The early morning coffee was brewing hot and strong on November 9, 2016, the sun was just peeking over the horizon, the air was crisp and the famous New England fall colors were at peak. Another glorious morning in America. Or so it seemed. Turning on the news instantly spoiled that idyllic scenario. America woke up to a new and unprecedented reality. Unfortunately, this new reality is not a make-believe TV show with little or no consequences but a “real life” reality. Donald J. Trump, the king of a TV reality show, became the President-elect of the United States of America. Although the Electoral College has not yet certified the elections results it is safe to assume that Mr. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President. On January 20, 2017 he will stand on the famous steps, surrounded by his family, supporters and other dignitaries and take the oath of office, solemnly swearing to defend and protect the American Constitution.
1984. Paraphrasing on a popular reelection campaign advertisement aired by the President Ronald Reagan, if reelected, the country will wake up to a beautiful “Another Day in America”. Factories will be humming, farmers will grow ever bountiful crops and the sun will shine ever brightly. America would become a “shining city on the hill”. There could not be a more patriotic and conservative message. Alas, Mr. Reagan’s two-term presidency was mired in scandals and afflicted by failures and by the end of his second term the conservative vision of a “shining city on the hill” remained an unfulfilled utopia.
Fast forward to 2008, the year when a nearly catastrophic and record-breaking recession reached bottom. Mr. Reagan’s vision of a “shining city on the hill” faded into oblivion, millions lost their jobs and millions more lost their homes. It should be noted that 2008 marked the end of the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush who inherited the largest budget surplus and managed to squander it, involved America in (unfunded) bloody conflicts the ill consequences of which are yet to be fully assessed. Mr. Barack Obama, the 44th President, inherited a nation in crises so deep that “urgent care” was required along with decisive measures in order to mend the wounds. The legendary American resilience would be put to test.
2016. Under the presidency of Mr. Barack Obama the American resilience had won the day, America enjoys a remarkable economic revival. Notwithstanding some lingering shortcomings and regional inequities that plague the recovery, as a whole America’s recovery is considered by many (including the non-partisan Federal Reserve) sufficiently strong to indicate a steady growth albeit anemic in some respects. The majority of working class Americans, for the first time in as many years, enjoy higher levels of pay. The solid consumer confidence is evidenced in record sales of automobiles and durable goods and unemployment is below the pre-recession level, significantly below the “norm” that prevails across most of the industrialized countries. Basic health insurance is available to millions who otherwise would be left without coverage. All in all there is room for optimism as reflected by the general upwards direction of the “line of best fit” of key economic indicators, including the equity market indices. Mr. Trump knowingly engaged in utter falsehood and brazen deception when he asserted time and again that the US economy is in a “horrible shape”.
Now let us rewind to 1935. Leni Riefenstahl released her film “Triumph of the Will” documenting the rise to power of the National Socialist German Workers’ (NAZI) Party and the mass rallies held by its leader Herr Adolf Hitler. Two years prior to the making of the film, in 1933, under democratic elections, the Third Reich was born and Herr Hitler was declared as Reich Chancellor. The Nazi party gained an absolute control in the Reichstag and thus over a country mired in economic depression, flooded with worthless currency due to astronomical inflation rates and rife with civil unrest.
The devastating consequences of Germany’s defeat in 1918 were evident everywhere and the preceding government of the German Weimer Republic failed to usher in the kind of pre-war prosperity all Germans yearned for.
Herr Hitler’s right-wing government, its executive and legislative branches, was finally “unified”. All that remained was to ensure that the judicial branch follows suit. And so it did, by the appointment of like-minded judges. Can we fail to note the resemblance of Mr. Paul Ryan’s, the House Speaker, assertion that the American government is “unified” under Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, to Herr Hitler’s declaration in 1933 that his government is “unified” under the Nazi Party, even if in appearance only? Herr Hitler and the Nazi Party were poised to deliver on their promises to “Machen Deutschland Wieder Groß“ – “Make Germany Great Again”. In fact, Herr Hitler was convinced, and thus successfully convincing his devotees and the general public, that he alone could bring salvation to Germany. And they believed him.
