WashCo Dems op-ed article

OP-ED: Trump Has Warned Us

by George Hough, Washington County Democrats Communications Committee Member

In 1924 Adolf Hitler wrote his infamous manifesto “Mein Kampf” (1) (translated as “My Struggle”), while serving his five-year sentence at the Landsberg Prison for a failed coup attempt with the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Little did the world know then that with Hitler’s rise to power his Mein Kampf would serve as his blueprint for world conquest. The Third Reich unleashed one of the most horrendous wars ever experienced on the planet. It resulted in the extermination of over six million Jews and others deemed undesirable. In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote of the Jews as vermin to be exterminated from society, akin to diseased rats which must be destroyed as a matter of public health. The strategic architects of the Third Reich incorporated Hitler’s disease imagery into the linguistic scaffolding of their ideology.  From this language emerged the policies of extermination. This language of vermin and disease as associated with other human beings thus has a dark political history as it dehumanizes and objectifies those who are different and thus deemed undesirable. Over the past century, as witnessed in Nazi Germany, as well as in Rwanda and Cambodia, this specific kind of disease and vermin language has frequently been a prelude to and signal for forthcoming genocide. Three years ago, I went to the extermination camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, to see for myself where extermination language and policy led. Being in those places shook me to the core.

As the 2024 election rhetoric heats up, not surprisingly, Donald Trump has recently crossed a linguistic Rubicon and has evoked this same annihilation language of vermin and disease as has been evoked in previous genocides. At a rally in November in Claremont, New Hampshire, Trump echoed Hitler: “We pledge to you that we will sort out the Communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country” (2). In other venues, he asserts that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” (3) Though Trump maintains that he has not read Mein Kampf, the context and specificity of these words leave little doubt as to their anchoring in the language of genocidal history. Trump’s use of this specific language cannot be excused by what his sycophant apologists assert as: “just Trump being Trump,” or that “it’s only words.” Our words represent our personal beliefs, norms, prejudices, and principles. Our words matter. And as Donald Trump was galvanizing an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, he well knew that his words mattered. As Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf boldly telegraphed his political ambitions from a prison cell in 1924, Donald Trump is now directly and boldly telegraphing his own authoritarian plans.

As for Trump’s presidential plans, let us not forget that he is known to admire and emulate authoritarian “strong men.” To name but a few authoritarian leaders Trump has praised: Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un, Viktor Orban of Hungary, and President Andrew Jackson, infamous for the Indian Removal Act and his cruelty toward indigenous tribes.  If Trump is elected next year, we should be clear that his intentions are to take a wrecking ball to democratic norms and institutions. With every decision his basic impulse will invariably incline toward the consolidation of his power. Emerging authoritarian leaders telegraph their intentions; it is equally so with Donald Trump. If this dangerous man is elected, he has warned us.

Footnotes

  1. Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945. (1999). Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
  2. Kim, Soo Rin and Lyssa, Lalee. (November 13, 2023). ABC News.” Trump compares political opponents to ‘vermin’ who he will ‘root out’, alarming historians.
  3. Rosen, Jacob; Watson, Kathyrn and Rinaldi, Olivia. (December 18. 2023). CBS News.  Trump blasted for saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

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