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The Weirder, Lesser-Known Similarities Between Hitler and Trump

Both were underestimated by those around these two laughable buffoons, and both were idiots at running a government

Caricatures of Hitler & Trump
CC0 Hitler caricature by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay. CC0 2.0 Trump caricature by DonkeyHotely on Flickr

It’s fashionable to compare one’s enemies to Nazis, but I was surprised to read how much Hitler’s narcissism, incompetence and shitshow government resembled Donald Trump’s, in a book written before the latter became President. It’s startling to realize how similar they were on an interpersonal level.

We think of the Third Reich as a highly-engineered, well-oiled and strictly maintained political machine, but in fact it was anything but. That Hitler’s regime was able to invade other countries and pull off some battlefield successes, and exterminate millions in regimented concentration camps, disguises just what an internal clusterfuck his Nazi regime actually was.

Hitler’s hubris is detailed in the highly readable, ridiculously risible book Humans: A Brief History of How We F—ed It All Up by British journalist and humor writer Tom Phillips. You will never read a funnier book containing endless examples of human arrogance, bad judgment and colossal, mind-blowing failure.

My fave tale is the sad story of Sigurd the Mighty, a 9th-century Norse Earl of Orkney, whose murder of his enemy Máel Brigte the Bucktoothed resulted in Máel returning the favor posthumously. Siggy decapitated Bucky after double-crossing him in battle by showing up with twice the amount of agreed-upon warriors, and rode his horsey home dangling his enemy’s noggin hanging from his saddle. En route, Máel’s famous buck tooth grazed his bare leg, and a few days later Sigurd died mightily of the infection.

Payback’s a bitch, bitch!

Phillips’s book was published in 2018. Given the length of the publication process, the book was likely written before Trump won the 2016 election. Phillips couldn’t have foreseen the comparison, before Trump ran the White (Supremacist) House with all the efficiency and productivity of the Third Reich.

Hitler and his Japanese buddies never had much of a chance of winning the war, and putting a work-averse, not terribly educated idiot in charge arguably didn’t help. When he failed spectacularly and Germany surrendered, he handled the humiliation as we’re all well-familiar: He and his bride Eva Braun killed themselves after a day and a half of marriage and he likely died a virgin (a detail that sets him distinctly apart from Trump), although conspiracy theories persisted that Braun somehow survived. I remember hearing a news story in the ‘80s that witnesses claimed seeing Braun walking on a beach in Argentina.

Hitler’s government was every bit the clusterfuck the Trump All-White House was, but Trump didn’t respond to severe public humiliation with suicide. He lives for another day, and no one knows whether he will get a second crack at destroying democracy. So there’s one thing they don’t share. Hitler was more fragile.

Another minor difference is the two men styled their ridiculous-looking combovers differently. Hitler parted his on the side and pasted it to his head with pomade, while Trump brushes his forward and uses hair spray, which I doubt the highly homophobic and gynophobic Hitler would have touched even at gunpoint.

The WTFness of it all

Everyone around Hitler thought he was a joke, and could be easily controlled by smarter people. He was called, among many other things, a ‘pathetic dunderhead’, a ‘half-mad rascal’, a ‘man with a beery vocal organ’, that he led ‘a society of incompetents’, and was widely regarded as a ‘blustering idiot’. One of his former Reich rogues wrote in his memoir of Hitler, “In the twelve years of his rule in Germany, Hitler produced the biggest confusion in government that has ever existed in a civilized state.”

That would make a good high school debate topic: “Who produced the loonier, least effective government? Adolf Hitler or Donald Trump?”

Like Trump, Hitler hated to read paperwork and made decisions based on gut feeling, a habit also shared by the infamously information-aversive George W. Bush. Hitler’s aides dreaded policy meetings as they often degenerated into his rambling, self-absorbed whines about whatever he was thinking about at the moment, although there’s no detail indicating that the only way to get his attention was to make something be all about him. (Which is how Trump aides got The Donald to read important papers - they edited them to put his name in them.)

