Thursday, February 25, 2016

What I Think About When They Say Donald Trump Cannot Possibly Become President

... From The Past Is Myself, the memoir of an Englishwoman named Christabel Bielenberg. In the early 1930s she fell in love with a German law student named Peter Bielenberg, married him in 1934, and stayed with him in Germany throughout the war, even as he was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck for involvement in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler.

The year is 1932, and Christabel is trying to understand German politics.



Hitler was himself was to speak to an open-air rally, and the venue was — not inappropriately as Peter did not fail to point out — Hagenbeck's Zoo. A huge area had been cordoned off, and rows of burly Storm-troopers wedged the milling crows into orderly rectangles. Peter survived the community singing, the rolling of the drums, the National and the Party anthems, but his reaction to the usual reverberating start was unequivocal. My ears were hardly attuned to the Leader's Austrian accent, before I found myself being marched out of the enclosure. Up against the giraffe house, well within earshot of and successfully silencing some Party stalwarts in brown pillbox hats who were rattling collection boxes under the noses of luckless late-comers, Peter delivered himself of one of his rare political pronouncements.

"You may think that Germans are political idiots, Chris," he said very loudly and very firmly, "and you may be right, but of one thing I can assure you, they won't be so stupid as to fall for that clown."






(More about Christabel here.)

17 comments:

Jennifer Garlen said...

Good Lord, that gives me chills. I have the same feeling that we've seen this moment before in history, when angry bigots handed power to do terrible harm to a dangerous man.

Karen said...

Yes. Yes. This is the comparison to Hitler. Not the Final Solution, or the Nazi Party, but this.

The Siren said...

Karen, yes, that's precisely what I meant; I don't foresee Trump as a genocidal monster, although I laughed long and hard at Matt Taibbi's remark that "Trump would eat a child in a lifeboat." But the inability to face up to his popularity, and what it means, we've seen that before.

Patrick Wahl said...

I think his popularity is partly a way for a lot of people feeling Washington has forgotten them to poke a figurative finger in the eye of the establishment. Unfortunately they are not focusing on the fact that he just isn't qualified by experience or temperament to be president.

LinGin said...

Thanks for the clarification on comparing Trump to Hitler, Farran. I think the problem is that it is hard to separate Hitler the politician from the murderous policies of the Nazi regime. The political writer Charles Pierce at Esquire compares Trump to Huey Long. So I guess it's time to watch ALL THE KING'S MEN and, myself being a Cagney fan, A LION IS IN THE STREETS.

MJ said...

Patrick -- That is true. It is also a way for people to express their racism and xenophobia.

There has been a strong taste for chauvinistic authoritarianism among a certain segment of the American people for a long time (just as there is in the UK, France, etc.) -- it's just that our two-party system hadn't typically allowed this 'bloc' to find expression in a viable (?) national candidate. Now it has.

gmoke said...

Patrick Wahl, some commentators are calling the (seeming) popularity of Trump "the middle finger vote."

Another deep dive into the rise of Hitler from a talented observer is Sebastian Haffner's Defying Hitler. My notes are available at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/12/156233/-

Happy Miser said...

Wow, glad to see this comparison.
When Trump started in on illegal immigrants as a primary problem all I could think of was ( to paraphrase) Max Feldman in Skokie:
"I said to myself, Max, somewhere I've heard this before. It was in Germany, before the war."

X. Trapnel said...

Although not much given to quoting Marx, I believe that we're seeing history repeating itself, first as tragedy (Reagan) and then as farce (Trump), in other words, that the rise of the latter may portend the final crash and burn of the far right in mainstream American politics.

misospecial said...

Thanks, Farran. I am up to here with complacent progressives who say soothingly that Trump is nothing to worry about. One said that HRC will settle his hash—Trump is no doubt trembling at the thought. Another dismissal is people saying he's stupid. I don't know why people think a person or group being stupid means they do not constitute a threat. Some of this seems like a black swan issue: This election cycle and Trump defy comparison to any we have experienced, but most people keep insisting that they understand what's happening, that it's normal. While I don't think it's ever possible to analyze these things without the detachment of time, we have to react in real time. The best we may be able to do is to acknowledge that we're in a new situation and we don't get it. That at least allows the flexibility of improvisation, instead of counting on the old verities to save us.

Lesley

yojimboen said...

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried yesterday:

"Trump is just like Hitler - without the warmth."

yojimboen said...

Gilbert Gottfried yesterday:

"Trump is just like Hitler - without the warmth."

yojimboen said...

A hundred years hence, if in fact they're still making films with a beginning a middle and an end, I wonder what a future Anthony Mann might make of "The Fall of the American Empire." It's coming, my friends, trust me. The Persian, the Roman, the British Empires all came with a shelf life. Now it's our turn. Find shelter... wear a hat.

Deborah Lough said...

Not being in America, or an American, I don't have a say, obviously.

But I did spend quite a while wondering when Americans (or some) Americans were going to notice that his rhetoric and way of operating was eerily similar to Germany (and to be fair to Germany many other countries) in the early - mid 30s...

I sometimes think people forget when they're saying that 'there's nothing wrong with being anti Muslim' (a comment I'm seeing a lot lately, on both sides of the Atlantic), for instance, that they're actually saying 'there's nothing wrong with being anti Semitic' - Islam being one of the Semitic religions it amounts to the same thing.
Like I said, spookily familiar (even more so because I just finished reading Umberto Eco's 'The Prague Cemetery' which is a fictionalised account of the forging of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, upon which much of the anti Semitism of the 20th century was propped).

DGF from YYC said...

Dear Siren,

Adam Gopnik of "The New Yorker" magazine has just written a prescient and all-too-accurate article expressing the same concerns:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/going-there-with-donald-trump

John Clarke said...

Seems that past Hollywood efforts anticipate ever latent U.S.A Fascism. To Wit: Gabriel over the White house, Meet John Doe, A Face in the Crowd. . .

At least the bloviations were somewhat literate!

Lionel Braithwaite said...

@misospecial: Let me run this by you (and everybody else here commenting) about why Trump might still lose:

http://thedailybanter.com/2016/06/watch-elizabeth-warren-continue-to-own-donald-trump-like-bad-real-estate/

http://thedailybanter.com/2016/06/this-humiliation-of-donald-trump-is-how-every-donald-trump-interview-should-go/

http://thedailybanter.com/2016/06/trumps-campaign-is-such-a-disaster/

Something from one of the past eras this blog celebrates for everybody here to think about:

'Keep calm, carry on.'

And remember to get the message out about Trump, work your asses to to get others to vote, and vote yourselves as well.