Post#: 298-18 – Words: 2138 – Audio: N/A
It’s not so much the dictator craving only power but rather the message used and what ears that message falls on to convince otherwise reasonable people to follow blindly.
First I should mention my relative absence from posting with much regularity. Pretty much call it an ambivalent frustration as a result of the huge preponderance of Trumpian chaos in each day’s news cycle. There’s also the frustration at the repetitiveness of so much of it. Does that mean in some form he is “winning” something by my simple default in addressing his idiocy? Well, he certainly is winning the attention of the media.. good and bad, although his relative positive popularity with his base suggests that it doesn’t matter if media coverage is good or bad; he does well regardless. It also doesn’t matter the amount of flat out lies being spewed out by Trump.. and the total denial by is base that he lies at all. Any accusations of intentional Trump falsehoods is just wildly denied as fake news by his Trumpsters; essentially, who cares if he lies, or even exhibits morally reprehensible behavior.
Now we have some nutcase bombing attempt to assassinate two former presidents, a vice president, and other prominent people.. and CNN, who have been victims of Trump’s divisive rhetoric.. and Trump is blaming the media (CNN specifically) at yet another rally, poorly timed given the day’s events, has his base clamoring away their affirmation of his un-presidential behavior; they are happy to follow him regardless of the extremes he exhibits himself; regardless of the depths he sinks to in spreading fear. And there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that a percentage of his base is disappointed all the people who received a bomb did not die in the effort. THAT is the Trump effect. How do seemingly decent people fall for this? (and yes, by saying that I AM suggesting a level of indecency can be attributed to Trump’s base)
Being a student of history, as with many students like myself, we’ve devoted interest into the demagogues of history; those personages who have managed to seduce their populations into following them and placing them in power. Quite obviously that points directly to our 20th century favorite study, Herr Hitler. Now, I know that even mentioning Hitler’s name in the same vicinity as Trump’s name would suggest the invocation of Godwin’s Law. What’s that, you might ask? Here’s what Wiki says…
Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends.
I don’t happen to think the discussion of Trump’s effect on his base ends with invoking Godwin’s Law, rather it begins with it, at least in trying to illustrate a comparison of why Trump’s base blindly follows him against all common sense and human decency… and the same rise to power of Der Fuehrer. You might also ask, why make this comparison if not other than to cast assertions at Trump for all his alleged misdeeds and behavioral extremes and label him as something other than a great leader? Honestly, in this post I am just making some theoretical relationship observations on two styles of charisma that managed to create a totally committed bunch of followers that didn’t care about personal traits but rather the message being sent. In essence I am not talking about WW2 or genocide or death camps nor even suggesting some oddball comparison of that to Trump, but rather looking at the very early rise-to-power days… the seduction of a portion of the population.
In The Beginning…
Generally speaking up until 2016 most of us history buffs were on the idea that for a fellow like Hitler to attain the absolute power that he did was the result of a population who was vulnerable to what he was preaching at the time. Most of us learned that the seeds for WW2 were sown at the end of WW1. It wasn’t Hitler’s ability alone that convinced a usually stable population to cast all common sense aside and follow him. To re-cap in a brief “Cliff Notes” fashion… the German Army in WW1 never surrendered but agreed to an armistice.. a cease fire. The front line soldiers felt as if they were betrayed by their own leadership as they felt they were winning and could win the war for Germany. When the armistice was signed most of those disgruntled soldiers, angry at the surrender of German pride, were mustered out of service. When they entered civilian life… well, that’s the other part of this story. As part of the armistice, the allies compelled Germany to pay war reparations to the countries that suffered the most devastation, and at the same time forced Germany to adhere to limits on the size and equipment allowed to their military forces. Add to this war a debt on an already broken economy, the discharged soldiers who felt their leaders betrayed them entering civilian life were unable to get jobs in the lousy economy as anyone else, and the general loss of national pride. Economic survival was poor, people were in the middle of out-of-control inflation, money wasn’t worth anything. Up started the political parties, ranging from Communists, Nationalists, Socialists, etc., all vying for social position. Labor riots, political riots, food riots.. all added to Germany’s stifled lifestyle. The American stock market crash in 1929 was felt around the world and certainly did nothing to improve the already degraded German economy and the physical and emotional suffering of the German people. They were ripe for someone with a good song & dance to sell them on better-times-ahead. The “little corporal” from Austria was just the loudmouth to do it. He proclaimed to them that their lot in life was not their fault but that of their past leaders; that Jews… the ones who controlled the money, were at fault. Communists were infiltrating German society in an attempt to bring the German people under Russian rule. Pretty much Hitler was selling “blame” first.. then fear… fear that all these outside forces were going to turn Germany into a subservient state to Jews, Bolsheviks, any other outside force… and that he, Hitler, was there to make Germany great again!
