“Better Trump than Hillary”: Really?
Supporters of Trump today make the same devastating mistake as the French right in the 1930s.
June 2, 2016
The world, most Americans and the best minds of the GOP are now really worried about Donald Trump.
Among a long list of his most anxiety-producing pronouncements:
- His call for arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons
- His urging we “re-negotiate” America’s solemn commitment to pay her debts in full
- His open admiration of demagogues and dictators around the world and throughout history
- His assurance of rogue members of our own military that, with Trump as Commander in Chief, the law, tradition, and codes of honor may be safely disregarded
- His willingness to threaten countries whose economies (not to mention their militaries) will be critical to both world peace and our own economic success
- His anti-free-trade support for a brand of neo-isolationist protectionism that once brought us the joys of the Great Depression
- His uncanny ability to alienate both the Labor left and the Conservative right in, of all places, Great Britain
- His notions that women seeking abortions should be “punished’, along with those who help them
- His demonizing of our Mexican neighbors and by extension, our fellow citizens of Mexican descent
- His insane wall along the border with Mexico and his proposed ban on Muslims (including, by definition, the Mayor of London) from entering the country
Worse than what Trump has said has been the appropriation of his words and mindset by truly evil people in the United States and abroad.
Trumpism goes global
Around the globe, Trumpism has been celebrated by not only “modern” racists, misogynists and neo-fascists, but also by the remnants and heirs of the real thing.
His counterpart in the recent Austrian presidential elections, to cite only one example, represented a party founded and led after World War Two by former SS officers and Nazi Party officials.
We fear, because we know, there will be always be some who will gladly answer his call to murder the families of suspected terrorists.
We know that some can be found, even in our U.S. military, who would happily violate international law and our own Uniform Code of Military Justice to “serve” the President by engaging in practices that go far “beyond” waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Perhaps more distressing still are those members of Trump’s adopted party who, after clearly calling Trump out in no uncertain terms during the Republican primaries, are now “rallying around the Trump flag, for whatever reason.
Their slogan (that supposedly justifies everything): “Better Trump than Hillary.”
Lessons from French history
The phrase reminds this writer of the efforts of the French right in the mid- and late-1930 to “whitewash” their own deplorable choices and agendas.
Facing the aftermath of the first devastating world war, the impact of The Great Depression and the resurgence of a Germany that had never really admitted defeat, their rallying call was to go after Leon Blum.
The leader of the French Government of the time (1936-1937 and again briefly in 1938) was a “socialist” – in the vein that we would now describe as the German SPD or British Labour Party sense of the word.
He was also a Jew, like the then-still-hated Alfred Dreyfus, and the first among them to hold the highest electoral office in France.
The French right, big business and heavy industry, royalists, as well as much, if not all, of the French Catholic Church and French antisemites of all stripes, all found at least one good reason to hate Blum.
In today’s poll-driven parlance, his “negatives” were high.
Why was all that venom poured on the man? He had, after all, introduced the 40-hour week, empowered labor unions and managed to keep France out of the Spanish Civil War. He wasn’t a Christian.
The French right was deeply frustrated because it couldn’t find was a leader of their own who could hold a candle to Blum.
When asked why they chose to vote for the likes of men who would later be tried as war criminals and traitors, their answer was always a call to class, party, religious, racial or national loyalty. And they always presented their choice in the knee-jerk recital of what became their slogan, “Better Hitler than Blum.”
Trump is not Hitler
Trump does, however, attract, encourage and empower all too many followers, friends, admirers and supporters of a similar mindset to those who supported National Socialism in the years before the Holocaust, and its paler modern anti-semitic and anti Muslim analogs.
Urging others to vote for Trump out of pure hatred for Hillary Clinton, or progressivism, or FDR liberalism bears more than a striking resemblance to the self-destructive mindset of the French right of the 1930s.
Some of Trump’s brightest, most patriotic and articulate Republican opponents were right about him early on.
Nothing has changed.
But if he is elected President, much will change … and, odds are, for the worse.