If It Goosesteps Like a Duck …

 

25-donald-trump-tower-wave.w529.h352Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. –Bertolt Brecht

In the last few Trump news cycles (and, yes, they are all Trump news cycles) we’ve seen left-wing thugs disrupt Trump rallies, right-wing thugs retaliate, and the Great Leader himself settle the matter by declaring, “No more Mr. Nice Guy,” darkly hinting at organized revenge. We’ve seen allusions to Hitler tossed around in the form of comparisons between Trump’s rallies and some of National Socialism’s more successful soirées in the early 1930s, and the inevitable chorus of denunciations from Trump and his surrogates who, invoking the Donald’s long-standing commitment to civility and balance, dismiss such suggestions as shrill and over the top — as if it were ridiculous and hysterical to see thuggish, bellicose encounters, straight-arm salutes, and loyalty oaths as anything more than youthful hijinks.

In the midst of these nose-on-your-face events, some students of history and other 2+2=4 types have publicly asked if Trump is in fact exploiting exactly the same kinds of forces that have propelled strongmen to power throughout history — Hitler being but the most obvious example — and wondered aloud if we can’t learn something from the comparison. The typical response runs a very short gamut from eye-rolling to derision and contempt.

One reason for this is it’s typically considered the hallmark of unserious and irresponsible argument to invoke Hitler or Nazism as a way of objecting to a contemporary figure or political program. In fact, Godwin’s law, an Internet canon if ever there was one, goes so far as to suggest that any such comparison is proof you’ve lost the argument. This is why we usually associate such people with lifetime occupants of the crazy paddock, like Ward Churchill, who famously called 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns,” or Keith Olbermann, whose “You’re a fascist” paroxysms about George Bush have their own chapter in the DSM.

That said, there is another, older, law, Occam’s razor, that indicates we should prefer the simplest theory that adequately accounts for all the facts over more elaborate ones. In the current context, that roughly translates to, “If it goosesteps like a duck, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a duck”.

So it could be that Trump is just a misunderstood agrarian reformer whose random, bellicose and often chaotic effusions mask a die-hard constitutionalist with a steel-trap mind. Or it could be he is exactly what he seems.

To help sort this out, let’s put on our Man from Mars glasses, suspend fears of being called insensitive or a lunatic for a moment, and consider the following:

[Insert name of strongman here] is narcissistic, pugnacious, and thin-skinned, with an almost obsessive need to settle scores. He expresses himself in vulgar, brutish, and often incoherent ways, and surrounds himself with equally thuggish people whom he routinely appears to encourage with a wink and a nudge to violence. He demands unquestioned loyalty and is ruthless and persistent in his punishment of anyone who falls short of that mark. He taps into the rage and disillusionment of a people thoroughly disgusted with their own government, and trades in solutions that are short on specifics but long on emotionally satisfying rhetoric, might-makes-right nationalism, and scapegoats. There is nothing in his past that suggests any regard for, or commitment to, the primacy of his country’s constitution or even basic rule of law. In fact, one his greatest selling points is his implied ability to sweep such obstructions aside and “get things done.”

I could go on, but you get the point. You could plug Hitler, Mussolini, Chavez, Castro, Mao, or even farm-team members like Huey Long into that template and not miss a beat. Please tell me where and how Trump wouldn’t be a perfect fit. If research is required I would recommend the public record, the behavior of his operatives, the culture of his campaign, his recent pronouncements in debates and rallies, or any random twenty minutes of his Twitter feed.

“So you’re seriously saying Trump is as bad as the guy who killed six million Jews?”

No, I’m not.

All analogies ultimately all break down, or they wouldn’t be analogies. Their only purpose is to demonstrate similarities in different events and suggest reasonable extrapolations based on those similarities. There are always differences; when two events are alike in every respect, you don’t have an analogy, you have a tautology.

Which is just a hifalutin’ way of saying that yes, it’s reasonable to suggest that current events and public figures are similar to the forces that brought Hitler to power in the 1930s, although it does not necessarily mean that it all ends up at Dachau or Bergen-Belsen.

It’s worth noting, though, that however benign a form of fascism Trump might bring to the party, it will still invariably lead to social and economic misery and the creeping loss of freedoms. And no amount of eye-rolling will make that go away.

