|Hitler and Mussolini |
Photo credit: http://benitomussoliniitaly.weebly.com/relationships-with-foreign-leaders.html
Some friends had said things like “Donald Trump is like Mussolini,” and “Donald Trump is like Hitler”. If there is some politician you don’t like, you can say he is “just like Hitler” or some such, and it’s probably somewhat true. Everybody has at least something in common with Hitler. Because such phrases are ad hominem slurs on the subject, I like to think I don’t give them much credence.
We see in these historical extraordinary figures (and some others such as Napoleon, Stalin, Mao, Leopold II of Belgium) a close association with events we don’t want our society to repeat. We shiver a bit and think “What if [contemporary politician] is just like Mussolini?” We answer our own question with the implication that, by agreeing with [contemporary politician], we would advocate dictatorship.
I spent a Sunday afternoon watching Mussolini biographies on YouTube. Some characteristics shared by Benito Mussolini and Donald Trump are these:
Charm. Mussolini began his career as an editor for socialist newspapers. His readership loved his work, and with time, he was highly regarded. In later life as a political leader, he gave stirring speeches that excited the crowds. Trump gives a speech, and the crowd goes wild.
Loose with the Truth. The professional fact-checkers catalog the numerous major inaccuracies of Trump’s public statements. He isn’t the first politician to tell a lie, but he tells whoppers, and relatively many of them. Mussolini said that he could often easily convince people of falsehoods. With the general public’s quickly forgetting what happened not long ago, he could even contradict his earlier statements.
Cultivation of Personal Story. Both Mussolini and Trump worked public relations to portray themselves in the grandest and most flattering light.
Ambiguity in Political Affiliation. Although he had made his mark as a widely respected socialist, when Mussolini seized totalitarian power, communists and socialists in the national parliament opposed him, so he arrested many of them, and he remains suspected of killing some. Trump changed his allegiance among political parties several times.
Ethnic Cleansing. Trump has advocated expelling millions of Mexicans from the USA for their alleged criminality, and creating special conditions on the travels of Muslims due to their alleged terrorism. Mussolini asserted a “natural law” requiring Italians to dominate the Slavs of the Balkans.
Human Rights. Mussolini removed constitutional provisions protecting free speech, multiple political parties, and removed various constraints on government power. Trump advocates for violations of the Geneva Conventions such as torture and collective punishments. He also advocates for “opening” libel laws, making libel suits easier when a publication has been “unfair” or “incorrect” or “false”.
The Only One. Trump said in his speech accepting the nomination of the Republican Party for President that he is “Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.” Mussolini said that he was the only one who could make Italy great again.
For us, one important difference is that Donald Trump has not yet ascended to executive power, whereas Mussolini did have and use executive power to express his will. Just because Trump shares some traits with Mussolini, we can’t logically infer Trump’s election will have outcomes similar to Mussolini’s rule in Italy.
Full Disclosure: I find most objectionable Donald Trump’s promises to abridge the laws of war, and to practice religious and ethnic discrimination. I also object to other policies he has advocated, such as nuclear proliferation, hesitant response to a call from NATO, high tariffs, expanded military spending with reduced taxes, reduced taxation relatively beneficial to the wealthy, and ending universal health care with a return to private health insurance plans. He doesn’t attempt to explain himself logically, but by ad hominem comments and inexcusable discourtesy. I find Donald Trump categorically unsuitable for President. Despite her faults, I will vote for Hillary Clinton.