons with, say, Pakistan, could be globally catastrophic to the planet’s environment. He might not even believe them because he doesn’t put stock in expert opinion.
For perspective on nuclear destructiveness, in 2014 scientists published a detailed report on what they take to be the likely environmental consequences of even just a 100 weapon exchange between India and Pakistan (each side setting off fifty nuclear weapons). The consequences are estimated to be cataclysmic, not just regionally, but globally (to the ozone layer, etc.). The scientists think nuclear-induced global famine is a real possibility. Do you suppose Trump would listen to such bleak warnings? Why? He doesn’t even accept the science on global warming.