Historian Volker Ullrich, in his new book Hitler: The Ascent (1889-1939), has analyzed what Hitler’s personal characteristics were and how he gained power. Here is what he and other historians have concluded and how I think Donald Trump fits the same pattern.
Hitler exploited the social and political conditions in Germany following World War I – public bitterness over the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and a yearning for a return to German greatness; unemployment and economic distress amid the worldwide Depression of the early 1930s; and longstanding ethnic prejudices and fears of immigrants and foreigners.
Trump’s main mantra is to make America great again. He emphasizes how terrible he thinks the country and economy are now and how dangerous immigrants are.
Hitler rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and an appeal to nationalism. Germany’s political parties were seen as dysfunctional because they were unwilling to compromise. Hitler’s supporters believed he was “a man of iron” who could shake things up.
Trump claims he can put America first in all international negotiations. He claims to be the only person who can shake up the status quo and save us from the failures of Congress and the current administration.
Hitler was often described as an egomaniac and a narcissist who used self-dramatization and superlatives. His frenzied speeches and his willingness to take risks raised questions about his self-control.
Trump uses superlatives continually – greatest, most beautiful, biggest, best, worst, weakest, total loser. His speech is rapid, repetitive, vague, deliberately misleading, emotional, and carefully orchestrated to persuade people to blindly agree and follow. He has been most consistently described as narcissistic and has repeatedly shown very little self control.
Hitler was thoroughly untruthful and could not recognize the difference between lies and truth. The editors of Mein Kampf described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”
Not only does Trump lie more than any other presidential candidate, according to data compiled by PolitiFact, he continues to deny his lies even when they are refuted. Some examples: He asserted that President Obama was not born in the U.S., and he continued the lie for several years after it was proven false. He denies the validity of climate change in spite of 97 percent of all scientists documenting its truth. He promised in 2014 to release his tax returns if nominated, and he has not done that. He advocates the dangerous and discredited theory of eugenics and the idea of genetically superior people, especially himself.
Hitler crafted his speeches to appeal to his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnocentric and anti-Semitic listeners. He peppered his speeches with vulgar language and put-downs of hecklers. He stirred up crowds by playing to their fears and resentments and by claiming to be the visionary leader who could restore law and order and lead Germany to national greatness and a return to a golden age, although his plans were vague. He spoke in a way that was “hypnotic in its power to inspire a toxic combination of hatred and hope.”
Trump has aggressively attacked and demonized Mexican immigrants, women, protesters, a POW, the media, veterans with PTSD, and anyone who criticizes him. He has incited supporters to attack protesters and used both direct and veiled language that encourages anger, hate and violence, especially in those with pre-existing prejudices, paranoia and hostility. Trump first humiliated Miss Universe Alicia Machado when she was 18. Then when Hillary Clinton criticized him for his behavior, he accused Machado of being a disgusting con and of being in a pornographic video. The sex tape accusation was debunked almost immediately. Machado was never in a pornographic video, although there are several misleading photo-shopped tapes on line.
He attracted larger and larger audiences with repetitious accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future. He specialized in using emotional arguments rather than reason.
Critics underestimated him because they thought his style and appearance were revolting and he was only an entertainer. He was described in the 1930s as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” and a “big mouth.” By the time they knew he was nothing but a power-hungry con man with delusions of grandeur, it was too late.
Trump’s “claim to fame” is his business acumen, yet he had a net operating loss of more than 915 million dollars in 1995. I also experienced a large (for me) net operating loss several years ago that I carried back 2 years and can carry forward 20 years or until it’s used up to offset taxable income. Although the net operating loss carry forward is perfectly legal and does not require genius to use, I consider my loss an embarrassment for a poor business decision. Trump’s was more than three thousand times larger than mine, so it was huge, even for the world’s greatest business tycoon. He evidently had several very large business failures and several bankruptcies. Obviously, he doesn’t ALWAYS win. Perhaps his whole campaign is just a con game by an egotistical huckster with delusions of grandeur. Allowing Trump, with his character traits, to become the most powerful person in the world would be truly terrifying.