[The author of a new book, Burt Neuborne, is one of America’s
top civil liberties lawyers, and questions whether federal government
can contain Trump and GOP power grabs] [https://portside.org/] 

 LEADING CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER SHOWS 20 WAYS TRUMP IS COPYING HITLER’S
EARLY RHETORIC AND POLICIES   [https://portside.org/node/20758] 

 

 Steven Rosenfeld 
 August 9, 2019
Common Dreams
[https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/08/09/leading-civil-rights-lawyer-shows-20-ways-trump-copying-hitlers-early-rhetoric-and]


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 _ The author of a new book, Burt Neuborne, is one of America’s top
civil liberties lawyers, and questions whether federal government can
contain Trump and GOP power grabs _ 

 We’re used to thinking of Hitler’s Third Reich as the
incomparably evil tyranny that it undoubtedly was. But Hitler used a
set of rhetorical tropes codified in Trump’s bedside reading that
persuaded enough Germans to welcome Hitler as a populist leader.,
Photo: photolibrarian/Flickr/cc 

 

A new book by one of the nation’s foremost civil liberties lawyers
powerfully describes how America’s constitutional checks and
balances are being pushed to the brink by a president who is
consciously following Adolf Hitler’s extremist propaganda and policy
template from the early 1930s—when the Nazis took power in Germany.

In When at Times the Mob Is Swayed: A Citizen’s Guide to Defending
Our Republic [https://thenewpress.com/books/when-times-mob-swayed],
Burt Neuborne mostly focuses on how America’s constitutional
foundation in 2019—an unrepresentative Congress, the Electoral
College and a right-wing Supreme Court majority—is not positioned to
withstand Trump’s extreme polarization and GOP power grabs. However,
its second chapter, “Why the Sudden Concern About Fixing the
Brakes?,” extensively details Trump’s mimicry of Hitler’s
pre-war rhetoric and strategies.

Neuborne doesn’t make this comparison lightly. His 55-year career
began by challenging the constitutionality of the Vietnam War in the
1960s. He became the ACLU’s national legal director in the 1980s
under Ronald Reagan. He was founding legal director of the Brennan
Center for Justice at New York University Law School in the 1990s. He
has been part of more than 200 Supreme Court cases and Holocaust
reparation litigation.

“Why does an ignorant, narcissistic buffoon like Trump trigger such
anxiety? Why do so many Americans feel it existentially (not just
politically) important to resist our forty-fifth president?” he
writes. “Partly it’s just aesthetics. Trump is such a coarse and
appalling man that it’s hard to stomach his presence in Abraham
Lincoln’s house. But that’s not enough to explain the intensity of
my dread. LBJ was coarse. Gerald Ford and George W. Bush were dumb as
rocks. Richard Nixon was an anti-Semite. Bill Clinton’s mistreatment
of women dishonored his office. Ronald Reagan was a dangerous
ideologue. I opposed each of them when they appeared to exceed their
constitutional powers. But I never felt a sense of existential dread.
I never sensed that the very existence of a tolerant democracy was in
play.”

A younger Trump, according to his first wife’s divorce filings, kept
and studied a book translating and annotating
[https://www.alternet.org/2015/12/donald-trump-getting-his-cues-hitler-how-gop-leader-following-fuhrers-recipe/] Adolf
Hitler’s pre-World War II speeches in a locked bedside cabinet,
Neuborne noted. The English edition of My New Order
[https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30337500743&searchurl=fe%3Don%26sortby%3D17%26tn%3Dmy%2Bnew%2Border&cm_sp=snippet-_-srp1-_-title3],
published in 1941, also had analyses
[https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/adolf-hitler-2/my-new-order/] of
the speeches’ impact on his era’s press and politics. “Ugly and
appalling as they are, those speeches are masterpieces of demagogic
manipulation,” Neuborne says.

“Watching Trump work his crowds, though, I see a dangerously
manipulative narcissist unleashing the demagogic spells that he
learned from studying Hitler’s speeches—spells that he cannot
control and that are capable of eroding the fabric of American
democracy,” Neuborne says. “You see, we’ve seen what these
rhetorical techniques can do. Much of Trump’s rhetoric—as a
candidate and in office—mirrors the strategies, even the language,
used by Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s to erode German democracy.”

