I tell my students that the only rhetorical overkill, no pun intended, worse than likening some perceived injustice to the Holocaust is likening some perceived villain to Adolf Hitler. But I never allow my advice to apply to me. Accordingly …
If you’ve ever wondered how someone as vile as Adolf Hitler could have ascended to power in 1933 Germany, just remember Donald Trump in 2016 America. It’s not that Hitler was planning to be as vile as he turned out to be. It’s that he was surrounded by enablers, no one stood as a corrective, and what-can-be-done-shall-be-done just got the better of him.
If Trump is reelected in November, will he be rounding up everyone to whom black lives matter and incarcerating pregnant bodies? No. Why not? Because thanks to the Second Amendment, and unlike Jews in Germany, African Americans and women have guns too. So the analogy is not to how awful things could become if America’s march to fascism isn’t kiboshed in November. It’s only to how the liberator invariably morphs into the tyrant. And it’s as millions of tyranny’s victims would have said, had they lived, namely that “It’s easier to kill the liberator than the tyrant!”
Evil is a measure of consequences, not intentions. No one intends evil. Donald Trump is not an evil man. But neither was Hitler. Am I parroting the former’s infamous “There were very fine people on both sides!”? I suppose I am. People do what they’re allowed to do, because if they’re allowed to do it it must be alright. If you want to tell them what they’re doing is not alright, then you have to stop them from doing it.
Some people worry that Trump is planning a coup for November 4th. I find this implausible. Mind you, I’d have found the passage of the Nuremberg Laws implausible in 1935. If there is a coup on November 4th there will be a civil war. But not unlike in Russia in 1994, it will be short-lived, and its resolution will be summary.
But is America so polarized that there’ll be civil war regardless of who wins? I suspect not. But not being an American, perhaps I underestimate the depth of the conflict. Not being black in America, I underestimate their resentment. Not being white in America, I underestimate the resentment of that resentment. Not being a woman in America, I underestimate the fear of Roe vs Wade being reversed. And so on. On the other hand, the media hypes conflict to increase its ad revenues. So maybe this is all a tempest in a teapot. My only worry is that that’s exactly what some editorials were saying in Germany about Kristallnacht.