The Dictator’s Playbook
By Gene Griessman
(Written in response to a Trumpster who wrote that it’s preposterous to compare Trump to Hitler.)
Just because Trump has not yet committed the atrocities of the Holocaust does not mean that he would not do something horrifying if he felt he needed to. And could.
How many Jews died in gas chambers during Hitler’s first three years in office?
Zero. That was yet to come.
In the 1930s he was widely praised for spectacularly reviving the German economy, restoring national pride, atoning for past grievances, and denouncing Communists and liberals.
His base was conservative, church-going, rural-and small-town Germany.
His party had won seats in the Reichstag legitimately in democratic elections.
But there were flashing warning signs: harangues, attacks against journalists and weak liberals, glorifying all things German, vilifying all that was not, fear mongering and scapegoating vulnerable outgroups.
All dictators have followed the essential playbook with differences that vary by culture, risk and opportunity.
All of them. Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Mugabe, Ivan the Terrible, Caligula.
That was then. This is now.
Trump has attacked the press as enemies of the people, put pressure on the courts and tweeted that he has a right to, demonized minorities, and scapegoated illegal “aliens” and Muslims.
We cannot know if Trump will follow the playbook to its ghastly end, or get to, but he seems to know the playbook.
Hitler exploited a national disaster—the burning of the Reichstag (the lower house of the German parliament)—to solidify his grip on power.
Then came the arrests in the middle of the night, the unexplained disappearances, the deportations, the death camps.
Then the victims died en masse.
But not at first.
How would Trump behave if there were a great national emergency?
Can there be any doubt?
His belief in conspiracy theories, his claim that only he can fix it, his readiness to project blame on individuals and out-groups, and his cruelty are already on display.
If a great crisis were to occur, and Trump could project blame, he would only need to amplify the danger, and then his path to absolute rule would be complete.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed.