Trumpian political tactics are not new to history; just new to an American presidency.
Back in the early 1940s, from 1941 and into 1945, the vice president of the United States was not Harry Truman. The vice president of the United States was a progressive by the name of Henry Wallace.
Wallace actually founded the Progressive Party. A strong supporter of New Deal liberalism, Wallace was considered by many Democrats to be too liberal to remain on the presidential ticket in the upcoming election and was denied re-nomination at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. He was replaced by Harry Truman to run as President Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate and who became president with the death of President Roosevelt in April of 1945.
Why is this relevant, you wonder? It is relevant now more than ever because of the rise of Donald J. Trump. It was Vice President Henry Wallace who warned us about the rise of threats such as Donald J. Trump. It was Vice President Henry Wallace who recognized that the rise of Adolph Hitler could occur any place if citizens are too lazy to care. It was Vice President Henry Wallace who shared way back in 1944 this prescient observation:
“American fascists claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
If you don’t see the similarities between what Vice President Wallace referred to and the Trump presidency you are turning a blind eye.
The false patriotism of Trump when he falsely accused NFL players of disrespecting the American flag for taking a knee to bring attention to a serious social issue was, as well, a blatant disregard for the First Amendment of the Constitution and the right of those players to freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble in protest. Add to that Trump’s assault on the First Amendment’s freedom of the press by calling it the “enemy of the people” and you have quite the disregard to the Constitution that Vice President Wallace warned against.
It doesn’t of course, stop there. The Trump tax plan in which 83 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest one percent is a clear example of turning our democracy into a plutocracy and “keeping the common man in eternal subjection.”
Wallace’s warning during the closing years of World War II and the Nazi threat that the world faced is a warning that no American could have considered as a viable threat to our country. Then, again, no one could have reasonably ever expected this country to elect a narcissistic, self-serving, insecure egomaniac like Donald J. Trump to the most powerful position in the world.
Sadly, the rise of Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany after World War I mirrors much of how Trump rose to power right here in the good old U.S. of A. The similarities are quite alarming, indeed.
The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers, or, as Sean Spicer liked to call them, “Holocaust Centers.” No, it really started with Hitler and his cohorts playing on the prejudices of a Christian nation. In today’s political environment, call it the “war on Christmas” or playing to the hypocritical evangelical base. Back then the so-called imaginary threat to Christianity was the Jews.
It also started with playing us against them. In 1930s Nazi Germany the “them” were the Jews. Today the “them” are immigrants, Mexicans, Democrats, the press and the FBI and the rule of law. It also started with intolerance and hate speech; I dare say I would not be surprised if the Hitler campaign rallies resembled to a great extent the Trump campaign rallies. Clearly the concept of “white supremacy” was a building block of both egomaniacs, Hitler and Trump.
Most of all it started with the denial of basic rights. In today’s political environment it also includes denial of our fundamental ideals. Separating children from their parents is as anti-American as anything I can think of and yet that is exactly what is occurring under the Trump administration and his war on immigrants.
It started, as much as anything else, with citizens turning a blind eye to actions that take away the rights of others as long as their own rights remain intact. It started with ordinary citizens not realizing that the rights of others that are being trampled on may someday be their own rights.
In his new book, “To End a Presidency, the Power of Impeachment”, Harvard Constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, lays out the symptoms of a failing democracy as they coincide with the rise of Donald J. Trump: “(1) open admiration for third world strongmen matched by rhetoric and conduct lifted straight from banana republics; (2) self-enrichment from public office; (3) appointment of family members to high-level positions; (4) claims that the press is an ‘enemy of the people’; (5) relentless effort to establish favored news outlets as his personal equivalent of state TV; (6) calls to imprison political opponents and critics; (7) tacit support for armed extremists and private militias; (8) assaults on the independent judiciary; (9) apparent comfort with hostile powers meddling in elections to his advantage.”
Quite alarming, especially considering that these same “symptoms” could just as easily reflect the tactics of Joseph Stalin or any other despotic leader. Most alarming is that, under the right circumstances, what happened in post-World War I Germany can happen anywhere.
It will take a concerned and informed electorate to see that it does not happen here.