Many Americans may seize or condemn Neuborne’s analysis, which has
more than 20 major points of comparison. The author repeatedly says
his goal is not “equating” the men—as “it trivializes
Hitler’s obscene crimes to compare them to Trump’s often pathetic
foibles.”

Indeed, the book has a larger frame: whether federal checks and
balances—Congress, the Supreme Court, the Electoral College—can
contain the havoc that Trump thrives on and the Republican Party at
large has embraced. But the Trump-Hitler compilation is a stunning
warning, because, as many Holocaust survivors have said, few Germans
or Europeans expected what unfolded in the years after Hitler amassed
power.

Here’s how Neuborne introduces this section. Many recent presidents
have been awful, “But then there was Donald Trump, the only
president in recent American history to openly despise the twin
ideals—individual dignity and fundamental equality—upon which the
contemporary United States is built. When you confront the reality of
a president like Trump, the state of both sets of brakes—internal
[constitutional] and external [public resistance]—become hugely
important because Donald Trump’s political train runs on the most
potent and dangerous fuel of all: a steady diet of fear, greed,
loathing, lies, and envy. It’s a toxic mixture that has destroyed
democracies before, and can do so again.

“Give Trump credit,” he continues. “He did his homework well and
became the twenty-first-century master of divisive rhetoric. We’re
used to thinking of Hitler’s Third Reich as the incomparably evil
tyranny that it undoubtedly was. But Hitler didn’t take power by
force. He used a set of rhetorical tropes codified in Trump’s
bedside reading that persuaded enough Germans to welcome Hitler as a
populist leader. The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It
fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to
mesmerize enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of
scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It
could happen here.”

20 COMMON THEMES, RHETORICAL TACTICS AND DANGEROUS POLICIES

Here are 20 serious points of comparison between the early Hitler and
Trump.

1. Neither was elected by a majority. Trump lost the popular vote by
2.9 million votes, receiving votes by 25.3 percent of all eligible
American voters. “That’s just a little less than the percentage of
the German electorate that turned to the Nazi Party in 1932–33,”
Neuborne writes. “Unlike the low turnouts in the United States,
turnout in Weimar Germany averaged just over 80 percent of eligible
voters.” He continues, “Once installed as a minority chancellor in
January 1933, Hitler set about demonizing his political opponents, and
no one—not the vaunted, intellectually brilliant German judiciary;
not the respected, well-trained German police; not the revered,
aristocratic German military; not the widely admired, efficient German
government bureaucracy; not the wealthy, immensely powerful leaders of
German industry; and not the powerful center-right political leaders
of the Reichstag—mounted a serious effort to stop him.”

2. Both found direct communication channels to their base. By
1936’s Olympics, Nazi narratives dominated German cultural and
political life. “How on earth did Hitler pull it off? What satanic
magic did Trump find in Hitler’s speeches?” Neuborne asks. He
addresses Hitler’s extreme rhetoric soon enough, but notes that
Hitler found a direct communication pathway—the Nazi Party gave out
radios with only one channel, tuned to Hitler’s voice, bypassing
Germany’s news media. Trump has an online equivalent.

“Donald Trump’s tweets, often delivered between midnight and dawn,
are the twenty-first century’s technological embodiment of
Hitler’s free plastic radios,” Neuborne says. “Trump’s Twitter
account, like Hitler’s radios, enables a charismatic leader to
establish and maintain a personal, unfiltered line of communication
with an adoring political base of about 30–40 percent of the
population, many (but not all) of whom are only too willing, even
anxious, to swallow Trump’s witches’ brew of falsehoods,
half-truths, personal invective, threats, xenophobia, national
security scares, religious bigotry, white racism, exploitation of
economic insecurity, and a never ending-search for scapegoats.”