There are 40 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Member

    Uh oh, you’ll get flagged if you compare the Donald to fascists or Nazis. Does it matter that he invites it? Not at all.

    • #1
    • March 15, 2016 at 4:18 pm
    • Like
  2. Member
    Mark Meed Post author

    I’ll risk it. Thanks.

    • #2
    • March 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm
    • Like
  3. Inactive

    So if you aren’t calling him and his followers Nazis then why bring up any similarities? It is clear that what you want the reader to infer from your piece is that Trump is a Nazi otherwise why bring this up at all?

    No I’m not for Trump. I like Cruz but I don’t quite get the hysteria behind the Ricochetti these days.

    • #3
    • March 15, 2016 at 5:26 pm
    • Like
  4. Member

    Mark Meed:

    [Insert name of strongman here] is narcissistic, pugnacious and thin-skinned with an almost obsessive need to settle all scores. He expresses himself in vulgar, brutish and often incoherent ways, and surrounds himself with equally thuggish people whom he routinely appears to encourage with a wink and a nudge to violence. He demands unquestioned loyalty and is ruthless and persistent in his punishment of anyone who falls short of that mark. He taps into the rage and disillusionment of a population thoroughly disgusted with its own government and trades in solutions that are short on specifics but long on emotionally satisfying rhetoric, might-makes-right nationalism and scapegoats. There is nothing in his past that suggests any regard for, or committment to, the primacy of his country’s constitution or even the basic rule of law. In fact, one his greatest selling points is his implied ability to sweep such obstructions aside and “get things done”.

    Very well said, very descriptive. In the first sentence I see our current president, in the whole body of this long quotation his contending successor.

    • #4
    • March 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm
    • Like
  5. Member

    A fellow Brechtian on Ricochet! Who knew?

    • #5
    • March 15, 2016 at 8:37 pm
    • Like
  6. Member
    Mark Meed Post author

    Robert McReynolds:So if you aren’t calling him and his followers Nazis then why bring up any similarities? It is clear that what you want the reader to infer from your piece is that Trump is a Nazi otherwise why bring this up at all?

    No I’m not for Trump. I like Cruz but I don’t quite get the hysteria behind the Ricochetti these days.

    Having expended 800 words explaining exactly why I am bringing it up it seems a little silly to repeat myself. I am sorry you were unconvinced.

    • #6
    • March 16, 2016 at 4:59 am
    • Like
  7. Member
    Mark Meed Post author

    Franz Drumlin:A fellow Brechtian on Ricochet! Who knew?

    In a previous life I actually played an assortment of gangsters and green grocers (sometimes uncharitably referred to as “bit parts”) in a National Arts Center production of that play in Ottawa, Canada. Incredibly, my performances went entirely unmentioned in the reviews.

    But yes, I love me some Brecht.

    • #7
    • March 16, 2016 at 5:04 am
    • Like
  8. Member

    Trump may only be a would be dictator unable to actually accomplish that goal. That still make him dangerous to our liberty, therefore I cannot vote for him. Your historical comparisons are appropriate. I do hope our constitutional traditions are still strong enough to keep him on check but even then he will do great damage if elected; unless of course I’m wrong about him. I just wish I saw some reason to think I’ve misread the man. His disdain for property rights (Kelo) and free speech (I’ll make it easier to sue for libel) are, I fear, only the top of a very large iceberg

    • #8
    • March 17, 2016 at 1:01 am
    • Like
  9. Member

    Robert McReynolds:So if you aren’t calling him and his followers Nazis then why bring up any similarities? It is clear that what you want the reader to infer from your piece is that Trump is a Nazi otherwise why bring this up at all?

    I think it’s possible to bring up Hitler and Weimar Germany without saying that Trump subscribes to a belief in the superiority of the Aryan race and the need for a final solution to “the Jewish problem.”

    No I’m not for Trump. I like Cruz but I don’t quite get the hysteria behind the Ricochetti these days.

    I don’t think it’s a sign of hysteria to say “Trump has the qualities of a group of strongmen that include Hitler,” especially if you go on to say that rule of the strongman need not lead to genocide.

    • #9
    • March 17, 2016 at 2:20 am
    • Like
  10. Inactive

    Okay fine, but any strong man could have been picked but instead it was Hitler. There is a reason for that and it is veiled by the skirt of “I’m not calling him a Nazi.” My question still stands, why Hitler? Why not Bismark, William J Bryant, or any other populist with strong man tendencies? The impression is left that in fact the author wants Trump and Hitler occupying the same space in the mind.

