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Are These Two Former Leaders More Similar or Dissimilar?

My wife and I have been watching the show on Netflix about the regime in Nazi Germany, called "Hitler and the Nazis: Evil on Trial." This series reviews Hitler's rise to power in the late 1920s and 30s. As we watch, we are reminded of all the evil Adolf Hitler and the Nazis inflicted on Europe and the rest of the world during WWII. Even though his name was not mentioned during this series, I wonder if there aren't some commonalities between Hitler and Trump. I'm certainly not saying what Trump did in his first four years in office is exactly comparable to the Nazi regime -- it's not even close. Hitler was a terrible person who brought about destruction and chaos in Europe that is unprecedented. However, are there similarities between these two men in terms of their rhetoric and the art of effective speaking? Are there similarities between how these two men felt about anyone that opposed them? To dig deeper, I comprised several questions for readers to decide whether there are any close comparisons between the two men.


WHICH LEADER HAD OTHERS CARRY THE WATER FOR THEM?

During Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels was the head of the Ministry of Propaganda, and many historians claim he was the closest advisor to Der Fuhrer (The Leader). Goebbels's job was to convince the German public that their government was there to protect and nurture everyone, and he often used convincing and persuasion through misinformation, lies, and exaggerations to help them gain power. The truth was regularly ignored about deceiving the public to achieve their goals. Some say if you repeat a lie enough times, people will begin to think it's the truth.


Trump took a slightly different course. He, too, engaged in misinformation, lies, and exaggerations, but he has the benefit of others outside the political arena carrying his water. He had consultants and fellow Republicans who also engaged in this dangerous rhetoric. Hitler never had cable news, but Trump has Fox News to amplify these lies and misinformation. Newsmax also carries his questionable rhetoric to his followers. Even though many Republican leaders initially said Trump was guilty of instigating the January 6 storming of the Capital, the majority of these politicians have come around and now support Trump. They are reinforcing Trump's lies, misinformation and behavior. The divisiveness of social media also plays a role in attempting to amplify Trump's message with propaganda, untruths, and misinformation.


With each leader, they were fairly successful in their propaganda campaigns by manipulating the less informed public to have the utmost faith in what these two leaders were saying.

Misinformation

WHICH LEADER NEEDS A CRISIS TO PROVIDE THE NECESSARY OXYGEN TO GET PEOPLE TO BELIEVE IN HIM AND FOLLOW HIM?

Trump used the COVID situation to show how people can't trust Biden to handle the crisis, claiming many more people got sick and died once Biden took office. He didn't provide specifics, but that didn't prevent the former one from repeating these claims to his adorning followers. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump's battle cry regarding D.C. was to "drain the swamp." Convincing many less informed individuals that the government was the problem and couldn't solve anything. He appeared to take a page from Reagan's playbook: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Let's not forget what Trump said about Mexico: they are sending criminals and rapists across the border. He's currently using the border crisis (which is been a crisis for many years), as a rallying cry to solidify support.


Regarding Hitler, the Versailles Treaty was implemented as a result of WWI. This treaty severely punished Germany for being on the wrong side of the war. Many in Germany and elsewhere felt these war reparations were too severe, and Hitler used this treaty as an example of how the entire world was against them. This crisis (along with the Stock Exchange crash in 1929) put Germany in the 20s and 30s in a grave social and economic situation and gave Hitler the necessary oxygen to gradually convince the majority of Germans to hear and follow his message.


WHICH LEADER WASN'T A PARTICULARLY GOOD STUDENT BUT USED HIS STRONG ORATORY STILLS TO RALLY THE PUBLIC?

Adolf and Donald were mediocre students, but if you listen to Trump, he'd say he was brilliant and, if not the best student, among the best. Interestingly, the only proof Trump would provide is his saying so. He has never literally shown evidence that he was among the best students. If I was at the top of my class and people denied that, I'd certainly not be shy about proving my educational prowess.


Hitler had a mixed record as a student and never went beyond his secondary education. He later applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna but was not accepted. He later appeared to hate intellectuals claiming their concentration of learning occurred only in lecture halls or behind a desk. During the period after WWI and before 1939, Hitler didn't have to prove that he was an average student. Once people bought into his rhetoric, no one questioned him on his educational record. Once frustrated and ailing people heard his solid speaking skills, the last thing followers needed was to review his academic records.

Misinformation

WHICH LEADER BLAMED OTHERS FOR THE CURRENT STATE OF THE NATION?

Adolf blamed religion, communists, socialists, and Jews for creating enemies to blame on the struggling situation in Nazi Germany. He needed groups to blame and scorn to convince the country that he knew best how to run the country. He claimed regular Germans had nothing to do with the plight of the country during the 20s and 30s -- instead, these groups were blamed and scapegoated during his rise to power.


Trump blames the government that we need to drain the swamp to fix things (even though he talks less about this now). Trump also blames the Democrats, and claims President Biden couldn't effectively run a Boy Scout troop. According to Trump, the Democrats are the ones destroying the country. Regardless of the facts, he also accuses Obama and Biden of our mess. Because he's incapable of any self-reflection, it's only the opposing party who are to blame. He also blames illegals for helping to destroy the country. Anyone who is liberal is an enemy of the state, according to Donald Trump. He was even recently shocked to hear that a popular and beautiful singer who dabbled in some country music (Taylor Swift) would ever want to join the side of the enemy. Also, he'd claim that the "deep state" is undermining him and the country.