3. Both blame others and divide on racial lines. As Neuborne notes,
“Hitler used his single-frequency radios to wax hysterical to his
adoring base about his pathological racial and religious fantasies
glorifying Aryans and demonizing Jews, blaming Jews (among other
racial and religious scapegoats) for German society’s ills.” That
is comparable to “Trump’s tweets and public statements, whether
dealing with black-led demonstrations against police violence,
white-led racist mob violence, threats posed by undocumented aliens,
immigration policy generally, protests by black and white professional
athletes, college admission policies, hate speech, even response to
hurricane damage in Puerto Rico,” he says. Again and again, Trump
uses “racially tinged messages calculated to divide whites from
people of color.”

4. Both relentlessly demonize opponents. “Hitler’s radio
harangues demonized his domestic political opponents, calling them
parasites, criminals, cockroaches, and various categories of leftist
scum,” Neuborne notes. “Trump’s tweets and speeches similarly
demonize his political opponents. Trump talks about the country being
‘infested’ with dangerous aliens of color. He fantasizes about
jailing Hillary Clinton, calls Mexicans rapists, refers to ‘shithole
countries,’ degrades anyone who disagrees with him, and dreams of
uprooting thousands of allegedly disloyal bureaucrats in the State
Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA,
who he calls ‘the deep state’ and who, he claims, are sabotaging
American greatness.”

5. They unceasingly attack objective truth. “Both Trump and Hitler
maintained a relentless assault on the very idea of objective
truth,” he continues. “Each began the assault by seeking to
delegitimize the mainstream press. Hitler quickly coined the epithet
Lügenpresse (literally ‘lying press’) to denigrate the mainstream
press. Trump uses a paraphrase of Hitler’s lying press
epithet—‘fake news’—cribbed, no doubt, from one of Hitler’s
speeches. For Trump, the mainstream press is a ‘lying press’ that
publishes ‘fake news.’” Hitler attacked his opponents as
spreading false information to undermine his positions, Neuborne says,
just as Trump has attacked “elites” for disseminating false news,
“especially his possible links to the Kremlin.”

6. They relentlessly attack mainstream media. Trump’s assaults on
the media echo Hitler’s, Neuborne says, noting that he “repeatedly
attacks the ‘failing New York Times,’ leads crowds in chanting
‘CNN sucks,’ [and] is personally hostile to most reporters.” He
cites the White House’s refusal to fly the flag at half-mast after
the murder of five journalists in Annapolis in June 2018, Trump’s
efforts to punish CNN by blocking a merger of its corporate parent,
and trying to revoke federal Postal Service contracts held by Amazon,
which was founded by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

7. Their attacks on truth include science. Neuborne notes, “Both
Trump and Hitler intensified their assault on objective truth by
deriding scientific experts, especially academics who question
Hitler’s views on race or Trump’s views on climate change,
immigration, or economics. For both Trump and Hitler, the goal is (and
was) to eviscerate the very idea of objective truth, turning
everything into grist for a populist jury subject to manipulation by a
master puppeteer. In both Trump’s and Hitler’s worlds, public
opinion ultimately defines what is true and what is false.”

8. Their lies blur reality—and supporters spread them. “Trump’s
pathological penchant for repeatedly lying about his behavior can only
succeed in a world where his supporters feel free to embrace Trump’s
‘alternative facts’ and treat his hyperbolic exaggerations as the
gospel truth,” Neuborne says. “Once Hitler had delegitimized the
mainstream media by a series of systematic attacks on its integrity,
he constructed a fawning alternative mass media designed to reinforce
his direct radio messages and enhance his personal power. Trump is
following the same path, simultaneously launching bitter attacks on
the mainstream press while embracing the so-called alt-right media,
co-opting both Sinclair Broadcasting and the Rupert Murdoch–owned
Fox Broadcasting Company as, essentially, a Trump Broadcasting
Network.”

