You’ve probably noticed that a lot of people are writing what looks like post-mortems for the Trump campaign when there are still about three weeks left. Trump himself is even doing it, albeit in a sort of backwards way, in the form of a preemptive explanation that if he loses it’s because the election was “rigged.” That’s not surprising, since that was pretty much his reaction to any loss of his in the primaries, right from the very start. Here’s his response to his loss in Iowa, the very first contest of the primary/caucus season:
Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!
Among many other things that he is, Trump’s a very sore loser, and if (and when, in my opinion) he loses this election we’ll hear a lot about the betrayals and backstabbings and riggings that caused it, and we’ll hear it from Trump and from his most vociferous proponents. In fact, back in the first week April (shortly after I realized that Trump would be the almost-inevitable nominee), I wrote a draft for a post that I haven’t yet published, entitled, “Preparing the ‘stab in the back’ narrative for the Trump loss.” Here was the beginning of the draft (I didn’t get too much further than that):
Commenter “Rotten” writes: “Trump will win a general election if the GOP doesn’t knife him in the back.”
Yes indeed, that’s what will be said. If Trump is the nominee and he loses, it will not be because he is the worst candidate in modern memory and couldn’t even win over the GOP much less the general electorate. It will be because the GOPe “knifed him in the back,” despite the fact that his approval ratings and polls have been abysmal for the entire campaign.
For those aware of history, the phrase “stab in the back” has a historical significance. It was a widely-believed myth on the German right that was part of the complex chain of events that Hitler rode to power:
The stab-in-the-back myth was the notion, widely believed in right-wing circles in Germany after 1918, that the German Army did not lose World War I but was instead betrayed by the civilians on the home front, especially the republicans who overthrew the monarchy in the German Revolution of 1918–19. Advocates denounced the German government leaders who signed the Armistice on November 11, 1918, as the “November Criminals.”
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they made the legend an integral part of their official history of the 1920s, portraying the Weimar Republic as the work of the “November criminals” who used the stab in the back to seize power while betraying the nation. The Nazi propaganda depicted Weimar as “a morass of corruption, degeneracy, national humiliation, ruthless persecution of the honest ‘national opposition’—fourteen years of rule by Jews, Marxists, and ‘cultural Bolsheviks’, who had at last been swept away by the National Socialist movement under Adolf Hitler and the victory of the ‘national revolution’ of 1933”.
And no, Trump is not Hitler. But there are certain techniques of his that have a harmonic vibration, and in addition (as I pointed out last February), there is also a resonance in the emotional state of a certain angry and disgruntled segment of the population that’s been building in the US for many many years.
Which is not to say that people (and I include myself here) don’t have things to be angry about. But it’s always a question of how reasonable the anger is, who a person is angry with and whether that’s the actual culprit, who is whipping up the anger for his or her own purposes (and what those purposes might be), and to whom or what a person turns in his/her anger.
I have maintained in many posts here that the anger at the GOPe is valid but overwrought and exaggerated, and that those who are so angry at them often imagine the GOP in Congress could have and should have done certain things that were either impossible or would have been counterproductive. I have maintained that the left profits from this anger and that some people stirring it up are on the left, although most are on the right and have their own purposes for doing it. Some are sincere, but many have as their sole or partial goal their own self-aggrandizement and increased ratings and audience. And what is done as a result of that anger—the “to whom or what a person turns” part—never should have been the nomination of Donald Trump in 2016, for reasons that have been explained over and over again but can be boiled down to Trump being an unappealing (that is, actually repulsive to many voters) and amoral loose cannon who is out for his own power and is probably more of a liberal than he is a conservative.
The Trump phenomenon is better understood as a colossal F U to all of the lies and broken promises politicians have hoisted upon the masses over the years. It is the savage blowback to the money-sucking rules and regulations and taxes that heavily burden a broad range of the middle and upper middle classes. It is a YUGE “suck it” to the self-aggrandizement and pocket lining that goes on within the Beltway. It is a swift backlash against the swarm of Beltway wannabees who want in on DC action in order to enrich themselves on the backs of the people, to the detriment of the country. … The only fix is a virus and it just so happens, Trump is the virus…
The attitude of the average Trump supporter is that no matter how much of a buffoon he might be, he isn’t as bad as all of the other career pols out there who misstate, misspeak, and misremember but always get away with it because they claim to be above the fray, of impeccable character, or to soar high when others stoop low. Whether hard-core from the get-go or johnny-come-latelies, Trump supporters have such little regard for political elites, that they’ll support anyone who isn’t making his or her money off of their votes.
There’s much more in that vein.
And now we’ll have a compare and contrast. This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in mid-February 2016:
The following is an excerpt from Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free. The book, first published in 1955, is an exploration of Germans’ attitudes in the period leading up to WWII and including the war and its immediate aftermath. It features interviews with ten “typical” Germans, conducted a couple of years after the war’s end, and offers extraordinary and often relevant insights into how it was that Hitler came to power and stayed there so long.
Here is my general discussion of the book and its author, who was a man of the left. To understand the following excerpt, it is helpful to know that for the purposes of the book, Mayer refers to the ten interviewees as his “friends”:
National Socialism was a repulsion of my friends against parliamentary politics, parliamentary debate, parliamentary government—against all the higgling and the haggling of the parties and the splinter parties, their coalitions, their confusions, and their conniving. It was the final fruit of the common man’s repudiation of “the rascals.” Its motif was “throw them all out.” My friends, in the 1920’s, were like spectators at a wrestling match who suspect that beneath all the grunts and groans, the struggle and the sweat, the match is “fixed,” that the performers are only pretending to put on a fight. The scandals that rocked the country, as one party or cabal “exposed” another, dismayed and then disgusted my friends…
My friends wanted Germany purified. They wanted it purified of the politicians, of all the politicians. They wanted a representative leader in place of unrepresentative representatives. And Hitler, the pure man, the antipolitician, was the man, untainted by “politics,” which was only a cloak for corruption…Against “the whole pack,” “the whole kaboodle,” “the whole business,” against all the parliamentary parties, my friends evoked Hitlerism, and Hitlerism overthrew them all…
This was the Bewegung, the movement, that restored my friends and bewitched them. Those Germans who saw it all at the beginning—there were not very many; there never are, I suppose, anywhere—called Hitler the Rattenfänger, the “ratcatcher.” Every American child has read The Pied-Piper of Hamlin. Every German child has read it, too. In German its title is Der Rattenfänger von Hameln.
When bringing up anything to do with Hitler in the context of today’s world, one must be ultra-careful to make it clear (as I am doing now, once again) that the analogy is not to Hitler himself but (in this case) to a state of mind in the populace that lashes out against a flawed government, and reaches out in its anger and frustration for a remedy that is in fact far more flawed than the original disease, when there were better remedies at hand. Right now, one of the probable upshots of the Trump nomination is that a likely victory over Hillary Clinton was turned into the reverse, a likely victory for Hillary Clinton.
That is another very terrible result. America will have committed what I consider an unforced error. And history—unfortunately—isn’t baseball.