Donald Trump is not Hitler.
Lots and lots of people on the Left go on and on about how he is Hitler, about how fighting Trump is as righteous as fighting Hitler, about how he’s fascist, about how he’s a white supremacist, yada yada yada. Sorry, no. Not even close.
Hitler published a book of his intentions before coming to power in which he said what he was going to do, and by and large it was a good guide for what he tried to do. Donald Trump has a couple of mediocre and probably ghostwritten books about business, which talk chiefly about dealmaking. If you were going to try to find the least Hitleresque approach to forming relationships that there is, “negotiation” would surely have to be up there at the top. Can you imagine Hitler writing a book titled The Art of the Deal? No, it was the narcissistic “My Struggle” (that’s what Mein Kampf means). Can you imagine Hitler negotiating with Mexico? No, sir– he took over weak neighbors. The only negotiating he did was with strong ones, like Russia or England.
Hitler made German law more or less whatever he willed, becoming supreme dictator. Donald Trump has done nothing at all to take away the power of Congress or state and local governments. Hitler militarized Germany and created new secret police loyal to him. Trump can’t even control the FBI. Hitler otherized Jews, gay people, Gypsies, Christian Scientists and so on, took their property away, took their rights away, had them rounded up and put in concentration camps, and butchered them in vast numbers. Trump kissed black babies, put a gay-pride banner on his lectern, loves Mexican food, and so on. (Try imagining Hitler doing that to the people least like himself in 1930s Germany.) Trump has done absolutely nothing to persecute Americans. True, he has pushed for the Wall and urged a strong stance on illegal immigration, but that’s pretty mainstream, to the point where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were urging it not that long ago. (Both voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, establishing a physical barrier along hundreds of miles of our border with Mexico.) Sure, his government has separated illegal-immigrant families temporarily, but there aren’t many, it caused a scandal, and at that rate he’ll only catch up to Hitler in a couple hundred years.
The ironic thing is that in the thing that has caused all this hyperbole– a superficial extrapolation of the historical situation that led to his rise– there is a valid parallel: the degree of populist rage with the powerful.
Even in the years leading up to the 2016 election you could see that sort of thing in the rise of Occupy Wall Street on the Left and the Tea Party on the Right, though it shocked a lot of people that it would go as far as Brexit or Trump’s election. (Nor do we now know how far it will go.) In shock, 2016 itself resembled nothing so much as the Great Peasants’ Revolt that followed the Reformation, though thankfully without violence. Released by Martin Luther’s fracture of the Catholic Church from hundreds of years’ worth of tension created by “a corrupt Latin-droning popery”, as Herman Wouk put it, hundreds of thousands of German peasants rioted and pillaged, before being put down violently. “Only Luther, before Hitler,” wrote Wouk, “ever so wholly spoke with the national voice to release plugged-up national rage”. But today, instead of raging against some modern-day analogue to the perennial scapegoats of Europe, the Jews, who were demonized by both Luther and Hitler, or some analogue to the victors of World War I, who had imposed swingeing reparations requirements on Germany in punishment for the first war, the Trumpist rebels were revolting against the rulers of their own country: corrupt -ism-spouting Mandarins imposing both a morality artificial and alien to many ordinary Americans, and self-serving economic arrangements on a country that in a two-party system captured by elites had never really had the opportunity to vote in a referendum about either. Popular culture managed to sell this arrangement for a while, but could not maintain it in the face of technological change and the Left’s neverending ambition.
Trump himself will pass from the scene in one way or another, but the Overton Window is well and truly broken, and the elites will not be able to fix it any time soon. Including at some point among people on the Left who despise and oppose Trump, America will be on its guard against attempts to steer talk away from “undiscussable” issues. The Left’s best chance to recapture the cultural hegemony it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century will be by influencing companies like Google or Facebook– but there is already pushback against their influence there. The Democrats will return to power at some point, because that’s just the way it works. But, as is always the case in democratic history, the real question will be “who won the arguments?”