Hitler, like Trump, was very insecure about his lack of knowledge. He hated hearing the expertise of others unless they supported his preconceptions and he ‘raged like a tiger’ if anyone corrected him, which the Trumpettes also found. Especially important: Hitler, like Trump, loved making fun of and mocking others but lost his shit if anyone did it to him. He was a Charlie Chaplin fan but banned the Hitler spoof The Great Dictator in Germany and all German-occupied countries and derided Chaplin as “one of the foreign Jews who come to Germany,” despite Chaplin not being Jewish (back then, people lobbed around ‘Jew’ the way today they carelessly toss off ‘racist’).

Hitler’s unreliability drove his staff insane, which led to chronic government chaos. No work got done while Hitler rambled, and when his people weren’t wondering if they’d get home in time for dinner - by Friday night, they were fighting each other and backstabbing (sound familiar?)

Hitler was and Trump is a minor little fuckup but each had a major talent: An ability to speak to the lowest common denominator of the masses and to move them with his words. Hitler’s speeches, at least, made syntactic sense, unlike Trump’s word salads.

"Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you're a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off…”

What about having nuclear…?

I’m not quite sure how far Hitler would have gotten if he was about as eloquent as Donald Trump. Nineteen-thirties Berlin was way different from 21st-century rural America.

Knowing a real Nazi when you see one

We like to think another Hitler shouldn’t rise again, and that one can’t rise here, but someone with more similarities than just a fondness for white supremacy, a habit of demonizing others and putting them in concentration camps (Jews for one, immigrants for another) did become President. He arguably might again, although that’s really very much up in the air as a criminally indicted, possibly imprisoned by then President is truly unprecedented and there’s no guarantee he’ll be allowed to serve, regardless of what constitutional lawyers believe right now - it may well take a Supreme Court decision or two to resolve it.

Especially as Donald Trump is a massive national security threat.

Phillips’s book makes the point that some of the ‘greatest’ leaders in the world weren’t evil geniuses so much as supremely talented fuckups. It’s not the Einsteins or Wright Brothers who take over the world, it’s the petty tinpot dictator wannabes who speak to the right useful idiots in the right ways.

Here’s the key to how Hitler, and Trump, and so many others pulled off their black magic: Shame, nationally.

There is no feeling more powerful in the world.

Hitler arose after Germany’s defeat in WWI and the nation keenly felt the rest of the world’s blame. Hitler offered the Germans a fake enemy to explain it all - it was the Jews, da Jewz, dammit!!! - who were responsible for everything that had gone wrong for Germany. No leader ever rises to power telling his countrymen the truth, that the way out of shame and humiliation is to do some national soul-searching, identify what they did right and what they didn’t, and resolve never to make those mistakes again.

Yeah, that would have gone over with Germans like a V1 attack.

The United States today is not the Weimar Republic, but many of Trump’s supporters feel the keen shame of being society’s losers and the sting of Hillary Clinton’s claim that they were a ‘basket of deplorables’. Donald Trump speaks to their fading sense of manhood and their ignorant xenophobia just as his forefather did in Nazi Germany.

Highlighting the more trivial ways the two despots resembled each other clarifies how one can identify a petty dipshit who seeks unlimited power and knows how to manipulate the masses. Phillips’s book derides other historical leaders we customarily think of as ‘great’ but who also fucked up a lot: Genghis Khan, King James I (the Bible guy), Sultan Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire, and of course Napoleon.

Modern Nazis aren’t everyone who disagree with us or who share a few elements of fascist thinking (the left can be fascist too) but the people who really do hew to Nazi thinking even if they themselves are unaware of most of it (as I suspect Trump is). It’s also important to remember that men like Hitler and Trump are just ding-y dipshits without support from others, especially those who seek to gain from that person’s ‘leadership’.

There was no new Hitler to take the other one’s place. If Trump died tomorrow, there would be countless wannabes lining up and fighting each other for the 2024 nomination.

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!

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