Hitleresque

23. He is following an unoriginal path in his quest for despotism

It’s true that people tend to lose their sense of proportion on the Internet and resort to massive exaggerations, causing discussions to devolve into tired motifs. It is also true that Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust he carried out constitute uniquely dark aspects of history that don’t lend themselves to superficial comparisons. After 23 years of the world wide web, people have become so fearful of violating Godwin’s Law that legitimate comparisons to Hitler and his reign of terror often fail to be made. What if humanity discovered another Hitler in the making? Would it be unacceptable to liken the new führer to the old one?

To say that the similarities between DT and the leader of Nazi Germany are several is to make a colossal understatement. As was Hitler, the current president is a megalomaniacal autocrat who gives every appearance of seeking absolute power. Both have distinctly shown traits associated with extreme narcissism and sociopathy. Both have repeatedly incited violence against perceived enemies and against groups of people they dislike. Both have routinely disparaged minorities and encouraged their supporters to follow suit. Both have made a practice of using coarsely abusive words to vilify their political opponents. Both have attacked the freedom of the press and cast aspersions on journalists for doing their job. Both have denigrated science and posited pseudoscience to justify their policies. Both have repeatedly attempted to blur the line between fact and falsehood. Both have traded in jingoism to gather support. Both have bypassed established media channels to deliver their message. Both have held huge rallies where they inflamed base prejudices and whipped their supporters into a frenzy. Both have scorned the basic tenets of democracy in favor of autocracy and encouraged mob rule in certain contexts. Both have habitually used racist, sexist language in public and in private. Both have forged alliances with autocratic leaders in other countries. Both have made a point of closing their respective nations’ borders to people they considered undesirable. Both have established concentration camps to contain members of one or more minorities that they had previously slandered.

Of course, it is true that DT has not slaughtered six million members of any minority. Nor has he set up camps specifically designed to facilitate mass murder or used military force to invade multiple countries in a quest to dominate the world. All of that should go without saying, but some people are oddly reluctant to accept comparisons when two objects of comparison are not perfectly similar. They should keep in mind that this is a different time and place, with vastly different circumstances than those under which Hitler came to power. There will never be another Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin or Pol Pot, but as sure as the Earth is spinning on its axis, there will be more dictators and would-be dictators. If seems blindingly obvious that one of the latter is currently at work in the Oval Office. There is no telling precisely what sinister plans he has hatched for his intended second term, but we know now that there likely would be insufficient checks and balances to thwart them, whatever they are. This is as good a reason as any not to give him a second term.

People power

Too many Americans fail to understand how much power they hold. Even in years when voter turnout is relatively high, the number of potential voters who don’t bother to vote is enormous. Many elective offices are routinely filled by second- or third-rate candidates because the best of us—the brightest, most knowledgeable, and least corrupt—perennially decline to run. Ordinary Americans rarely bother to communicate their expectations and needs to their elected officials, which leaves a huge void which special interests and professional lobbyists readily fill. Way too many Americans have a superficial understanding of government and pay little or no attention to current events, even when there are serious issues affecting them directly. This unfortunate situation isn’t completely accidental: everything from our primary and secondary education systems to the media to government itself is complicit in making it so. And it is a state of affairs that many of the most powerful actors on the political stage—national, state, and local—are quite content to leave in place.

Nevertheless, the people have power if they’re willing to exercise it. Despite the structural flaws designed in the Constitution, such as the Electoral College and the distribution of Senate seats, the voice of the people can be powerful when enough of them make a sustained effort to be heard. This can cut both ways, unfortunately, as the surge in unlikely voters demonstrated in 2016. It can be corrected in 2020 if we turn out in unprecedented numbers to affirm that we will not stand for a tyrant in the White House.

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