    • #10
    • March 17, 2016 at 2:27 am
    • Like
  11. Member

    Robert McReynolds: Okay fine, but any strong man could have been picked but instead it was Hitler. There is a reason for that and it is veiled by the skirt of “I’m not calling him a Nazi.” My question still stands, why Hitler? Why not Bismark, William J Bryant, or any other populist with strong man tendencies? The impression is left that in fact the author wants Trump and Hitler occupying the same space in the mind.

    Mark Meed: I could go on, but you get the point. You could plug Hitler, Mussolini, Chavez, Castro, Mao, or even farm-team members like Huey Long into that template and not miss a beat.

    Why would ya look at that. He mentioned 5 other people in addition to Hitler on that issue (he missed Lenin, shucks). Also Bismark is not your populist kind of politician. Being an appointed bureaucrat that instituted a welfare program for cynical designs in order to subdue socialist agitators does not equal wanting what Hitler wanted or acting like him.

    But on point here, Robert, you should have read his article. He was not saying only Hitler. He was describing the template of all dictators.

    • #11
    • March 17, 2016 at 2:51 am
    • Like
  12. Member

    Use of Hitler and Nazism distracts. Hitler was a psychopath, a sociopath, Germany had been defeated then humiliated, its economy crushed and the middle class wiped out by the inflation. Peron might be a better comparison, Argentina was the fourth richest country on earth, especially after the war time commodity prices, but had suffered creeping social welfare spending, but no country or time really works in specifics. Peron explicitly adopted fascism as he had been impressed by Mussolini while there as a military attache. The thing about Peron is that Argentina still suffers from his reign. I referred to Trump as a man on horseback from day one, and warned not to take him lightly or criticize him for the thing that made him powerful, un pc. Man on horseback is a better characterization because it is vague but captures the thing in itself. A man on horseback doesn’t have a program, he just looks and sounds like a leader, shows the physical characteristics appropriate for the time, focuses on populist issues appropriate for the moment. On a horse because that was what looked good and commanding at the time. It doesn’t end well. You folks who are supporting him are making a profound mistake.

    • #12
    • March 17, 2016 at 3:28 am
    • Like
  13. Editor

    His personality reminds me tremendously of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s, so much so that I feel I’m reliving history. If you look at the last line of that piece, you’ll see I wrote it when we didn’t yet know what would happen next. That what happened next has been catastrophic makes me all the more uneasy about Trump’s personality. We may have checks and balances sufficient to contain him for a while, but over the course of two terms, even enormously secure restraints can wear thin. Tayyip managed seriatum to discredit the military and imprison the top brass, stack the courts, stack the bureaucracy, quash the press, transform the Constitution, and ultimately make it impossible to get rid of him. It’s easier to do than you’d think. It can be done in about eight years. It doesn’t necessarily lead to genocide — Hitler was uniquely evil — but Trump’s personality is absolutely typical of those who head up the kinds of “managed democracies” that have rapidly been proliferating since the end of the Cold War and seem to be the global trend.

    • #13
    • March 17, 2016 at 4:46 am
    • Like
  14. Inactive

    Mark Meed: …It’s worth noting, though, that however benign a form of fascism Trump might bring to the party, it will still invariably lead to social and economic misery and the creeping loss of freedoms. And no amount of eye-rolling will make that go away.

    Have you ever read Johah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism?

    What you’re describing here is politics in America since Wilson/Taft/Roosevelt.

    • #14
    • March 17, 2016 at 4:53 am
    • Like
  15. Inactive

    Ricochet hung—shocking—while I was posting that comment. So we’ve got Obama/Clinton/Sanders shock troops actually shutting down a Trump speaking engagement in Chicago with the threat of violence, and you’re pointing the finger at Trump? Obama’s been playing this card for his entire presidency.

    Where were you guys?

    Trump is the reaction against this tendency that you’ve finally noticed, not the cause. That’s why his anti-PC tendencies are so appealing to people. “Reaction”, note that word? It’s the one the left uses to describe conservatives.

    So fighting back against the actual far left has got many so-called Conservatives at Ricochet in a tizzy?

    It appears the surrender caucus tendency in the Republican party runs wide and deep.

