Almost a decade of continuous, escalating demagoguery and fear-mongering by right-wing media and the GOP has brought us to a point where this unforeseen consequence appears, in hindsight, to have been inescapable. Barring any major scandals or some completely unexpected event, Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee for President.
The overuse of Nazi comparisons on the internet, i.e. ‘Godwin’s Law,’ makes it challenging to be taken seriously when comparing Trump and Adolf Hitler. However, there are legitimate parallels between Trump’s rise and Hitler’s climb to power in 1930’s Germany. No one elected Hitler expecting a genocide. Hitler rose to power on the basis of ordinary citizens who believed he’d restore Germany to greatness. Trump is using the same tactics, the same psychological tools, the same basic messaging that Hitler used to rise to power.
It was only after Hitler solidified his control that Germany began its slow, inexorable slide towards the horrors of genocide and world war. It was a gradual process, convincing the German people that all their ills were the result of certain groups, demonizing and scapegoating them, and then using that to unite the privileged majority under his banner. Sound familiar? It should.
Listen to what Trump is saying. The semantics. The messaging. “Make America Great Again.” He tells the American public what so many want to hear, demonizing minority groups, immigrants, those who don’t have power to stand up for themselves. He tells comforting lies because with the rapid changes in our society over the last decade, and the economic challenges we’ve faced as a nation, it’s ever so much easier to blame others than to engage in the hard work it takes to improve ourselves. Trump is giving a large portion of the American people (ordinary people who are struggling in ways their forebears didn’t and somehow blame it on the progress minority groups have made because they don’t understand that correlation does not equal causation) exactly what they want, what they think they need: a scapegoat to hate, a shared sense of purpose and will, a comforting message that their struggles have an easy fix if we just blame it all on the Muslims/minorities/Mexicans/etc.
It’s human nature. It’s an ugly part of human nature, but we’re seeing it in action. And it says a lot about us as a people and as a nation that most Americans seem either mystified or horrified at Trump’s popularity, but that doesn’t change the fact that a large plurality are blind devotees of his empty promises and hate-filled demagoguery.
As it stands right now, I believe that either Ms. Clinton or Senator Sanders can beat Trump in November. However, that is not a sure thing. All it takes is one big scandal or economic downturn sometime this fall. All it takes is a couple bad news cycles. Despite the enthusiasm of Sanders’ supporters, Clinton is most likely going to be the Democratic nominee. What happens if new info (whether true or false) comes out about Benghazi or the email stuff in the last couple of months before the election? What happens if she gets swift-boated? What happens if the stock market tanks or gas prices spike and Trump and his team are able to successfully convince enough voters to blame Democratic leadership (which is BS, but a lot of voters will reflexively blame whatever party holds the presidency for these things.)
Sanders is pretty much scandal-free; there’s plenty of people who dislike his policies, but no credible source can assail his integrity. There are so many nebulous scandals and lines of attack surrounding Clinton that I am very concerned about what will happen this fall. The truth doesn’t matter in Presidential politics, messaging and optics matter. It’s how Kerry lost in 2004. By the time the Swift Boat idiocy was mostly debunked, the election was over. All the GOP has to do is create a big enough media storm for a couple months and we have President Trump.
We not only have to worry about scandal and external events, but about infighting within centrist and left-wing constituencies. There are so many people who say they won’t vote for Clinton if Sanders doesn’t beat her. If enough people stay home while all of Trump’s supporters vote, Trump wins. I believe that the majority of American voters would vote against Trump, but that doesn’t matter; what matters is the people that actually show up to vote. Hillary Clinton is far from an ideal candidate, but there is a massive difference between her and Donald Trump. If she’s the Democratic nominee, I can only hope that people still come out and vote, and not hand this election to the forces of hate and fear.
It frightens me. I’ve never been so scared for my nation, my society. We are a deeply flawed nation, but when all is said and done, I am a patriot. I am not afraid to question my nation, to challenge it, to call out its wrongs, but I believe in the Constitution, in our potential, in our progress. Patriotism is NOT blind love for ‘Murica. It’s fighting to be the best nation we can be, ever improving and evolving and providing the best government possible for all of our people, rich and poor, black and white, privileged and underprivileged.
We don’t need to Make America Great Again. We never stopped being great. We’re struggling in many ways, we’re backsliding when it comes to income inequality and race relations, but we’ve come a long way.
If Mr. Trump is elected President, do I think we can weather the storm? Yes. The presidency is limited. We have stronger divisions of power built into our governmental system than Germany did in the Hitler era. However, we’re at a critical juncture in U.S. and world history. Climate change is going to be harder to fight the longer we wait. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. The social safety net is frayed and the combination of Trump and a Republican-controlled congress will continue to cut support for the most vulnerable members of society. The damage to our international credibility and prestige brought on by a Trump presidency will limit our ability to impact the international community.
Eight months from now, we will elect the 45th president of the United States. As difficult as it is to imagine a chain of events that could lead to President Trump, it’s becoming more and more likely with each day that passes. He’s past the toughest hurdles. Once we get past the conventions, all that matters is messaging. All the GOP has to do is fling enough mud and hope something sticks.
I can only promise one thing. All the people that say they’ll move to Canada if Trump wins? I’m not one of them. America is my home. I don’t run from a fight. If enough Germans had stood up to Hitler in the 1930’s, a great evil would have been averted. I want to believe that our system is strong enough to keep America from that path, but the potential is there, the parallels are there, and I am afraid for my nation.
We’re better than this, America. Learn from history. Don’t allow a charismatic demagogue to convince you to turn away from what is right.