Fast forward to 2016. True to right-wing ideology, Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan of “Making America Great Again” was in fact also used by Mr. Reagan’s bid to bolster his presidential aspirations. Mr. Trump envisions himself as a gift to the American Union and as such he brazenly declared that he alone knows all that there is necessary to be known and that he alone could bring salvation to America and bring cure to the malaise that he identified in his speeches. One cannot escape the similarity to Herr Hitler’s harangue. To be sure, no one compares Mr. Trump to Herr Hitler and America of 2016 does not resemble in any way Germany of 1933. However, there are clear signs that Mr. Trump’s harangues play a major role in reawakening poisonous ideologies espoused by the ugly ultra-right-wing, white supremacists, anti-Semites and other human trash.
Back to the mid-1930s era. Herr Hitler succeeded beyond all expectations in raising a tide of nationalism that swept Germany. That unstoppable tide was backed by an unprecedented economic revival and by an upsurge in industrial output. Indeed, in spite of the severe limitations imposed on Germany in 1919 by the victorious Allied powers, Germany created a military machine equipped with the best armaments all designed and made by the mighty German industry. Notwithstanding the murderous calamity that Herr Hitler and his government brought upon Germany’s Jewish people and other human beings branded by the Nazis as “unfit” or “undesirables”, the general German public began to enjoy some prosperity brought by Herr Hitler’s fulfilled promises. By 1938 Herr Hitler commanded the mightiest military Europe had ever seen, backed by a strong industry-oriented economy the likes of which Europe had never experienced and as he saw it, Germany regained her status of primacy and greatness. He delivered and the masses saluted him with a resounding “Heil Hitler”.
Fast forward to 2016. Mr. Trump repeatedly claimed that the policies administered by his cabinet will always focus on “America First”. In his campaign speeches Mr. Trump delivered a crude and deliberately fallacious messages strongly suggesting that Mr. Obama’s policies neglected to address America’s interests but rather intended to subjugate America to often alien “global” interests, whatever they may be. Mr. Trump’s claim that he alone can bring salvation to America, along with his “America First” promises strongly resemble Herr Hitler’s harangues that he alone could revive Germany’s greatness under the Nazi motto of “Ein Folk – Ein Reich – Ein Fuhrer” (One People – One Realm – One Leader). In the wake of Mr. Trump’s harangues and subsequent victory some vocal supremacist groups translated his slogan “Make America Great Again” into “Make America White Again”. Some even raised a Nazi salute and screamed at the top of their lungs “Heil Trump – Heil Our Leader”. In fairness to Mr. Trump it should be noted that he is not being accused of overt racism although he failed to denounce in no uncertain terms these ugly manifestations of his irresponsible, incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric that played into the hands of and emboldened those who seemed to have always harbored hatred, racism and bigotry.
Back to the late 1930s. In 1938 Herr Hitler was poised to prove the German people, and the world, that he delivered on his promises to make Germany great again. It seemed that Hitler’s Deutschland was in the eyes of most Germans indeed “Uber Ales”. It largely “cleansed” itself from its Jewish population, removed other “undesirables” and Germany was made Aryan. The 1938 Olympic Games put on display a Germany that Herr Hitler promised to revive. Europe faced a formidable “Thousand Years German Reich”. The unprecedented destruction and death that followed reduced the “Thousand Years German Reich” and most of Europe to rubble. However, Herr Hitler remains an immortal image to be followed by those who were encouraged by Mr. Trump’s speeches to unleash their darkest diatribes of hatred and bigotry.
Over the past half century America made significant strides to address race relations, abolish racially and otherwise discriminatory laws and elected, by a wide margin, its first African-American president. In 2008 America stood proud of this achievement. Mr. Obama’s presidency is the embodiment of America’s National Motto of “E Pluribus Unum”. Now, the American people are again being called upon to stand strong and resist any effort to roll back these monumental achievements. Unlike some other countries, America’s civic and judicial “tool boxes” contain all the elements necessary to guard against the evil forces of darkness. It is incumbent on the American people to use the “tools” bestowed upon them by the Constitution and ensure in no uncertain terms that Mr. Trump’s presidency and America’s future are devoid of Hitlerism.