My wife and I have had repeated conversations about the ascendancy of Donald Trump. I have tried to talk her off the ledge several times assuring her that eventually common sense will prevail, Trump will flame out and people will come to their senses.
Now, 6 months into his candidacy, I am not nearly as confident as I once was.
He still maintains a commanding lead in national polls (42%!! last I checked!). And despite statement after statement of more outrageous and ridiculous assertions, it is clear that he is gaining support not despite what he says but because of it.
My worry redoubled when Trump changed from being just an asshole to being a racist asshole. I mean really – a database to track a specific minority? Barring a group of people from entering the country entirely? Actually suggesting that we kill innocent people because they happened to be related to someone who did something bad??
Finally, I read this article in today’s New York Times, talking about not only his abilities to sway large crowds with his rhetoric but how his abilities surpass successful demagogues of the past.
Now Nazi Germany is one of the most extreme examples of how a political system can go bad and I am seeing way too many similarities here to feel comfortable. The waning days of the Weimar Republic saw a country that was once powerful but no longer master of its domain. The economy was in tank and people were scared. Now along comes a charismatic leader offering hope and a way out of the darkness. Sure, some of his ideas were a little extreme, but dammit, extreme times call for extreme measures.
My guess is that it played out like this… it would have started out with the average person giving Hitler the same idle curiosity you give any sideshow (“Oh that crazy Adolf, what crackpot (and highly entertaining) idea is he saying today?). Then his movement gains a little traction and people start to notice (“Hmmm, I am an open minded person and some people seem to like him, let me listen to what he has to say”) and then soon he hits mainstream (“There are a lot of people who listen to this guy, he must have something compelling to say”). Finally, everyone else realizes how much trouble they are in after it is too late (“Oh crap, if I don’t buy into this craziness, they are going to come after me!”)
To those who think that there is no way we could do something that stupid (or elect someone that dumb), don’t forget, we elected Dubya. Twice.