Donald Trump, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Other Dictators

Donald Trump, Adolph Hitler,
Benito Mussolini
Other Dictators

© David Burton 2023


     Comparisons between Trump(ism) and Fascism have become frequent, and with good reason. These comparisons are strongest between Trump and Mussolini - stronger than with Hitler and Nazi-ism.
     A comparison between Trump and Mussolini in terms of character and style is frighteningly strong. This comparison is based primarily on quotes from a 2010 book about Mussolini by R.J.B. Bosworth.[1] In general, the quotes speak for the themselves. It should be noted that this book was published years before similarities between Trump and Mussolini became politically relevant, and, thus, were not written with Trump in mind.
     The similarities between President Trump and Il Duce Mussolini begin with Trump’s arrogant ignorance and incoherence and are reflected in excerpts from Bosworth’s book:
     “Other more critical contemporaries noticed instead the fluctuations in Mussolini’s ideas and the way he preferred to avoid in-depth conversations, sometimes excusing himself by saying that the details should be left to the experts. Here, they discerned, was a leader more interested in imposing his will than in harmonising his attitudes or policies. Here was a politician more interested in seeming to know than in knowing.” (Ref. 1, pg 142)
     “He understood that a totalitarian dictator had to be, or to seem to be, expert in everything.” (Ref. 1, pg 177)
     “Cowing the press was only one part of building a totalitarian dictatorship.” (Ref. 1, pg 177)
     Bosworth pointed to a later developing ambition for Mussolini that also became ever-more apparent in Donald Trump as his ambition combined with a lack of coherence: “The real novelty of his ambition lay in his pretensions to enter the hearts and minds of his subjects, and so install Fascism as a political religion.” (Ref. 1, pg 177)
     “ ‘Reactionary dictators are men of no philosophy, no burning humanitarian ideal, nor even an economic program of any value to their nation or the world. [George Seldes]’ They were ‘gangsters’ more than anything else.” (Ref. 1, pg 246)
     One striking detailed similarity between the two dictators: Mussolini appointed his son-in-law as Italian foreign minister[1, pg 254] , while Trump appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to serve as a senior adviser to the president. Unlike cabinet positions, the job of adviser did not require approval of the United States Senate.
     Members of Congress questioned Kushner’s appointment, noting that a 1967 law bared a public official from appointing a family member to the same agency in which the official serves. They asked the Justice Department and ethics officials to investigate possible conflicts of interest. Legal experts offered differing opinions about whether the appointment of Trump’s son-in-law violated the more-than 50-year-old law.[2]
     Trump, like Mussolini, is infamous for his ultra-thin skin:
     “… he would flick through the French press and grow enraged at any criticism of Italy and himself.” (Ref. 1, pg 272)
     “… there were few things which annoyed Mussolini more than overt criticism.” (Ref. 1, pg 276)
     “This emotion [anger] had always been a prominent part of the Duce’s reaction to life .…” (Ref. 1, pg 280)
     Trump and Mussolini share thin-skinned ignorance combined with arrogant contempt:
     “The Duce’s version of permanent revolution, it was increasingly plain, was more a story of his own permanent sense that the rest of human kind was not made in this own image (an arrogance which only partially cloaked his own sense of inadequacy …).” (Ref. 1, pg 282)
     “… it was plain that he [Augusto Rosso] was another who feared that Ciano [son-in-law] was very young, and very inexperienced in the real world, and who knew that Mussolini did not take his professional diplomats seriously.” (Ref. 1, pg 292)
     “In his diary, Giuseppe Bottai - an Italian journalist, and member of Mussolini's National Fascist Party - depicted a war leader whose administration grew steadily more ‘approximate’, with the Duce, a ‘man of the banner headline’ at heart, now bored by detail or discussion and preferring to ‘let things run of their own accord’.” (Ref. 1, pg 1)
     “… the Duce’s reaction, Bottai complained, was, ‘if things go well, take the credit; and, if they go badly, to blame others’. This, Bottai concluded, had become the real meaning of the formula: ‘Mussolini is always right.’ ” (Ref. 2, pg 276)
     Similarly, in Donald Trump’s mind: If something goes well, take credit for it. If something goes badly, blame someone else. According to Trump, the guiding rule is: “Donald Trump is always right.”
     Both Mussolini and Trump proved themselves to be vain, blundering boasters. But just as Mussolini took over the Fascist movement in pre-World-War II Italy, Trump is exploiting and taking over the ultra-nationalism/alt-right movements here in the United States. These have been the power bases for two dictatorial personalities.
     There are also other passages from a different book, Mussolini and Italian Fascism[3] that have relevance to Trump.
     In addition to a comparison of Trump with Mussolini, two additional comparisons - one with Adolph Hitler and one with Vladimir Putin - are also relevant here. Hitler and Nazi-ism have both similarities and differences with Trump and Trumpism, but both include the style of creating multiple competing power centers, to be adjudicated by the ultimate authority. This not only creates chaos, it also encourages striving to produce the positions, actions, and proposals that will most powerfully capture what the Leader will bestow favor upon. It nurtures what came to be called “Working toward the Fuhrer.” It is a formula for extremism.
     Violence is central to the history of these movements. Both Hitler and Mussolini came to their dictatorial powers via relatively singular acts of violence: the Reichstag fire for Hitler and the Fascist march on Rome for Mussolini. So too does Trump and the January 2020 riot in the Capitol smack of violence. [4]

