No, Donald Trump Isn't Hitler

With increasing frequency, commentators and Facebook philosophers have taken to comparing Donald Trump to Hitler; they should stop. Donald Trump is awful--he's racist, he's Islamophobic, he's a bigot, he's an idiot--but he isn't Hitler.
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With increasing frequency, commentators and Facebook philosophers have taken to comparing Donald Trump to Hitler; they should stop. Donald Trump is awful--he's racist, he's Islamophobic, he's a bigot, he's an idiot--but he isn't Hitler.

These repeated comparisons are as ignorant of history as they are offensive to those of us who lost ancestors in the Holocaust. Trump's ideology is substantively different than that espoused by Hitler. Trump is less likely to win than Hitler was. And if Trump wins, the result will not be the same as Hitler's regime.

Let's break this down.

First, fascism, and the ideology of Nazism in particular, blamed the Jews not only for the economic collapse of Germany in the late 1920s, but also for Germany's loss in World War I. At no point did Hitler meaningfully distinguish between German Jews and non-German Jews, or between immigrant Jews and non-immigrant Jews.

In fact, for Hitler, it was the very fact that there existed German Jewish citizens at all that "endangered" the German nation and state. By contrast, Trump speaks specifically about undocumented immigrants--in a racist way, yes, but in a way substantively different than the way Hitler spoke about Jews. Trump does not have a problem with Latinos/Latinas per se. This contrasts starkly with Hitler's concern: The existence of Jewish people and citizens, not Jewish immigrants.

Moreover, Trump, and other Republicans, evince a concern over assimilation and multiculturalism--they want immigrants who come here, legally or not, to assimilate into American culture, rather than retaining their own. This manifests itself in their support for policies such as English as an official language, language about "invasion," and so on. Again, in stark contrast, Hitler did not care whether Jews were assimilated or not--all Jews were slated for extermination, regardless of whether they embraced German culture or not.

Trump's rhetoric regarding Muslims is, admittedly, closer to the mark. That said, there remains a substantial difference between Trump's underlying ideology of xenophobia and Islamophobia, and Hitler's race-based ideology: Much of what Trump has had to say about Muslims has regarded Muslim immigrants, and specifically Muslim refugees. To a large extent, his fixture on Muslim immigrants is an outgrowth of his broader xenophobia. Moreover, Trump does not seem concerned with a "Muslim race" the way that Hitler was concerned about the "Jewish race."

At this point it is also worth noting some key differences in the explicit political programs of Trump and Hitler. In February 1920, long before Holocaust was underway, Hitler announced the 25-point Programme. This included such points as "we demand land and territory [i.e., colonies] for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population," the creation of a "Greater Germany," and "Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race." The Programme also called for the expulsion of all Jews from the media or any ownership interest in it, and the establishment of a central authority with "unlimited authority."

By contrast, Trump's platform calls for the following: a wall along the southern border of the United States; more ICE officers; nationwide e-verify; the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The most radical points of his platform are (1) end to birthright citizenship and (2) preventing Muslims from entering the United States, but even so that pales in comparison to the specifically racialized and anti-Jew points of Hitler's platform. At no point does Trump call for ending the citizenship of Muslims or Latinos/Latinas writ large, as Hitler did for Jews. (It is not even clear whether Trump actually supports a "database" for American Muslims.)

Furthermore, Hitler and the Nazi Party used a private army, the Sturmabteilung (SA), to enforce their political will and, in an organized way, terrorize Jews, Jewish-owned businesses, and Jewish places of worship. The SA was formed in 1920, more than a decade before Hitler and the Nazis assumed power. The SA intimidated political opponents and Jews with violence. No such organization exists that is affiliated with Donald Trump's campaign.

Second, Trump is less likely to win than Hitler was for a variety of reasons: Weimar Germany was particularly politically unstable; the Weimar constitution provided for a proportional representation system which enabled the election of radical parties and politicians (for example, it was possible to win seats in parliament with as little as 0.4 percent of the vote); and Hitler's SA artificially created political emergencies which he then blamed on his political opponents. None of these things are the case in the United States today.

Third, even in the unlikely event that Trump did win, and even were it the case that Trump's platform substantially mirrored Hitler's (it doesn't), he wouldn't be able to enact it. This is attributable, again, to the vast differences between the American and Weimar constitutions.

For example, because the Weimar republic used a parliamentary system, a party's choice for chancellor was also the head of the party. By contrast, in the United States, political parties are operated through a variety of political organs, and while the sitting president of a party has substantial influence, he does not have full control of the party. Another result of the parliamentary system meant that individual MPs were fully under the control of the party head--i.e., Hitler. Because the United States has no such system, members of Congress can (and often do) split with their party. Both of these things are of note because it was Hitler's control over the Nazi Party, combined with the Party's control of the parliament, that enabled him to become chancellor and subsequently suspend civil and political liberties. Even without any other American constitutional provisions in play, this alone would be sufficient to block any similar program.

There were other significant weaknesses in the Weimar constitution, such as Article 48, which allowed the president to suspend the constitution itself in cases of "emergency." When Hitler became chancellor, it was this exact provision that enabled him to do away with the democratic regime and the Weimar constitution. By contrast, the U.S. constitution operates at all times, even (and perhaps especially) during emergencies. Without any mechanism by which to suspend the Constitution, Trump would be faced with the task of amending the Constitution itself--something exceedingly difficult and rarely accomplished.

In conclusion, Trump is not Hitler, and this is a bad comparison, and people should stop making it.

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