9. Both orchestrated mass rallies to show status. “Once Hitler had
cemented his personal communications link with his base via free
radios and a fawning media and had badly eroded the idea of objective
truth, he reinforced his emotional bond with his base by holding a
series of carefully orchestrated mass meetings dedicated to cementing
his status as a charismatic leader, or Führer,” Neuborne writes.
“The powerful personal bonds nurtured by Trump’s tweets and
Fox’s fawning are also systematically reinforced by periodic,
carefully orchestrated mass rallies (even going so far as to co-opt a
Boy Scout Jamboree in 2017), reinforcing Trump’s insatiable
narcissism and his status as a charismatic leader.”

10. They embrace extreme nationalism. “Hitler’s strident appeals
to the base invoked an extreme version of German nationalism,
extolling a brilliant German past and promising to restore Germany to
its rightful place as a preeminent nation,” Neuborne says. “Trump
echoes Hitler’s jingoistic appeal to ultranationalist fervor,
extolling American exceptionalism right down to the slogan ‘Make
America Great Again,’ a paraphrase of Hitler’s promise to restore
German greatness.”

11. Both made closing borders a centerpiece. “Hitler all but closed
Germany’s borders, freezing non-Aryan migration into the country and
rendering it impossible for Germans to escape without official
permission. Like Hitler, Trump has also made closed borders a
centerpiece of his administration,” Neuborne continues. “Hitler
barred Jews. Trump bars Muslims and seekers of sanctuary from Central
America. When the lower courts blocked Trump’s Muslim travel ban, he
unilaterally issued executive orders replacing it with a thinly
disguised substitute that ultimately narrowly won Supreme Court
approval under a theory of extreme deference to the president.”

12. They embraced mass detention and deportations. “Hitler promised
to make Germany free from Jews and Slavs. Trump promises to slow,
stop, and even reverse the flow of non-white immigrants, substituting
Muslims, Africans, Mexicans, and Central Americans of color for Jews
and Slavs as scapegoats for the nation’s ills. Trump’s efforts to
cast dragnets to arrest undocumented aliens where they work, live, and
worship, followed by mass deportation… echo Hitler’s promise to
defend Germany’s racial identity,” he writes, also noting that
Trump has “stooped to tearing children from their parents [as Nazis
in World War II would do] to punish desperate efforts by migrants to
find a better life.”

13. Both used borders to protect selected industries. “Like Hitler,
Trump seeks to use national borders to protect his favored national
interests, threatening to ignite protectionist trade wars with Europe,
China, and Japan similar to the trade wars that, in earlier
incarnations, helped to ignite World War I and World War II,”
Neuborne writes. “Like Hitler, Trump aggressively uses our
nation’s political and economic power to favor selected American
corporate interests at the expense of foreign competitors and the
environment, even at the price of international conflict, massive
inefficiency, and irreversible pollution [climate change].”

14. They cemented their rule by enriching elites. “Hitler’s
version of fascism shifted immense power—both political and
financial—to the leaders of German industry. In fact, Hitler
governed Germany largely through corporate executives,” he
continues. “Trump has also presided over a massive empowerment—and
enrichment—of corporate America. Under Trump, large corporations
exercise immense political power while receiving huge economic
windfalls and freedom from regulations designed to protect consumers
and the labor force.

“Hitler despised the German labor movement, eventually destroying it
and imprisoning its leaders. Trump also detests strong unions, seeking
to undermine any effort to interfere with the prerogatives of
management.”

15. Both rejected international norms. “Hitler’s foreign policy
rejected international cooperation in favor of military and economic
coercion, culminating in the annexation of the Sudetenland, the phony
Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and
the horrors of global war,” Neuborne notes. “Like Hitler, Trump is
deeply hostile to multinational cooperation, withdrawing from the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and
the nuclear agreement with Iran, threatening to withdraw from the
North American Free Trade Agreement, abandoning our Kurdish allies in
Syria, and even going so far as to question the value of NATO, our
post-World War II military alliance with European democracies against
Soviet expansionism.”

