Many people have compared the actions and rhetoric of Donald Trump to those of Adolf Hitler, circa the late 1930s.
This may seem like hyperbole to many people, though even the staffers at the Anne Frank House have noted alarming similarities. When Holocaust experts start sounding an alarm, that should be a pretty strong cue for others to stop and take note.
But not right-wing author and commentator Michael Brown. Brown, a “Messianic Jew” who ought to know better given his background, says in an article for Charisma that this is all just liberal nonsense. He’s referring to a similar comparison made on MSNBC last week, when frequent guest Donny Deutsch said, “I’m not saying there is a Holocaust but when you look at the tactics, that is where we are right now.”
Can a valid comparison be made between Trump and Hitler and between America today and pre-World War II Nazi Germany? Absolutely, categorically not.
Trump has been our president for the last four years. During this time he has not imprisoned his political opponents, not overruled the Supreme Court or Congress, not launched aggressive new wars in other parts of the world and not shut down the dissenting press (although he has certainly sought to expose “fake news”).
In stark contrast, within months of Hitler coming into power in 1933, the Dachau concentration camp was opened for political dissenters, Hitler announced some of his conquest and expansion plans and the first boycott of Jewish businesses was implemented.
Someone didn’t get the memo that comparing tactics, if not exact outcomes, still makes for a useful analogy. While the Anne Frank House wasn’t responding to the most recent kerfuffle, here’s what they had to say about the comparisons in 2017:
In its list, the group said Trump creates his own media; exploits youth at a rally; endorses police brutality; demonizes people who believe, look or love differently; strips vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live; and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.
“1930s Germany imposed a series of escalating steps of oppression, including demonization, discrimination and isolation of vulnerable communities, that evoke what we are seeing today,” said executive director Steven Goldstein in an interview with Newsweek.
Again, that was 2017. We shouldn’t have to wait for Trump to get even worse before Brown admits there’s validity to the comparisons. The common denominator between the two men is simple: Both rally their base by stoking fear by using an “us vs. them” mentality, giving them even more power over already marginalized groups. When Trump praises the genes of his mostly white fan base, he’s not exactly drawing people away from the comparison.
Nazi Germany didn’t become Nazi Germany overnight; it happened through regular scapegoating, the escalation of already-existing prejudices, and moving the goalposts of acceptable behavior for a political leader. Think of the proverbial frog in the boiling pot: By the time the frog realizes it’s in danger of being boiled, it’s already too late.