The seemingly-unstoppable ascendancy of orange-haired real estate mogul, businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump in the contest to decide the next Republican presidential candidate has lead many to ask whether this is the rise of a new form of American fascism. But before we ask whether Trump really is another Hitler, we should consider a more important question. How does this alarming scenario afford me, and other commentators, none of whom are experts and many of whom are on different continents, an opportunity to be correct?
There is no doubt that Trump’s confounding of the GOP establishment is alarming, but I would like to position myself as being far more calm and mature than those who believe this is the birth of a hitherto-unseen and poisonous form of American nationalism. Now, I’m not a professional historian. I have no especial qualifications in the theory of fascism and other related forms of totalitarian dictatorship as these were manifested in the course of the twentieth century, and, statistically speaking, neither do you. But we shouldn’t lose our heads simply because the conservative party of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth appears to be having its collective lunch stolen by a blowhard tycoon who is backed by throngs of shrieking, violent racists and who stands to have a long shot at the leadership of the United States.
Let’s consider the significant differences between Trump and Hitler. Hitler, as any schoolchild knows, drew considerable support from the ranks of restive, unemployed and impoverished Germans whose nation had been wracked by punitive war reparations, hyperinflation and needlessly sarcastic musical satirists. Trump’s supporters, by contrast, although they are restive, underemployed and financially, on a global scale, somewhat inconvenienced, show little or no interest in cabaret, with the exception of Wayne Newton. Moreover, as citizens of the United States of America, they come from a completely different country to Hitler’s followers.
Hitler was a painter manqué and former soldier from an unremarkable family whose amoral ideology and extreme racial intolerance brought about the most brutal war of annihilation and genocide in world history; Trump is the heir to a New York City real estate fortune and has shown no particular inclination toward the visual arts. Trump is a serial divorcée with a decades-long reputation for sleaziness who has made highly inappropriate comments about the desirability of his own daughter; Hitler, although he is widely believed by almost everyone to have had a heinously fucked-up sexuality, was childless.
Even were it not for all these serious distinctions between Hitler and Trump, the most vital difference is one of timing. Hitler happened in the olden days and was ultimately defeated in a series of events which, calamitous though they were, are progressively disappearing from living memory, and which ultimately serve as a reassurance to people like me that our comfortable lives have been safeguarded by a long historical process which we were fortunate enough to end up on the winning side of. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is happening right now, and any suggestion that he is quite a bit like Hitler has to be fought against with every instinct and fibre of our being, lest that reassuring sense of comfort be disturbed.
Besides, Trump, even though he is a notorious career racist who retweets praise from actual Nazis, has been endorsed by America’s most well-known member of the Ku Klux Klan and seems to have a lock on the candidacy, is not a seasoned political operator like Ted Cruz, a wily Republican vampire about whom I first heard three weeks ago. It may be too soon to say for sure, but if I repeat the phrase “the GOP establishment” enough times and with an appropriate sense of measured conviction, signs are that events will show that this armchair observer is right.