The Resistible Rise of Donald Trump or “If It Goosesteps Like a Duck …”

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Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Bertolt Brecht

In the last couple of Trump news cycles (and, yes, they are all Trump news cycles) we have seen left-wing thugs disrupt Trump rallies, right-wing thugs retaliate and the Great Leader himself settle the matter by declaring “no more Mr. Nice Guy” while darkly hinting at organized revenge. We have seen the N-word tossed around in the form of comparisons between Trump’s rallies and some of National Socialism’s more successful soirees in the early 1930’s, and the inevitable patter chorus of denunciations from Trump and his surrogates who, invoking the Donald’s long-standing commitment to civility and balance, have dismissed any such suggestions as shrill and over the top — as if thuggish, bellicose encounters, straight-arm salutes and loyalty oaths could ever be considered anything more than youthful hijinks.

In the midst of these nose-on-your-face events some students of history and other 2+2=4 types have publicly questioned whether Trump isn’t in fact exploiting exactly the same kinds of forces that have propelled strongmen to power throughout history — Hitler being but the most obvious example — and wondering aloud if we can’t profit from the comparison. The typical response runs a very short gamut from eye-rolling to derision and contempt.

One reason for this is it is typically considered the hallmark of unserious and irresponsible people to invoke the name of Hitler or Nazism in support of any argument. In fact Godwin’s law, an Internet canon if one ever existed, goes so far as to suggest that any such comparison is proof positive that you’ve lost that argument. It is for this reason that we usually associate such people with lifetime occupants of the crazy paddock like Ward Churchill, who famously called 9/11 victims “little Eichmann’s” or Keith Olbermann whose “you’re a fascist” abreaction against George Bush has its own chapter in the DSM.

That said, there is another, older, law known as Occam’s razor, which holds that in trying to explain something the simplest theory that adequately accounts for all the facts should be preferred. In the current context that roughly translates to, “If it goosesteps like a duck there is a pretty good chance it’s a duck”.

So it could be that Trump is just a misunderstood agrarian reformer whose random, bellicose and often chaotic effusions mask a die-hard constitutionalist with a steel-trap mind, or it could be he is exactly what he seems.

To help sort this out let’s put on our Man from Mars glasses, suspend fears of being called insensitive or lunatic for a moment, and consider the following set of statements.

[Insert name of strongman here] is narcissistic, pugnacious and thin-skinned with an almost obsessive need to settle all scores. He expresses himself in vulgar, brutish and often incoherent ways, and surrounds himself with equally thuggish people whom he routinely appears to encourage with a wink and a nudge to violence. He demands unquestioned loyalty and is ruthless and persistent in his punishment of anyone who falls short of that mark. He taps into the rage and disillusionment of a population thoroughly disgusted with its own government and trades in solutions that are short on specifics but long on emotionally satisfying rhetoric, might-makes-right nationalism and scapegoats. There is nothing in his past that suggests any regard for, or committment to, the primacy of his country’s constitution or even the basic rule of law. In fact, one his greatest selling points is his implied ability to sweep such obstructions aside and “get things done”.

I could go on, but you get the point. You could plug Hitler, Mussolini, Chavez, Castro, Mao or even farm-team members like Huey Long into that template and not miss a beat. Please tell me where and how Trump wouldn’t also be a perfect fit. If research is required I would recommend the public record, the behavior of his operatives and the culture of his campaign, his recent pronouncements in debates and rallies, or any random twenty minutes of his Twitter feed.

“So you’re seriously saying Trump is as bad as the guy who killed six million Jews?”

No, I’m not.

All analogies ultimately all break down, or they wouldn’t be analogies. Their only purpose is to demonstrate similarities in different events and suggest reasonable extrapolations based on those similarities. There are always differences; when two events are alike in every respect you don’t have an analogy, you have a tautology.

Which is just a hifalutin way of saying it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that current events and public figures are comparable to the forces that brought Hitler to power in the 1930s without suggesting that it all ends up at Dachau or Bergen-Belsen.

It’s worth noting, though, that however benign a form of fascism Trump might bring to the party, it will still invariably lead to social and economic misery and the creeping loss of freedoms. And no amount of eye-rolling will make that go away.

 

 

 

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