I’ve mentioned before that the New York Review of Books has been suffering a complete freakout meltdown since Trump’s election, and I gleefully look forward to every issue to microwave another bag of popcorn.
The latest issue offers a long review entitled “Lessons from Hitler’s Rise,” by Christopher Browning. Although it is a review of a translation of a book about Hitler by a German scholar published before Trump’s election, how long do you think it takes Browning to roll out the Trumpenfuhrer analogy? Yup—first paragraph:
In early 2017 it is impossible for an American to read the newly published English translation of this book outside the shadow cast by our new president.
No one should read on any further, of course, but as I am your humble servant, naturally I did (so that you don’t have to).
To begin I would stipulate emphatically that Trump is not Hitler and the American Republic in the early twenty-first century is not Weimar. There are many stark differences between both the men and the historical conditions in which they ascended to power.
Well it’s a relief to be told that Trump is not Hitler. I was worried. So maybe this thing will settle down into something relatively normal? Sorry—NYRB writers can’t help themselves, or the NYRB doesn’t allow it. A little further down:
More important was the fact that by the age of twenty-five—lacking education, career training, or job experience—[Hitler] was still a man completely adrift, without any support network of family or friends, and without any future prospects. Nothing could be more different from Trump’s life of privilege, prestigious and expensive private schools, and hefty financial support from his father to enter the business world. . .
For Trump the Vietnam War was a minor inconvenience for which he received four deferments for education followed by a medical exemption because of bone spurs, and his self-proclaimed heroic equivalent was avoiding venereal disease despite a vigorous campaign of limitless promiscuity. In war as in childhood, Hitler and Trump could not have had more different experiences. . .
The discreet and undemanding Eva Braun (twenty-two years his junior), consistently hidden from the public, proved to be the perfect match in facilitating Hitler’s desire to maintain the image that his total devotion to the cause transcended any mere physical needs or desires. Once again, the contrast with Trump—parading a sequence of three glamorous wives and boasting about the extent of his sexual conquests, his ability to engage in sexual assault with impunity because of his celebrity, as well as the size of his manhood—could not be starker. . .
So if you’re thinking by now that Trump might actually escape the indictment, just wait:
If Hitler and Trump are utterly different in their childhoods and wartime experiences on the one hand and attitudes toward women and wealth on the other, the historical circumstances in which they made their political ascents exhibit partial similarities. . .
Here it comes.
Both Hitler and Trump proclaimed their countries to be “losers,” offered themselves as the sole solution to these crises, and pledged a return to the glories of an imagined golden past. Hitler promised a great “renewal” in Germany, Trump to “make America great again.” Both men defied old norms and invented unprecedented ways of waging their political campaigns. Both men developed a charismatic relationship with their “base” that centered on large rallies. Both emphasized their “outsider” status and railed against the establishment, privileged elites, and corrupt special interests. Both voiced grievances against enemies (Hitler’s “November criminals” and “Jewish Bolsheviks,” Trump’s “Mexican rapists,” “radical Islamic terror,” and the “dishonest” press). And both men benefited from being seriously underestimated by experts and rivals.
Okay, that’s enough. It’s pretty clear these folks just can’t help themselves. Where’d I put my popcorn?