German Leaders Thought Hitler Was Trump

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine asks why leading Republicans are supporting Trump and finds the answer in 1933:

“Like Hitler, Trump is a radical, authoritarian figure who lies outside the normal parameters of his country’s conservative governing class. Thus, there is a parallel between the two men’s unexpected rise to power that is worth considering: Why would traditional conservatives willingly hand power to a figure so dangerous that he threatened their own political and economic interests? Why, having failed in their halfhearted efforts to nominate an alternative candidate during the primaries, don’t they throw themselves behind a convention coup, a third-party candidacy, or defect outright to Hillary Clinton? Why do so many of them consider Trump the lesser rather than the greater evil?”

“….In January 1933, the Nazi party’s vote share had begun to decline, and its party was undergoing a serious internal crisis, with dues falling, members drifting off, and other leaders questioning Hitler’s direction. A widely shared belief across the political spectrum at the time held that Hitler would not and could not win the chancellorship….”

“Hindenburg and the German right viewed Hitler in strikingly similar terms to how Republican elites view Trump….Alfred Hugenberg, leader of the German-Nationals, deemed the Nazis “little better than a rabble, with dangerously radical social and economic notions…Hindenburg considered Hitler qualified to head the postal ministry at best. Hitler, in their eyes, was not a serious man, unfit to govern, a classless buffoon. His appeal, the German elite believed, came from his outsider status, which allowed him to posture against the political system and make extravagant promises to his followers that would never be tested against reality.”

“All this is to say that German conservatives did not see Hitler as Hitler — they saw Hitler as Trump. And the reasons they devised to overcome their qualms and accept him as the head of state would ring familiar to followers of the 2016 campaign. They believed the responsibility of governing would tame Hitler, and that his beliefs were amorphous and could be shaped by advisers once in office. They respected his populist appeal and believed it could serve their own ends….Their myopic concern with specifics of their policy agenda overcame their general sense of unease….Think of the supply-siders supporting Trump in the hope he can enact major tax cuts, or the social conservatives enthused about his list of potential judges, and you’ll have a picture of the thought process….”

“Whatever norms or bounds that we think limit the damage a president could inflict are likely to be exceeded if that president is Trump. Those Republicans who publicly endorse Trump because he probably won’t win may be making an error on a historic scale.”

The full article is here.