16. They attack domestic democratic processes. “Hitler attacked the
legitimacy of democracy itself, purging the voting rolls, challenging
the integrity of the electoral process, and questioning the ability of
democratic government to solve Germany’s problems,” Neuborne
notes. “Trump has also attacked the democratic process, declining to
agree to be bound by the outcome of the 2016 elections when he thought
he might lose, supporting the massive purge of the voting rolls
allegedly designed to avoid (nonexistent) fraud, championing measures
that make it harder to vote, tolerating—if not fomenting—massive
Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, encouraging
mob violence at rallies, darkly hinting at violence if Democrats hold
power, and constantly casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections
unless he wins.”

17. Both attack the judiciary and rule of law. “Hitler politicized
and eventually destroyed the vaunted German justice system. Trump also
seeks to turn the American justice system into his personal
playground,” Neuborne writes. “Like Hitler, Trump threatens the
judicially enforced rule of law, bitterly attacking American judges
who rule against him, slyly praising Andrew Jackson for defying the
Supreme Court, and abusing the pardon power by pardoning an Arizona
sheriff found guilty of criminal contempt of court for disobeying
federal court orders to cease violating the Constitution.”

18. Both glorify the military and demand loyalty oaths. “Like
Hitler, Trump glorifies the military, staffing his administration with
layers of retired generals (who eventually were fired or resigned),
relaxing control over the use of lethal force by the military and the
police, and demanding a massive increase in military spending,”
Neuborne writes. Just as Hitler “imposed an oath of personal loyalty
on all German judges” and demanded courts defer to him, “Trump’s
already gotten enough deference from five Republican [Supreme Court]
justices to uphold a largely Muslim travel ban that is the epitome of
racial and religious bigotry.”

Trump has also demanded loyalty oaths. “He fired James Comey, a
Republican appointed in 2013 as FBI director by President Obama, for
refusing to swear an oath of personal loyalty to the president;
excoriated and then sacked Jeff Sessions, his handpicked attorney
general, for failing to suppress the criminal investigation into…
Trump’s possible collusion with Russia in influencing the 2016
elections; repeatedly threatened to dismiss Robert Mueller, the
special counsel carrying out the investigation; and called again and
again for the jailing of Hillary Clinton, his 2016 opponent, leading
crowds in chants of ‘lock her up.’” A new chant, “send her
back,” has since emerged at Trump rallies directed at non-white
Democratic congresswomen.

19. They proclaim unchecked power. “Like Hitler, Trump has
intensified a disturbing trend that predated his administration of
governing unilaterally, largely through executive orders or
proclamations,” Neuborne says, citing the Muslim travel ban, trade
tariffs, unraveling of health and environmental safety nets, ban on
transgender military service, and efforts to end President Obama’s
protection for Dreamers. “Like Hitler, Trump claims the power to
overrule Congress and govern all by himself. In 1933, Hitler used the
pretext of the Reichstag fire to declare a national emergency and
seize the power to govern unilaterally. The German judiciary did
nothing to stop him. German democracy never recovered.”

“When Congress refused to give Trump funds for his border wall even
after he threw a tantrum and shut down the government, Trump, like
Hitler, declared a phony national emergency and claimed the power to
ignore Congress,” Neuborne continues. “Don’t count on the
Supreme Court to stop him. Five justices gave the game away on the
President’s unilateral travel ban. They just might do the same thing
on the border wall.” It did in late July, ruling that Trump could
divert congressionally appropriated funds from the Pentagon
budget—undermining constitutional separation of powers.

20. Both relegate women to subordinate roles. “Finally,” writes
Neuborne, “Hitler propounded a misogynistic, stereotypical view of
women, valuing them exclusively as wives and mothers while excluding
them from full participation in German political and economic life.
Trump may be the most openly misogynist figure ever to hold high
public office in the United States, crassly treating women as sexual
objects, using nondisclosure agreements and violating campaign finance
laws to shield his sexual misbehavior from public knowledge, attacking
women who come forward to accuse men of abusive behavior, undermining
reproductive freedom, and opposing efforts by women to achieve
economic equality.”

WHITHER CONSTITUTIONAL CHECKS AND BALANCES?

Most of Neuborne’s book is not centered on Trump’s fealty to
Hitler’s methods and early policies. He notes, as many commentators
have, that Trump is following the well-known contours of authoritarian
populists and dictators: “there’s always a charismatic leader, a
disaffected mass, an adroit use of communications media, economic
insecurity, racial or religious fault lines, xenophobia, a turn to
violence, and a search for scapegoats.”