WHICH LEADER LIED ABOUT WHAT THEY INVENTED?

Hitler claimed he discovered the swastika, which was not the case. Trump claimed he invented "fake news," which is also not the case. Indeed, that didn't stop each leader from asserting such a falsehood. In Trump's case, typically if there's any negative news about him, he'll quickly pivot to calling it fake news.


WHICH LEADER RECEIVED SPECIAL TREATMENT FROM THE JUSTICE SYSTEM?

In 1923, about two thousand Nazis marched in the city center, trying to overthrow the government.  A few days later, Hitler was arrested and charged with treason – he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in prison. There, he wrote Mein Kampf and was released after only serving nine months. While in prison, he was allowed to wear his military uniform, receive guests, and be given good food – he received very generous treatment while serving part of his sentence. It's pretty remarkable that a leader of a rival party (Nazi party) only served nine months of his prison sentence after being convicted of treason.


Trump was recently convicted of being a felon and is awaiting sentencing next month. Will he receive special treatment regarding sentencing even though he shows no remorse and has been threatened at least ten times by Judge Merchan with contempt of court? Many on the right say it was a conspiracy trial convicting Trump. Special kit gloves will most likely be used in his sentencing, especially as he run for president.

Misinformation

WHICH LEADER WANTED TO ENGAGE IN RETRIBUTION?

Trump has been convicted of a felony and wants revenge – he's not shy about repeatedly saying this in public. He says he'll punish those who convicted him regardless of the facts. He also said he'd go after journalists who have written negative things about him and his campaign. Will our great country elect someone motivated by vindictiveness after his trial even if there's no probable cause and no evidence to his claims? Regardless of the facts, what kind of leader would abuse his power against his opponents?


Didn't Hitler engage in retribution, too, to punish those who disagreed with him? He wasn't interested in persuading those who disagreed with him. Instead of trying to convince the public of his plans to benefit everyone, his primary tool was retribution, the type much more harmful and sometimes deadly.


WHICH GROUP OF PEOPLE LOOKED UPON THEIR LEADER AS A MESSIAH?

During the late 20s and 30s, the economy in Germany struggled, mainly due to the harsh reparations made at the Treaty of Versailles.  Germany was ripe for a dictator to gain power and not relinquish it. Before WWII, many Germans looked at Hitler as the Messiah. Perhaps many heard his message and felt he was the only one that could make Germany strong again. There was rhetoric at the time stating the he alone could make Germany strong again.

Hitler was persuasive speaker which helped him gain extraordinary power while his party marched toward ultimate power.


Looking at Trump, many MAGA folks have a special place in their heart for Trump. These devout followers believe everything that he says, and he can do no wrong. They believe that Trump is the only one that can fix the state of our country. He also claimed to be the "greatest president ever," "a stable genius," and the most intelligent man on the face of the earth." Part of Trump's appeal is his oratory, convincing crowds of followers that he's the only one who can bring America back to ultimate strength again. Some might say it's a cult following. Is it unsurprising that many of Trump's followers regard him as the Messiah and the only one that can fix the mess in Washington D.C.?

Misinformation

DID THESE LEADERS HAVE ANY SIMILAR PERSONALITY TRAITS?

Mr. Trump displays impulsivity, theatricality, lack of self-awareness, vindictiveness, inability to take responsibility, and contempt for others (for example, threatening the judge, witnesses, and the jury). He cannot be introspective, lacking empathy, theatricality (playing a role), and narcissistic.


Hitler had feelings of inferiority, theatricality, obsession for power, and disdain for weakness. Some psychologists claim he was narcissistic and exhibited schizophrenia and psychopathy (impaired empathy and remorse).


WHICH LEADER WANTED TO MAKE THEIR COUNTRY GREAT AGAIN?

Because of WWI and the war reparations and a disastrous economy, Hitler focused on improving Germany's economy and way of life. Essentially, he wanted to make Germany great again. His followers never wore Hitler hats, but that didn't prevent them from adoring their leader. Besides the reparations, after the stock market crashed in '29 in the U.S., it was more acute that his messages and speeches claimed he could make Germany a strong, prosperous and enviable country again. Unfortunately, most of the German public had no idea what was forthcoming during his rise to power.


Trump's main motto for the last eight years is to make America great again. If he was so successful during his term, why doesn't he name specific policies and actions he did while in office to make America great again? Before the 2016 election, he blamed Obama for the State of the Union. Claiming the country was headed in the wrong direction. After losing in '20, he's back to blaming Biden for making our country a "loser country" and wants to restore it to greatness. He has accused the last democratic presidents of ruining the country, and only he could save it and make it great again.


Are these two former leaders more similar or dissimilar?


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2 Comments


Thanks for writing. As I was watching that program, some of the same thoughts haunted me which prompted me to write. Regardless of what the Democrats do, we can't let the former one get in office again, he's a disaster and a threat to democracy.

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The similarities are disturbing. It seems it’s part of Trumps playbook to use tactics that worked well for Hitler. Disturbing…

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