I’m occasionally rebuked for comparing Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler. Not very often, but not without merit. But I suspect these are the same people who recite that we are doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn from it, so I can’t think of a more apt cautionary tale against tyranny than the Third Reich.
So when we look at Trump it’s useful to also look at Hitler, without giving Trump too much credit for evil genius and too little for potential monstrosities. What we saw in the twelve awful years of the Reich was a man who grew into his role as a monster, as opposed to one who stepped out onto the world stage as a monster already fully formed. Over the years Hitler gained in confidence until he overreached himself with too much confidence. He became increasingly arrogant in his self-belief, more and more disdainful of the wisdom of others and finally willing to commit outrages in the open air with unrestrained hubris. In like manner Donald Trump’s crimes are becoming more frequent and more brazen with time.
This crescendo has been so gradual as to be little noted or commented on. But when Trump first started out I doubt he could have gotten away with pardoning anyone he pleased just for giving him money, or merging the presidency with the Department of Justice, or dismissing his DNI out of fury because one of his underlings (Shelby Pierson) reported to Congress that Putin is working covertly to get Trump reelected, or shaming and firing a decorated Marine Lieutenant Colonel (and his completely uninvolved brother) for answering a subpoena and honoring his oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Trump would have taken more heat than he has for all those things early on, including for his retweet of a tweet exposing the lawfully protected anonymity of a whistleblower, or his tweets calling for the arrest and prosecution and imprisonment of the deputy director of the FBI for doing his job back when he was involved in appointing a special prosecutor, and becoming outraged and throwing a tantrum when the DOJ couldn’t cook up a pretext for putting him in jail. (What Trump probably really wanted was for the DOJ to invent or plant evidence against the Deputy Director, but they wouldn’t do that – not yet, anyway.)
Trump would have been excoriated for the people he has threatened, like when he suggested that Marie Yovanovich was going to “go through some things,” or Adam Schiff is going to have a “very unpleasant experience.” In the early days he confined much of his dysfunctional presidency to golf and tweeting baffling things like “covfefe” and bragging that he’s a “stable genius.” He even blinked when his child-caging zero-tolerance policy met with unlooked for hostility. Up till then his misbegotten presidency was mostly about his bungling efforts to look “presidential” and taking credit for the work of others — fewer instances of impropriety and more often the appearance of impropriety.
We have left the appearance of impropriety behind and entered the world of full blown out in the open evil. Gone are the days when abuse of power was occasional, more covert and mostly a mere threat on the horizon. It’s happening now. Donald Trump has become the monster we always feared. Democracy isn’t dead, but it is dying.
Meanwhile three separate election security bills are expiring on Mitch McConnell’s desk, no Republican efforts will be made to stop Putin from attempting to steal a second presidential election from the people, and the Republican Party is in monolithic unity behind its child-raping leader. Democracy doesn’t only die in darkness, it also dies in full daylight. We are running out of time to save democracy and the planet. Our number is up. We can only hope it’s not the number of the Beast, because once we elect a Democratic candidate, if we don’t solidly get behind her or him then it just might be.