Have you ever wondered what made the fascist leaders of the last century so successful? Although it’s tempting to reference snappy uniforms and preposterous bluster, each one cast himself in the role of national savior and martyr for the “real citizen”. Mussolini saw himself as a new Roman emperor who would reclaim the glory of a bygone era for Italy, while Hitler painted himself as the last protector of the entire German race. And now we have Donald Trump, who is promising to save “the real Americans” from the far right’s go-to scapegoats, Muslims and immigrants.
So why should we be concerned by this ridiculous demagogue? Because Trump has found a base of support that’s surprisingly wide, and he is attracting that base largely through hate speech and scapegoating. It’s also quite clear he has complete contempt for the American political system and is ready to take down even the party he says he represents. So the question is this: Is it fair to compare Trump to the fascists of the past?
Four reasons why the answer is “yes”
1. Trump strongly suggests that he admires these men. He recently retweeted the “one day as a lion” quote by Mussolini and in one of his “Make America Great Again” tweets, Waffen-SS infantry were depicted inside an American flag over the caption, “Let’s put the U.S. back in business again.” Of course, the image was later explained away as a miscue from an intern. Trump’s ex-wife has also said that he had a collection of Hitler’s speeches in his desk at home during their marriage. This has been verified by his friend, Marty Davis, who says he gave the speeches to Trump.
Was he practicing his Fuhrer faces in the bathroom even then?
2. Trump, like Hitler, is scapegoating groups he perceives to be hostile to the safety of the nation in order to gain a following. He is exploiting the fear and prejudice of the electorate and increasing the appeal of his brand by creating internal enemies and outside threats (Muslims, immigrants) in the same way Hitler exploited pre-existing anti-Semitism in Germany to gain power. This can be heard in his rhetoric which is designed to inflame emotions and draw attention to himself, often in complete disregard for factual evidence.
In other words, he lies a lot.
3. The intolerance that this rhetoric fosters can be seen in Trump’s political rallies where there have been several physical assaults on people who oppose him. Trump himself has done nothing to curb this behavior and is quoted as saying his supporters were “having fun”.
4. And recently a group of online Trump supporters proposed that a Trump militia be formed to protect “innocents” from “violent far-left agitators” at rallies. The group, calling itself “The Lion’s Guard”, even asked for suggestions about possible uniform designs.
What about brown shirts and jack boots?
Trump’s supporters even raise their right arms in a “swear-in pledge” during these rallies. When told that this pledge evoked images of Nazi Germany during an interview, Trump responded, “…I think it’s ridiculous. We’re having such a great time.”
I’ve heard Nuremberg was a real rave as well.