    • #15
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:03 am
    • Like
  16. Member
    Liz

    Tuck:Ricochet hung—shocking—while I was posting that comment. So we’ve got Obama/Clinton/Sanders shock troops actually shutting down a Trump speaking engagement in Chicago with the threat of violence, and you’re pointing the finger at Trump? Obama’s been playing this card for his entire presidency.

    Where were you guys?

    Trump is the reaction against this tendency that you’ve finally noticed, not the cause. That’s why his anti-PC tendencies are so appealing to people. “Reaction”, note that word? It’s the one the left uses to describe conservatives.

    So fighting back against the actual far left has got many so-called Conservatives at Ricochet in a tizzy?

    It appears the surrender caucus tendency in the Republican party runs wide and deep.

    Un-PC and conservative? Great, I love it. Un-PC and liberal with authoritarian tendencies? I can’t get behind that.

    • #16
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:10 am
    • Like
  17. Inactive

    Liz: “…liberal with authoritarian tendencies? I can’t get behind that.”

    That’s been the Republican Party since Hoover. Started by Teddy Roosevelt.

    Look at the War on Drugs: it’s got “authoritarian tendencies” all over it, it’s been the biggest infringement on our liberties in the history of the country, and I’ll wager most who claim to be appalled by Trump are supporters of it.

    Please.

    • #17
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:23 am
    • Like
  18. Editor

    Tuck: I’ll wager most who claim to be appalled by Trump are supporters of it.

    I’m not. For exactly the reasons you state.

    • #18
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:23 am
    • Like
  19. Member
    Liz

    Tuck:

    Liz: “…liberal with authoritarian tendencies? I can’t get behind that.”

    That’s been the Republican Party since Hoover. Started by Teddy Roosevelt.

    Look at the War on Drugs: it’s got “authoritarian tendencies” all over it, it’s been the biggest infringement on our liberties in the history of the country, and I’ll wager most who claim to be appalled by Trump are supporters of it.

    Please.

    Therefore, let’s embrace the guy who’s even more egregious?

    No, thanks.

    • #19
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:27 am
    • Like
  20. Inactive

    Liz: …Therefore, let’s embrace the guy who’s even more egregious?

    I don’t see the “even more egregious” part. A couple of comments don’t exactly rise to the level of armed insurrection, or even the wink-nod riots of the Obama era. They were, to be clear, run and financed by Obama’s political allies. With or without his knowledge.

    This is the reaction to that era, not its inception. And it’s overdue.

    • #20
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:31 am
    • Like
  21. Coolidge

    Godwin’s Law infuriates me. Modern progressivism is a sibling of National Socialism — both offspring of Woodrow Wilson’s progressive ideals — but any mention of the connection is shouted down.

    Whenever I encounter a conversation where Godwin’s Law is invoked to stop a legit argument, I switch to troll mode and suggest the invoker is part of a Godwin’s Law conspiracy to hide the truth about progressives.

    Not here, of course. ;-)

    • #21
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:34 am
    • Like
  22. Member
    Liz

    Tuck:

    Liz: …Therefore, let’s embrace the guy who’s even more egregious?

    I don’t see the “even more egregious” part. A couple of comments don’t exactly rise to the level of armed insurrection, or even the wink-nod riots of the Obama era. They were, to be clear, run and financed by Obama’s political allies. With or without his knowledge.

    This is the reaction to that era, not its inception. And it’s overdue.

    I’m not arguing it started with Trump, but he claims to speak for Republicans while behaving in the same way as every Leftist I abhor. I won’t be part of that.

    I don’t support glorification of vulgarity, protectionist tariffs, abridging the freedom of the press, excusing PP and supporting its federal funding, manipulating the righteous anger of voters to increase personal power, eminent domain for private gain. I most certainly will not support the demagogue who ruthlessly attacks and slanders anyone who disagrees with him. It’s Obama all over again. I expect to have to face that on the other side. It terrifies me when it comes from ours.

    Tuck, you don’t agree. Fine. I assume you’ll be voting for him in CT.

    [edited for syntax]

    • #22
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:47 am
    • Like
  23. Inactive

    Liz: …Tuck, you don’t agree. Fine. I assume you’ll be voting for him in CT.

    Trump’s far from my first choice, which was Walker, Perry, Cruz, in that order.

