Is Trump Hitler? At the risk of calling up unpleasant Democratic memories: it depends on your definition of “is”.
Is he going to send 4 million scapegoats to their direct deaths? No. Is he going to try conquering the world militarily? No. If there are progressives that really believe this, then that’s just unfortunate for the whole movement. Hyperbolic rhetoric like this only allows critics like Scott Adams to poke fun at us, obscuring the important truths behind the Hitler comparisons.
What’s Hitler-like about Trump is not his end goals, but his methods, which are the methods of tyrants. Not that anything a tyrant does is necessarily bad. I’m sure that most of them brush their teeth regularly, a practice we should all be imitating. But these methods are bad because they are anti-democratic.
Here’s just a partial list of Trump’s anti-democratic actions and tendencies:
- Declaring that he wouldn’t accept the election results if he didn’t win.
- Transparent lying and labeling of unwelcome facts as lies.
- Relying on name-calling rather than rational argument.
- Calling the press the “enemy of the people.”
- Calling Democratic lawmakers who didn’t clap for him at the State of the Union address “treasonous”
- Scapegoating selected minority groups.
- Encouraging violence by his followers against the opposition.
- Warning (with no basis other than the paranoid fears of his fact-impaired followers) of violence by the opposition.
(This last item is of particular concern to me, especially since so little was made of it at the time. This is how tyrants pave the way for violence against their opponents! And I’ve noticed that Scott Adams has been sounding the same note.)
None of this makes Trump Hitler, but it does make him a danger to democracy. Or say, rather, that his rise was made possible by the decline of democracy in America, a decline of the type that often opens the door for tyrants, and that, rather than attempt to reverse that decline, he’s contributing to it and taking advantage of it. Part of our extreme reaction to the man springs from our own distress over having let things disintegrate to this degree.
But a paragraph like that doesn’t make much of an impression. (Or attract many clicks.) It makes a bigger splash to simply say that Trump is Hitler.