Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler!
One of the unfortunate ironies of recent public discourse in America, every president this century has been compared to Hitler.
It seems a portion of the opposition must at some point cavalierly juxtapose the greatest criminal regime of the 20th century, which led to the deaths of more than 60 million (3% of the global population) to the commander in chief they oppose.
The amount of footage available, along with the ongoing fascination, makes the Hitler comparison understandable. One could argue that Hitler was not the most brutal dictator of his generation. Both Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, largely because of longevity, are attributed with more deaths. But Hitler gave the better speech. Therefore, his malevolent gestures are etched in our minds.
The Hitler analogy is one of the great nonstarters in public discourse. Like beginning a conversation by declaring someone as racist, the level of toxicity in the analogy serves only to ensure that any chance of meaningful dialog will come to an abrupt end. Only those singing from the same puerile historical songbook can hear it.
Hitler also liked dogs and was behind the creation of the Volkswagen, should one assume anyone in possession of either is a Nazi sympathizer? The simplicity of the analogy belies the magnitude of charges.
Do we know what we're saying when we make the Hitler comparison? It is a moment in world history should not be taken lightly. I felt similar back in 2006 when then Senator Hillary Clinton compared working with the Republican-led Congress akin to living on a plantation.
The Hitler comparison demands that one offer only a fleeting glance at the historical narrative, while conveniently engaging in the practice of bifurcation--Hitler before the megalomania and after. This is done to suggest they are referring to the former version and not the latter. But the person who was imprisoned for political crimes in 1923, dictating Mein Kampf is the same person who cowardly committed suicide in a bunker as the Soviet Union captured Berlin in 1945.
President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. One month later, the Reichstag building (German parliament) went up in flames, a young communist was quickly accused and convicted of the act, and Hitler was granted dictatorial powers. This was acceptable to a nation starving for stability still harboring the economic pain enacted by the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression. In March 1933, Dachau concentration camp became operational.
Among Hitler's sadistic objectives was the elimination of an entire group of people, he reached roughly 40 percent of goal.
Once in power, mind numbing propaganda slogans such as "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer" (One people, one empire, one leader) and others were seen everywhere, and dissent would not be tolerated. To a people who saw rising opportunity (Jews, communists, and other selected groups notwithstanding) this was a Faustian bargain worth taking.
Rarely does the Hitler comparison keep one on the road leading to the vaunted moral high ground. Martin Luther King, brilliantly recognizing St. Augustine's theory, wrote in "Letter from Birmingham Jail" that "An unjust law is no law at all," and "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was 'legal.'"
This, however, served as an observation of irony rather than a comparison of Hitler to Jim Crow leaders.
Trump, in my view, possesses an authoritarian leadership style. It is a cult of personality, which is often associated with dictatorial rule, but can also be found in democratic forms of government.
When the president says: "I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences," how exactly is this accomplished in a free market economy?
Or when he says: "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it," Really? Beyond an unhealthy overreliance on the Great Man Theory, this is utter nonsense. But authoritarian leadership does not mean that a one-party rule dictatorship is the eventual outcome.
To anyone who does not share that perspective Hitler comparisons, as a rule, are insulting. If anything, it further entrenches someone in the beliefs they already hold, which in this case makes those leveling the Hitler charge an unwitting ally of Trump.
Ultimately, all Hitler comparisons are statements of arrogance. It assumes that everything about this country since shots were fired at Lexington will be forgotten and without their sage warnings, America is doomed.
I find the president boorish, peevish, lacking the requisite intellectual curiosity, possessing no appreciation for the institutional memory, who at times embraces a loose association with the truth, but that is a far cry from chanting "Seig Heil" in unison.