It's not often that one gets emails from the famous out of the blue, but I got a kind note from Jack Goldstone the other day. He had come across my earlier installment of thoughts on historical analogies between Trump and Hitler; he also pointed out that the differences I highlighted looked a lot less reassuring now. Below are my original points and his comments in blue.
- While Trump's rhetoric against Latinos is pretty amazing, he doesn't think of them as all-powerful puppet masters controlling the US today. Whatever went wrong in the US recently, according to Trump, is not directly driven by Latinos themselves; their presence is a symptom, not a cause of what he and his supporters think is a malaise In the Bannon world, the “global elites” take the place of the Jews. Like the Jews, the global elites are soulless, interested only in their personal wealth, and have no loyalty to any nation. They show this by carelessly admitting Muslims and other foreigners to undermine national cultures.
- German fascism had, if anything, a more progressive image of women. While there was a big policy push to get them out of the workforce, and back to children and the kitchen -- there was also a celebration of "Germanic" heroines like the test pilot Hannah Reitsch, or the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. “Nobody respects Women more than I do” Ivanka Trump moving to a White House role. Token women (de Vos, Haley, Chao) appointed to cabinet
- No belief in "Lebensraum" -- there is no potty theory leading Trump to push for territorial expansion. But there is a theory of trade bargaining in which the U.S. has been whipped and taken advantage of and that “must be changed, now.” Exactly like Lebensraum – an injustice and stupidity against national rights that must be reversed.
- A conciliatory start. Hitler and friends did not begin their reign by trying to suddenly sound moderate and generous towards their internal opponents (though they did go easy in terms of foreign policy aggression until Germany was stronger militarily...) And his first week in office?
- Hitler was very eloquent and a highly talented public speaker. Nobody can accuse Trump of either... But his skill on Twitter has, so far, been the equivalent of Hitler’s orations. Trump has managed to set the agenda, bypass media, and reach directly to his base by social media.
- The right-wing elite in Weimar supported Hitler (in the end); in the US, they mostly opposed Trump. We'll see where the opportunists jump once the inauguration has taken place. Weak-willed republicans and CEOs have mostly fallen into line, come to NY or Washington to kiss the ring. Few right-wing elites have spoken out against the insanity of Trump’s (1) willful lying about voter fraud; (2) plans for higher tariffs to fund the useless wall with Mexico; (3) efforts to design immigration policies to keep Muslims out and let Christians in from the Middle East.
I agree with much of this, though I always hesitate when we draw parallels between the treatments of Jews and groups today...
I would point to one important difference - the vigorous response of American civic society, and, to some extent, the judicial push-back. The wave of protests in recent weeks feels different from Weimar, where the social democrats, Communists and other democrats quickly gave up.