I was a history major in college and continue to read a great deal of works of history. A period that I find both frightening and at the same time fascinating is Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's when Hitler was working to bring the Nazi Party to power in Germany. The parallel's with Donald Trump - and, Vladimir Putin, especially on foreign policy - are stunning. Like Hitler did in Germany, Trump is blaming the alleged woes of America on outsiders (i.e., Muslims and Hispanic immigrants) and Americans who have betrayed American as embodied in particular by Barack Obama. Also, like Hitler, Trump offers no detailed solutions. Rather it is all about sound bites and pandering to the prejudices of his most ardent fans - poorly educated whites eager to blame anyone but themselves or the party Trump seeks to lead for the root of their problems. As for ego, Trump certainly rivals Hitler in terms of his own self-perceived brilliance Meanwhile, the world watches the American spectacle with shock and likely a good amount of fear. A piece in Huffington Post looks at this issue. Here are excerpts:
In his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama never mentioned Donald Trump.
But the president’s speech, stressing optimism, tolerance and good will, was from beginning to end a dismissal and rebuttal to everything the billionaire real estate bigot is and says.
Trump, no one should ever forget, has called millions of immigrants from Mexico drug dealers and rapists, and has proposed an immediate and indefinite ban on immigration to this country of all Muslims seeking to enter from other countries.
He has said that the “the American dream is dead”; that Obama’s actions -- or lack of action -- created ISIS; that the entire decision-making process of Washington is corrupt and useless; that the American economy (the strongest in the world) is a hopeless shambles; and that only he -- by virtue of his alleged brilliance and leadership skills -- can, singlehandedly, bring America back to life.
The depth of accumulated unreality and even insanity represented by these stands have propelled Trump into the lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Two other GOP candidates are rising to challenge him, primarily by parroting Trump and Trumpism to the extent that they can. Indeed, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida appear to be, at least at this moment, the only two challengers capable of stopping Trump -- and they are, in many ways, as hair-raising as he is.
From time to time, America has given in to the darker implications of its historic, unique and vital role as a “nation of immigrants.” . . . In wartime, especially, that dark side of the “nation of immigrants” tradition has led to nightmarish consequences: violence at times against German-Americans in World War I; the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.
Religious prejudice has played a major role as well. A large portion of American politics in the 19th century was based on a fear of Catholics and the idea that the pope would have more temporal power here than the president.
But never before has a prominent candidate for president -- indeed several prominent candidates, all of the same party -- made xenophobia, racial and religious antagonism, and fear the organizing principles of their entire effort.
[W]hat signal will other countries with more tribal histories -– a Germany, a France, a Turkey, a Sweden -- take from America’s failure to live up to its ideals?
That is the big question framing the 2016 election, not only for the U.S. but for the world. We know that the world is watching: Social media statistics for 2015 show that the U.S. election was the most followed news story on the planet -- and it wasn’t even officially the election year yet.
He [Obama] added that this was “not a matter of political correctness,” but based on an understanding that the U.S. as a society and an economy thrives and is durable because of “diversity and openness.”
To reject those principles, he said, “betrays who we are as a country.”
That is the central issue in the 2016 campaign, and the world is waiting to see what we do.
No one in 1930 - including the millions of Jews and others who ended up losing their lives - could have believed that Germany, a civilized nation, would descend into the barbarism and genocide that followed Hitler's rise to power. Are we seeing America poised at a similar crossroads? If so, I sincerely hope that Americans do not repeat the mistakes made by Germans 80+ years ago.