    But I’ll take Trump over Hillary Clinton if that’s the choice on offer.

    Conservatives who say they’re going to sit this one out forfeit their right to the name, IMHO.

    Sitting out history out of moral indignation isn’t one of the choices on offer.

    You’re a supporter of the other side, at that point.

    As Orwell noted, in a different context:

    “Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.”

    • #23
    • March 17, 2016 at 5:55 am
    • Like
  24. Member

    Tuck: So we’ve got Obama/Clinton/Sanders shock troops actually shutting down a Trump speaking engagement in Chicago with the threat of violence, and you’re pointing the finger at Trump? Obama’s been playing this card for his entire presidency.

    The media’s narrative has quickly become that Trump is causing the violence, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    • #24
    • March 17, 2016 at 7:57 am
    • Like
  25. Member

    Excellent post. (I’ll say this for Trump: he is serving to clarify the battle lines.)

    • #25
    • March 17, 2016 at 8:32 am
    • Like
  26. Coolidge

    Tuck:Ricochet hung—shocking—while I was posting that comment. So we’ve got Obama/Clinton/Sanders shock troops actually shutting down a Trump speaking engagement in Chicago with the threat of violence, and you’re pointing the finger at Trump? Obama’s been playing this card for his entire presidency.

    Where were you guys?

    Has the media and republican congress been relatively passive about Obama strong-arm tactics? Yes, because the media adores him and the politicians are cowards who are afraid to be named racist. But commentators on Ricochet and the conservative media in general have been vocal about Obama’s overreach (I would say thuggery, but dogwhistles and all that), the shutdown of free speech by the PC brigades. This isn’t new, and it’s lazy logic to put up a GOPe strawman and apply to a majority of our membership. We weren’t the ones clamoring for the third coming of Bush.

    Finally, for conservatives Obama is appalling, but Trump is embarrassing. Obama does not, and never claimed to represent conservative values. Trump does, and so the pushback from conservatives has too be more forceful. He has simultaneously adopted many of the worst aspects of the left and reinforced all the negative stereotypes of the right painted by the left.

    • #26
    • March 17, 2016 at 8:36 am
    • Like
  27. Inactive

    Well reasoned, great writing, and with as good a title as I’ve seen on Ricochet: I sure hope you’re wrong.

    • #27
    • March 17, 2016 at 9:01 am
    • Like
  28. Inactive

    Matt Upton: This isn’t new, and it’s lazy logic to put up a GOPe strawman and apply to a majority of our membership.

    No, it’s hyperbole, a perfectly reasonable rhetorical tool.

    Finally, for conservatives Obama is appalling, but Trump is embarrassing. Obama does not, and never claimed to represent conservative values. Trump does, and so the pushback from conservatives has too be more forceful.

    He really doesn’t. He’s running as a Republican. He’s not calling himself a capital-C Conservative:

    “Mr. Trump, you’ve heard the argument from many of the candidates on this stage that you’re not a true conservative. Tell the voters watching tonight why you are.

    [Trump] “Well, I think I am, and to me, I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word “conserve.” We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country. And we have people that have no idea how to do that, and they are not doing it, and it’s a very important word and it’s something I believe in very, very strongly.”

    He’s perfectly representative of a strain of Progressive Republican from New York that goes right back to Teddy Roosevelt.

    But he’s no Conservative. Neither was TR, or the Bushes.

    • #28
    • March 17, 2016 at 9:06 am
    • Like
  29. Inactive

    Could Be Anyone: …Also Bismark is not your populist kind of politician. Being an appointed bureaucrat that instituted a welfare program for cynical designs in order to subdue socialist agitators…

    Although that is exactly what LBJ did with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    So yes, it’s a pretty good parallel.

    Bismarck invented the playbook we’ve been living ever since.

    • #29
    • March 17, 2016 at 9:54 am
    • Like
  30. Member

    Tedley:

    Tuck: So we’ve got Obama/Clinton/Sanders shock troops actually shutting down a Trump speaking engagement in Chicago with the threat of violence, and you’re pointing the finger at Trump? Obama’s been playing this card for his entire presidency.

    The media’s narrative has quickly become that Trump is causing the violence, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    Their leftist thugs are picking fights with our leftist thugs.

    • #30
    • March 17, 2016 at 10:09 am
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2