mein trumpf

an amazing article from
and, just maybe, a little history lesson might be in order at the moment …

Weimar Germany and Donald Trump

How traditional and radical conservatives come to speak a common political language—that ultimately benefits the extremists

By Eric D. Weitz

“What a memorable day!” wrote a middle-class Hamburg housewife in her diary on Jan. 30, 1933. She had just watched the parade of torch-bearing storm troopers celebrate Adolf Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.
Frau Solmitz did not, however, extol only Hitler. She waxed melodic about Hitler’s cabinet, in which there were just three Nazis. All the others were upstanding conservatives, men like Franz von Papen, the aristocratic former chancellor and leader of the Catholic Center Party, and the career bureaucrat Constantin von Neurath, who was named to head up the foreign ministry. These were experienced men, reasonable men. They would contain Hitler’s excesses. After four years of economic depression and political paralysis, 14 years since the humiliation of the Versailles Peace Treaty, decades of an overweening Jewish presence in German public life, it was time for a new beginning. It was time to make Germany great again.
There was nothing inevitable or predetermined about the Nazi assumption of power. It was the result of a conscious political decision by traditional conservatives made in a time of crisis when Germany wallowed in depression and the political system lay paralyzed.
The conservative elite had its roots in the churches, Protestant and Catholic, and in the old tradition of state service in a monarchy and an authoritarian, lord-of-the-manor practice that they then carried over, helped along by the new industrial bourgeoisie, to Germany’s highly productive industrial economy. These traditionalists hated the very idea of democracy, but they understood that there had to be limits to state power, and they shied away from rampant, excessive violence. They also understood that human beings are imperfect and prone to error and that the essential Nazi hubris was the belief in the perfectibility of the race.
Which brings us to the current right-wing populist surge all across Europe and the United States. Certainly, real grievances exist that have created support for the Right. As one report after another recounts, many communities have been hard hit by globalization. The factories rust away, the jobs available are low-level, low-paying service positions. Inequalities have risen everywhere, most obscenely in the United States. Even Germany has developed a two-tier labor market, one segment well-protected and well-paid, the other comprising temporary and part-time workers who have little access to the country’s vaunted social welfare programs and high wages. In the United States, commentators have suddenly woken up to the fact that the elite in both parties is well-heeled, well-situated, and out of touch with the economic dislocation experienced by so many people.
And yet there exists the odd, uncomfortable fact that Western societies are notably well off, and many right-wing populists are by no means destitute. Even Denmark and Austria, each a paradise of comfort and well being, each harboring excellent school systems and extensive social welfare networks, have witnessed a right-wing surge. The much-touted report that the average Trump supporter earns $70,000 a yearnot great, perhaps, but certainly not bad and significantly above the U.S. poverty levelmarks further evidence that the discontent that feeds right-wing populism goes far beyond economics. In fact, economics is probably not the primary factor.
Instead, the right-wing sensibility in the Western world is largely cultural in nature. It is directed against those identified as foreigners, even when they are third-generation Germans, French, or Britons, whose families may have hailed from Turkey, Morocco, or Jamaica. Race is also a factor, but not exclusively so. Many of those deemed “foreign” are of darker hues than the native-born, but the Brexit vote was also directed against Poles, Lithuanians, and other Europeans who could travel and settle freely in Britain as citizens of other European Union countries. The surge in refugees coming to Europe in the past year and a half has certainly exacerbated the hostilities against foreigners, but the sentiment existed well beforehand.
Donald Trump and his European analogues express a deep contempt for foreigners, or those whom they deem to be foreigners. Sometimes the language is coded and comes across in polite terms. At other moments, it is virulent. The political language that they speak enables the creation of a broad-based right-wing populism. “Respectable” members of society in Poland, France, or the United States hear the coded language and nod their heads in approval, while those on the far right, prone to violence, respond affirmatively to the more virulent rhetoric.
Trump, like many other right-wing leaders, plays both sides of the rhetorical street (as Hitler did as well, and masterfully so). His comments about Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, judges with Hispanic roots as biased, and Muslims as inherently dangerous display his open racism. He implies that only white men are upstanding citizens; only they can be objective and be trusted to implement the law. “America First,” he rails, a seemingly reasonable slogan with which many people could agree. Trump seems blithely unaware of the tainted history of the term, which goes back to the isolationists, Nazi sympathizers, and anti-Semites of the 1930s and ’40s. “Make America Great Again” is also code that plays well. Trump conjures up the 1950s, a wonderful decade for some in America, but certainly not for African-Americans, who remained subject to Jim Crow legislation and violence of the worst sort in the South as well as the North, nor for Hispanics, who suffered all kinds of discrimination.


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