You would think Donald Trump going full-frontal Hitler, demanding oaths of personal loyalty and even performing the Hitler salute or Hitlergruß – literally ‘Hitler Greeting’ – (which could get all those Trump supporters arrested in Germany by the way) would be enough to destroy his chances of becoming Führer – er, um…president.
But no, he’s going strong. Perhaps when we start hearing variations on Rudolf Hess’ 1934 portrayal of Hitler: “The Party is Hitler. But Hitler is Germany, just as Germany is Hitler. Hitler! Sieg Heil!”
Would that be enough? If “The Party is Trump?” That’s certainly what the GOP fears.
Let’s try it on for size: “The Party is Trump. But Trump is America, just as America is Trump. Trump! Hail Victory!”
It fits doesn’t it? I mean, it even sounds like how Trump thinks about himself. He’s not only going to make America great again, but he is America.
Abe Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League, told at the Times of Israel that “Donald Trump knew he was evoking fascist symbolism when he asked supporters at a campaign rally in Florida to raise their right arms and pledge to vote for him.”
“It is a fascist gesture. He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him.”
Foxman survived the holocaust as a child. We’re told that to invoke Hitler in describing Trump is an insult to the memory of holocaust victims, but I think we can all agree that with this single act, Trump has suspended Godwin’s Law for the rest of the 2016 presidential race.
It isn’t connecting the dots that insults holocaust survivors; it’s pretending Trump hasn’t resurrected the spirit of Adolf Hitler.
According to Foxman,
“As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America.”
I think we can all accept this as true. Who would know better? As a historian, it was chilling. Yes, Trump has gone full-frontal Hitler, and he’s not even pretending anymore. Nothing coy about a Hitler salute.
That was Saturday. And defying critics, Trump did it again Monday. Having obtained the oath of fealty from stalwarts in Orlando, appearing next in Concord, North Carolina, Trump started the rally with, “Should we do the pledge? Should we do the pledge?”
“Raise your hand: ‘I swear I’m going to vote for Donald Trump next week, I swear.’”
You have to wonder if he has to change his pants after each appearance.
“Oh, wow. Just with the people here, I think, we win.”
Depending on how you interpret the “Oh, wow,” I think he does.
Trump has defended his loyalty oaths as well and said it’s “ridiculous” to compare his rallies to Hitler. “We’re having such a great time,” he said on NBC’s Today. It’s unclear if he meant the oaths or roughing up his political opponents.
The heartfelt and unwavering adulation of thousands has to be a rush. As protesters were led out of the North Carolina rally, Trump took a break from playing Hitler to taunt the people who disagree with him:
“Go home to mommy. Let her tuck you in bed.”
Because it’s childish to disagree with the guy who outdoes four-year-olds in temper tantrums. Trump is the off-line version of online trolls who tell new players who complain about unfairness, “Go back to Candy Crush!”
In the anonymous online world of false machismo, saying those words to a male is like telling him to put on a dress. In Trump land too, opponents must be dehumanized and Trump must have the biggest tackle in the building.
If you cannot argue the merits of your rhetorical positions, you have instead to de-legitimize the speaker.
Trump’s discourse is an endless series of ad hominem attacks. Have you noticed he never attacks the argument, but the person making the argument? The protesters at the rally got the same treatment Cruz, Rubio, and others have gotten.
Hitler liked to mock those who stood up to him too. In 1942, at the high-tide of Nazi power, he was deriding the allied military leaders as “lunatics and drunkards,” and in a speech a year earlier, Churchill was a “madman” and an arsonist.
But if his enemies are chaff, Trump, in his own mind, is the stuff of legends. In 1922, a New York Times writer, Cyril Brown, wrote about the new Nazi movement and its leader, saying of Hitler, “Positively he stands for only a strong, united Germany,” which is almost identically the message Trump followers are getting from Trump.
Brown spoke of “The new converts made at these rallies…who absolutely and unconditionally pledge themselves to Hitler and the cause,” and here too we see Trump following Hitler’s game plan.
The biggest difference between the two is that Hitler was a “common man” funded by rich men, while Donald Trump cuts out the middleman and funds himself, merely presenting himself as a common man.
All this is no accident, as Abe Foxman said. The white supremacist support is no accident. The rhetoric is no accident. The Hitler salute and oaths of personal loyalty are no accident.
As a New York Times Editorial Observer, Brent Staples wrote the other day,
[Donald Trump] has functioned for years as a rallying point for “birthers,” conspiracy theorists, extremists and racists who are apoplectic about the fact that the country elected a black man president. These groups have driven the Republican Party steadily rightward, helping to create a national discourse that now permits a presidential candidate to court racist support without paying a political price.
Now he’s added the Hitler salute without price. What’s next if he gets away with that?
In Orlando, Trump told the crowd, “Don’t forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”
Trump should take notice: Hitler’s fate was deadly proof of that.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.