This is the second part of a 3-part series examining the conditions in the U.S. that, in this writer’s opinion, lead to the Rise of Donald Trump. Read part one.
Post World-War I Germany
We know that following the first world war and Germany’s humiliating defeat, the country was in ruins. Post-war Germany was created as a republic but chaos reigned as various political parties came and went, inflation soared, unemployment was rampant. There were riots in the streets, attempted coups, you name it. The shit was hitting the fan non-stop. The German people felt lost, abandoned, and leaderless.
Underlying it all was the fact that as a nation, Germany felt betrayed by the Treaty of Versailles and, at the same time, a rising swell of antisemitism, which had long been a problem throughout Europe, was percolating rather fervently. The German Worker’s Party, although growing and taking root, was still struggling to find it’s direction. They were, at best, a fringe and racist party of agitators when, in 1929, the U.S. Stock Market Crash sent the world, including Germany, into a worldwide depression. All hope for the German people was lost.
Almost as if on cue, Adolf Hitler ascended to prominence as millions were made jobless and banks collapsed. He promised to fix it all. The Nazi’s promised jobs for everyone, the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and a strong and united Germany. In other words, Hitler promised to “make Germany great again”.
On January 4, 1934, a number of newspapers around the country published an article entitled “Modern Leaders of Men” featuring Hitler. It’s actually remarkable how some of the text parallel’s Trumps rise. “Those who laughed were wrong…there was a power in the forces which it was possible for him to muster.”
Those forces, i.e. the Versailles treaty and all of its fallout, resulted in the German people feeling “ill treated” as the article states. When the masses feel like they are getting the short end of the stick, by a constant drubbing by the powers that be, whether internal or external, you have a ripeness. A willingness to be intoxicated. To be romanced. And, sadly, to abdicate reason in exchange for what ultimately end up being empty promises.
Hitler exploited that feeling of ill treatment. He was a master exploiter and campaigner, one of the first politicians who used an airplane to travel from rally to rally where he would delivered his vague and fairly nebulous speeches about German pride, purity of the Germanic race, and strength of military, and more, whipping the intoxicated into a glass-eyed fury.
Post 9/11 America
How then, does the substrate which underlies Germany’s 1920’s and 30’s ills following the Great War compare to the foundation upon which Trumpism was built? What were the “power in the forces which is was possible for him to muster”? How does an America which is, by all accounts, in much better shape now than when Barack Obama took office give rise to a demagogue? The answer lies not so much in the shambles in which the German state found itself in the 20s. Rather, it lies in the perception of shambles which has been foisted upon the American people in the past eight years.
Example: back in the days of George Bush and before, bipartisan governmental unity was fairly common. It wasn’t unusual for a legislation, for example, the A.D.A, No Child Left Behind,
The McCain-Feingold Act, to be crafted by both sides of the aisle in congress, and voted the same. However, once Obama took office, all bipartisan efforts seemed to stop, in fact, Republicans made it clear that they were going to obstruct Obama every chance they got. And they did. Government ground to a halt, it seemed, and the general awareness of the “sickness” at the federal level began to permeate the psyche of the voter.
One of the byproducts of this obstructionism was that the GOP broadcast a very “everything is horrible” message as a means of justifying their obstructionism. “Obamacare” for example, was held out as the standard of federal noose-tightening around the working class. “This government is destroying your pocketbook, your freedom of choice, and your relationship with your doctor”. Moreover, the ACA was so complicated that in reality, people had no idea what was really happening, all they knew is that Republicans told them they were getting screwed.
In addition, the Wall Street corruption that created the housing bubble which burst in 2007 causing the “great recession” merely reorganized and began profiting from the restructuring and bailouts that occurred in order to get the economy moving again. No one went to jail, no FEC overhauls took place. American felt duped by the extreme corruption that ran through the financial sector, leading to one more foot of muck in the swamp.
Along with the economic uncertainty that many Americans felt, the democrats were ineptly preparing for a primary election cycle with a raft of unseemly practices. Hillary’s email server, which came to light two full years ago, lead to hearings, investigations, FBI involvement and so on. The only other salient potential candidate, Bernie Sanders, was undercut by his own party’s leadership, all of which simply made voters believe that everything is corrupt.
Think about it:
- For eight years, Republicans and Obama circle around each other like pugilists in a Marx Brothers movie. Little real progress is made moving important legislation forward
- Obamacare becomes synonymous with Governmental overreach
- Wall Street profits off their own ineptitude
- Democrats prepare to field a candidate that is, by most accounts, as corrupt as one has ever been (there is scant real truth to this but the electorate is eager to believe it)
And, while joblessness is at an all-time low, the stock market at an all time high, somehow, Americans have become convinced that everything is absolute shit. The perception of shambles.
Along come Donald Trump, to the rescue.
Next: The final piece of the puzzle – yep, you guessed it. Racism.