The bigger problem, and the subject of most of the book, is that the
federal architecture intended to be a check and balance against
tyrants, is not poised to act. Congressional representation is
fundamentally anti-democratic. In the Senate, politicians representing
18 percent of the national population—epicenters of Trump’s
base—can cast 51 percent of the chamber’s votes. A Republican
majority from rural states, representing barely 40 percent of the
population, controls the chamber. It repeatedly thwarts legislation
reflecting multicultural America’s values—and creates a brick wall
for impeachment.

The House of Representatives is not much better. Until 2018, this
decade’s GOP-majority House, a product of 2011’s extreme
Republican gerrymanders, was also unrepresentative of the nation’s
demographics. That bias still exists in the Electoral College, as the
size of a state’s congressional delegation equals its allocation of
votes. That formula is fair as far as House members go, but allocating
votes based on two senators per state hurts urban America. Consider
that California’s population is 65 times larger than Wyoming’s.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s majority remains in the hands of
justices appointed by Republican presidents—and favors that
party’s agenda. Most Americans are unaware that the court’s
partisan majority has only changed twice since the Civil War—in
1937, when a Democratic-appointed majority took over, and in 1972,
when a Republican-appointed majority took over. Senate Republican
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blocking of President Obama’s
final nominee thwarted a twice-a-century change. Today’s hijacked
Supreme Court majority has only just begun deferring to Trump’s
agenda.

Neuborne wants to be optimistic that a wave of state-based resistance,
call it progressive federalism, could blunt Trump’s power grabs and
help the country return to a system embracing, rather than demonizing,
individual dignity and fundamental equality. But he predicts that many
Americans who supported Trump in 2016 (largely, he suggests, because
their plights have been overlooked for many years by federal power
centers and by America’s capitalist hubs) won’t desert Trump—not
while he’s in power.

“When tyrants like Hitler are ultimately overthrown, their mass
support vanishes retroactively—everyone turns out to have been in
the resistance—but the mass support was undeniably there,” he
writes. “There will, of course, be American quislings who will
enthusiastically support an American tyrant. There always
are—everywhere.”

Ultimately, Neuborne doesn’t expect there will be a
“constitutional mechanic in the sky ready to swoop down and save
American democracy from Donald Trump at the head of a populist mob.”
Whatever Trump thinks he is or isn’t doing, his rhetorical and
strategic role model—the early Hitler—is what makes Trump and
today’s GOP so dangerous.

“Even if all that Trump is doing is marching to that populist drum,
he is unleashing forces that imperil the fragile fabric of a
multicultural democracy,” Neuborne writes. “But I think there’s
more. The parallels—especially the links between Lügenpresse and
‘fake news,’ and promises to restore German greatness and ‘Make
America Great Again’—are just too close to be coincidental. I’m
pretty sure that Trump’s bedside study of Hitler’s
speeches—especially the use of personal invective, white racism, and
xenophobia—has shaped the way Trump seeks to gain political power in
our time. I don’t for a moment believe that Trump admires what
Hitler eventually did with his power [genocide], but he damn well
admires—and is successfully copying—the way that Hitler got it.”

_This article was produced by Voting Booth
[https://independentmediainstitute.org/voting-booth/], a project of
the Independent Media Institute._

_STEVEN ROSENFELD
[https://www.commondreams.org/author/steven-rosenfeld] is a senior
writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of  Voting
Booth [https://independentmediainstitute.org/voting-booth/], a project
of the Independent Media Institute. He is a national political
reporter focusing on democracy issues. He has reported for nationwide
public radio networks, websites, and newspapers and produced talk
radio and music podcasts. He has written five books, including
profiles of campaigns, voter suppression, voting rights guides, and a
WWII survival story currently being made into a film. His latest book
is Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party
Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election
[https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/democracy-betrayed-steven-rosenfeld/1127810302#/] (Hot
Books, March 2018)._

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