Hitler got a rapid following, much through intimidation and fear directed to eliminate the opposition and his own Black Shirt thugs physically victimizing Jewish civilians. Once in charge, to some measure he did manage to improve the economy… instituting many public building programs, schools, etc. The Autobahn was built creating some 80,000 new jobs at the time. So effective was that highway design that Eisenhower was so impressed during his stint as wartime commander in the efficiency that German troop movements moved across the Autobahn that this became the basis for his plan as president for starting the interstate highway system. Adolf also initiated development of the “people’s car”, the VW Beetle, through the new Volkswagon company. The biggest work program was the re-arming of the military, totally ignoring the armistice treaty years before. By this time the former Allies had little stomach to compel Germany to stay within the confines of the treaty as their own economies were finally coming around following the Depression… and the war had been “ancient history” for over a decade and people were happy to forget it.. or at least put it off until their own economic woes had passed. There were likely a number of other effective programs.
Point being… people were finally working again, and it made the loss of their personal freedoms more palatable… the idea was, so he’s rough around the edges and blames the Jews for everything, the point is everyone is back to work, the economy is humming, and German pride is returning… all with little or no help from outside nations.
If a population is in a state of economic decline to the point of personal suffering, social disenfranchisement, national loss of pride… there exists a vulnerability to a voice that if compelling and convincing enough could incite a nationalistic unity that identifies an “enemy” that caused all the suffering to be a convenient scapegoat… and the idea that “he” is the only person that can solve their problems if he is given absolute power.
Then Along Comes 2016…
The American economy is going along as strong as ever. Unemployment is at record lows. Little or no noticeable inflation; prices are stable across the board. The nation has recovered from the real estate and banking collapse of the early 2000’s. So we have to ask the question… how did someone like Trump come into the political picture with a pretty ridiculous song & dance, yet he has been able to seduce some estimated 45% of the voting public who totally disregards all common sense human decency and traditional presidential expectations to worship his chaos. This seems to toss out the window the “dictator theory” that only a suffering population is vulnerable to charismatic demagogues.
Now, there’s been a lot of interpretation of events that try to define the how and why a Trump base even got formed enough to make a voting difference in the last election. Red state economic disenfranchisement due to closures of local anchor industries allegedly going offshore, vanishing white entitlement so prevalent in the 1950’s, the influx of “brown skin” permeating the social identity and poor immigration being to blame, a growing nationalism for just those reasons, etc., the list goes on from there to try and explain the reasons Trump supporters became supporters, including a number of folks who voted for Trump simply because they did not want Clinton. But I have a theory.
We already know what made Hitler palatable was a soured economy that allowed for the public to be manipulated. If you’re hungry and in need anyone would pretty much believe any single person spouting out a way to fix it all. And if this person spoke with some authority and credibility anyone trying to survive to the next day would believe any false prophet. In essence, your suffering places you in some duress to believe in anything. But Trump has a constituency that doesn’t necessarily fall into the “huddled masses just trying to survive” category. In fact, I dare suggest that while Hitler was far better at common oratory… Trump had a greater advantage in delivering his biased message to an electorate not so much in practical need survival mode but rather in some cultural need.
Trump had his preconceived white man entitlement bias and simply used that to spout off to the nation. If you recall, Trump himself was a bit surprised when he won the election. But it was Trump’s misbegotten persona and blunt-force behavior that attracted many who felt there was too much government.. too many corrupt politicians running the show… too many foreigners… Spanish.. Spanglish… being a second language all around… too political correctness.. too much “sexual gender wackiness”… and in the end they welcomed Trump’s “kick the bums out” and generally upsetting the norm apple-cart. They welcomed his erratic behavior as part of draining swamps and tossing out traditional D.C. elites. In other words… 30% were fed up with Washington D.C. in general and loved the idea that some inexperienced popular rich guy said what was on his mind on who to blame for all those things gone bad in America. The remaining 15% of his supporters were default Hillary-haters and are evangelicals who only go along with Trump because of the hope Roe v. Wade goes away.
But honestly.. to presume Trump knew what he was doing as an intentional strategy is a stretch. Since then he’s learned to just keep up with what he is doing because his guttural base still loves his nontraditional performance and finally have their kind of guy in a power position. The unfortunate thing is.. Trump only plays to his base… as if that’s all that matters to him.
No.. Trump is no Hitler from the standpoint of being the greatest criminal to humanity in modern history. But there are some subtle comparisons, and interesting differences, to their respective abilities, in their beginnings, to convince a sizable portion of their respective populations to support getting them to power using nationalist populism. Trump has the ability to keep them stoked.. or is it more that his base has surrendered to their darker nationalistic impulse because the end (what they want) justifies the means, and that Trump is serving THEM and not the other way around?
My other sites… if you’re interested…