2016 is perhaps the stupidest election of all time, so it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve gotten to a point where this must be said, but here we are, so here goes. Donald Trump is not Hitler.
He’s also not Lord Voldemort, Chairman Mao, Hans Gruber, Joseph Stalin, or Benito Mussolini. Sometimes he sounds like them, and more than a few of his more strident supporters are rather fond of Hitler, but he lacks something those other leaders possessed, and it’s time to settle down and acknowledge that.
Whereas these men were true believers in their respective causes, Donald Trump believes in only one thing, and that one thing is Donald Trump. He is exceedingly fond of wealth, possession of which supports his belief in himself and his own greatness. So maybe there are a few similarities to Hans Gruber, but his presidential aspirations are certainly not about cash. It’s much harder to take advantage of eminent domain laws when you’re in the White House than in Trump Towers.
So when he talks about walls and possible impartiality of judges of Hispanic decent or suggests banning Muslims or gets to Hillary’s left on trade issues, it’s stream of conscious deal-making. It’s slam poetry. It’s pandering of the highest order, not pandering moored in any particular ideology. People respond to it and Trump keeps going because that furthers his aforementioned principal cause, which is himself.
What Do I Have to Do to Put You in This Car Today?
Perhaps it’s because of issues with his father or perhaps he’s just that much of a megalomaniac, but Trump wants to be liked. He has to be liked, although he’s enough of a businessman to understand that he can’t please everyone; not everyone is going to be a customer. As a result, he’s found his base and he’s selling to them, hard. He’s moved beyond the question of “What do I have to do to put you into this car today?” and is in the process of closing the deal.
Scott Adams, who endorsed Hillary not because Trump is Hitler but because the perception that he is persists, has chronicled the Trump campaign and the salesmanship of its campaigner in chief. His prediction, which he doesn’t want to happen because of the Hitler thing, is “that Trump will win in a landslide based on his superior persuasion skills.”
Now, it’s true that Hitler also won, albeit in a slightly different fashion. It was a coalition victory from which he emerged as chancellor. He also had a strained relationship with his father. Beyond that, the similarities mostly end.
I know. Trump says some crazy things. He also changes the crazy things he says from month to month, year to year, hour to hour, and even minute to minute. Hitler, on the other hand, was a true believer in nationalism from a young age. He gained power because he wanted to see policies nationalist policies enacted.
Trump, on the other hand, was always about real estate and being successful and money and women. He’s supported a variety of politicians and policies from both parties. If nationalism and fascism are amongst his interests, he’s not dedicated much time to them and has instead focused on crony capitalism and other such nasty “partnerships” between private industry and the state. Have I mentioned eminent domain and Trump’s fondness for it?
Trump Is a Human Rorschach Test
Before we go any further, I have to admit I’m guilty of believing the hype. When his immigration position paper came out, I accused him of wanting to make “America a Police State.” Adams can explain this, too. “Trump literally takes both sides of the issues whenever he can. As a candidate, he’s a human Rorschach test. I might see in Trump a skilled persuader who always makes aggressive opening offers, and you might see a future dictator.”
Back then, when all this was newer, I saw dictator, but that was simply his aggressive opening offer. Voters are irrational, myself included (assuming I actually go to the polls this November given the choices on offer), and he got their attention. He particularly won voters who feel they’ve been left behind as political correctness, multiculturalism, and globalism continue to take their country and their jobs.
Trump strikes back at that political correctness, at the love of all things multicultural, and at the global economy. Moreover, he doesn’t do so with a direct attack. He takes his opponents’ blows and throws and turns the energy back toward them. It’s the perfect strategy for 2016 as we’re in modern times, and the art of war calls for a heaping helping of a modern martial art: Aikido.
Turning His Opponents’ Energy Against Them
The strength of Aikido doesn’t come from its techniques—it uses some moves from both Jujitsu and Kenjutsu—but from its approach. In Aikido, the goal isn’t to land blows, but to use your opponent’s energy to take control of them and throw them away from you. So when Trump makes patently ridiculous claims about whether Indiana-born judge Gonzalo Curiel can be fair and impartial when presiding over a case regarding Trump University because Curiel’s parents were Mexican immigrants, he has latitude for that because potential voters are tired of hearing things about the horror that is “old white men.” He’s taking that energy and turning it against his opponents.
It’s even working on BuzzFeed, which, in a stunning reversal of previous policy, has decided that transactions between various parties should be voluntary. After inking a large advertising deal with the Republican National Committee prior to Trump clinching the nomination, Buzzfeed said it doesn’t have to wholly agree with its advertisers, but Trump is just too much. No one saw that coming. Next Buzzfeed will be championing Citizens United.
Bear in mind that no one is claiming this is honorable or respectable or even desirable. The point is that almost all politicians are horrible people, but we’re able to handle the fact that they’re horrible and dishonorable and move on from there to whether they’ll screw us over at least once in office. We know they’re going to disappoint us and fail to live up to their promises. When it comes to Trump, both his most ardent supporters and detractors see a dictator. The line that divides them is whether they see him as a dictator who will work on their behalf, or one who will work against them.
We’re Not Electing a King Here
The thing is, though, in the battle of Hillary versus Trump, there actually is no despot, no dictator lying in wait. There are two despicable people, but no despots. Campaigning is not governing, and elections don’t produce kings. Whether either candidate is versed enough in civics to be aware of the latter truth is debatable, but that doesn’t change its veracity.
Regardless, it’s what we as a nation are working with. Voters are faced with a choice. In one corner, we have a woman who stayed married to a philandering country boy who was fond of feeling pain and anything else he could get his hands on, a man without a super-firm ideological core who wanted to cut deals and get things done so people would like him. In the other corner, we have a man who very much resembles that particular husband.
They’re both terrible, but, outside something else crazy happening, either Hillary or Trump will end up in the White House come January 20, 2017. Should Adams’s prediction be correct—which is doubtful given that the Electoral College isn’t very favorable for Trump—Trump will certainly throw some curveballs, but Kristallnacht: Make America Great Again Edition isn’t going to be one of them.