Trump Is no Hitler. So Which Autocrat Does He Most Closely Resemble?

by Pitt Griffin on October 21, 2018 · 0 comments

in Trump presidency

Let’s play the dictator game. Trump‘s authoritarian tendencies have invited comparisons to autocrats across the centuries. So let’s ask which of these men — and they are invariably men — does Trump most resemble. I’ll leave out the Asian contingent as the cultural divide makes comparisons hard.

Predictably the first name thrown around is ‘Hitler’. It’s a cheap out — the lazy man’s answer. But is it accurate? There are similarities in the ‘Germany/America first’ rhetoric, but unlike the Nazi, Trump doesn’t show genocidal tendencies. Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews. Trump just wants brown-skinned people to go back ‘home’.

Hitler was a brilliant orator, who achieved high approval ratings. Trump is a stumblebum behind a mic. His base loves it, but it keeps him mired at a c.40% approval rating. Hitler’s propaganda machine was a powerful engine of smooth disinformation. Trump just keeps yelling “fake news”. And while Fox usually acts as the regime’s bullhorn, it will display disloyal moments of criticism.  

Stalin is also a bad comparison. His economic oppression was collectivism, while Trump is the plutocrat’s best friend. His tactics were pure terror. Stalin casually killed 1000s. Trump has trouble firing anyone. And no one is Stalin’s match when it comes to paranoia.

Stalin was a foe to Russian Orthodox Christianity, burning down churches and persecuting the religious hierarchy. Trump rose to the top on a wave of cynical evangelicalism. Stalin was reclusive. Trump dominates TV screens.  

How about Mussolini? He’s the closest of the WWII crowd. The two are very similar in the chin jutting, arms-crossed strut. They were both bombastic speakers long on promises and short on delivery. They both believed in tariffs. And made friends with their enemies. Mussolini turned his back on the French — close allies —  and embraced the Germans — despite Germany’s dismissive treatment of Italy.

Ancient Rome had its menu of pompous, sadistic, tyrannical rulers. And while Nero is the usual go-to, Caligula is a better match for Trump. This Emperor slept with other men’s wives and boasted of it. He spent a fortune building a bridge for no reason other than ego. He sent the military on pointless exercises. He feuded with the Senate. He was reputed to have incestuous relations. And he thought himself a God.

But while Caligula has much to recommend him as Trump’s political/personality twin, there is a better candidate — Uganda’s malevolent strongman –  Idi Amin Dada. 

I’m giving Amin the nod because of the sheer insanity of his administration. The American Ambassador to Uganda at the time described it as, “racist, erratic and unpredictable, brutal, inept, bellicose, irrational, ridiculous, and militaristic.”

Amin hamstrung his intelligence services and cut ties with hitherto allies such as the UK while he embraced the Soviet Union and East Germany. He was deeply suspicious of other religions — in his case Christians. And he hated ethnic minorities — mainly Indians and Pakistanis. Compare that with Trump’s Muslim bashing and treatment of Mexicans and other immigrants.

Amin had a similar physique. He boasted he was a brilliant orator, that he had a great brain and that he was the only one telling the truth. He also crowed of his close friendships with people who were currently on his side — no matter how short a time he had known them.

Ultimately all autocrats are unique. And in most cases doomed to premature decline and fall. There is every reason to believe that Trump will suffer the same slide to ignominy. Probably soon, based on the sheer weight of his incompetence.

Note: This is a short and arbitrary list. I welcome other comparisons. If I get enough, I’ll write another diary with credit to the readers who submitted suggestions.

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