Rhetoric of Campaign 2016 carries eerie echoes of 1932 Germany
By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
When a Black Lives Matter protester began loudly disrupting presidential candidate Donald Trump during a November 21 rally in Birmingham, Alabama, the candidate responded in what is becoming his trademark style: “Get him the hell out of here!” Trump ordered, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “Throw him out!” Trump supporters quickly – and violently – rose to the challenge.
Donald Trump’s brand of calculated outrageousness invites angry responses from those he attacks. He handles dissenters with the same careless relish he has for insulting, humiliating or demonizing whole segments of society.
Donald Trump has virulently lashed out at women, disabled people, Mexicans, Muslims, black Americans, prisoners of war, his political rivals, and everyone in the state of Iowa.
Each new scurrilous outburst of contempt seems to resonate with a confused and angry electorate, and Donald Trump’s standing in the political polls rises.
Answering dissent with violence
As a result of his inflammatory rhetoric, violence by his supporters has become almost commonplace at Donald Trump rallies. Trump has repeatedly approved of this cult-like devotion.
When, last August, two Boston men viciously beat a homeless man, saying they were “inspired” by Trump, the candidate made no apologies, explaining that his supporters “are very passionate” and “love this country.”
During a mid-October rally in Miami, a local news crew recorded Trump supporters violently beating and dragging a man who disagreed with the candidate on the immigration issue as the crowd loudly chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Donald Trump’s response was to ban media from his political events.
Chilling parallels to a horrific past
At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, which holds that if a discussion goes on long enough, someone will mention Nazis, it is fair to compare the fervor enabling the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump to the zeitgeist – the passions, thoughts and ideas of a given time – that ushered in the rise of Adolf Hitler.
Hitler, too, used his supporters to silence opponents. His “Brownshirts” routinely attacked and beat political rivals and disrupted their attempts to protest.
Trump finds uses for an old tactic
Like Hitler, Donald Trump is a showman. He is uninhibited in his body language and emotional drama as he rails against, and vows to protect us from, a variety of supposed enemies he imagines have toppled America from a greatness it has never lost.
Women, Donald Trump says, are “fat pigs” and “disgusting creatures.” In Donald Trump’s speeches, blacks are murderous criminals and Mexicans are rapists. He says Muslims are untrustworthy; he insists they should be made to wear identification and their mosques closed.
Jews will recognize the parallel with Hitler, who also fomented hysteria toward homosexuals, physically, and developmentally disabled people, and the poorest of the poor, among numerous others.
Vilification is an effective political tactic. Using immigration policy as a tool to whip up a frenzy of fear is no different from inciting hatred of Jews to solidify your political base.
Ideas have power, and words have consequences.
Embers of a fire rekindled
We are witnessing this today as Donald Trump and his fellow Republican presidential candidates who seek to emulate him hurl fabricated lies and incendiary invective at trade unions and women’s health clinics, and succeed in getting unions dismantled and health-care providers murdered.
Caught up in the heat of the current political mood, otherwise sensible adults can be driven to rage against things that are in their own best interests: health insurance and Social Security and education and even the idea that people who work should be paid equitably and treated fairly.
We are not yet recreating 1932 Germany, but we have revived some of the dangerous behavior and thinking that, all too recently, led to much of the world going up in the flames of war.
Michael W. Dominowski is a contributor to Not For Hire Media.