     Another frightening similarity between the power bases of Trump Mussolini and Hitler is that of their militant supporters. In the case of Fascist Italy’s Mussolini, his violent supporters were the Fascist Blackshirts. The Blackshirts was originally the paramilitary wing of the Italian National Fascist Party. Their methods became harsher as Mussolini's power grew, and they used violence and intimidation against Mussolini's opponents.

     Hitler’s early Nazi enforcers were the infamous Stormtroopers or Brownshirts. The Brownshirts was the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Its primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, and intimidating trade unionists, and especially Jews.

     In Trump’s case, one of the militant groups supporting him, has been the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys is an exclusively male North American far-right neo-fascist organization that promotes and engages in political violence and has been called a street gang.

     Putin, however, has demonstrated a different dictatorial path. Violence, even Putin-directed lethal violence, has been a central part of Putin’s creation of his dictatorship, but there has not been any single violent event that generated his power. Instead, Putin’s history has been one of constant undermining and destruction of competing institutions and individuals, to the point that there are no longer any checks on his power. We have already seen major attacks by Trump on the judiciary, the press, and moves to undermine and take over the institutions of public safety. The seditious partisanship of the Republicans in and out Congress ensures that the legislative branch and the Republican Party itself will not be a check - unless that blind support is somehow itself changed.
     The attacks on institutions central to American democracy as “enemies of the people” has a horrible and horribly dangerous historical background. Trump may (or may not) be too ignorant to know of that background, but his inner circle most certainly knows of it, and intends it exploit in full. With Donald Trump active in American politics, we all live in dangerous times.[4]

     The Republican Party is no longer the political party that I belonged to and supported as a moderate Conservative. The Republican Party has been hijacked and subverted by Donald Trump and his blind followers! America is the worse for this turn of events.

     Donald Trump has remade the Republican Party in his own image. Under his mismanagement and ineptitude, the GOP has become the party of corruption, plunder, and white nationalism. Trump has effectively destroyed the party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. He has ruined the GOP brand.
     The Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass ws founded in opposition to slavery, with 2,000 black elected officials during Reconstruction. But, in the 21st century - under Donald Trump - It has emerged as the party of intolerance and exclusion. Although many in the Republican Party rejected and resisted the Trump candidacy, the GOP nonetheless coalesced around him.
     This all started in the 1960s before Donald Trump with the Southern Strategy, a process of race baiting to woo conservative white voters who resented African-Americans, integration, and the gains people of color made in the civil rights movement. Seizing on the themes of black people as criminals and bogeymen on the one hand, and undeserving beneficiaries of government welfare and social programs on the other, the GOP channeled white racism toward people of color into hatred of government - all for political gain.
     With Barack Obama winning the presidency in 2008, Republicans found a new bogeyman, a symbol of power and a living embodiment of their war against government and multiculturalism. Birtherism, of which Trump was a founder and cheerleader, was based on the blatant falsehood that Obama was the “other” - a Muslim, born in Kenya, not a U.S. citizen, and therefore an illegitimate president. The tea party vilified the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as an object of racial resentment.
     The years of race-baiting, of alignment with white fundamentalist Christianity, homophobia, and an anti-abortion stance finally caught up with a Republican Party that was chasing a dwindling demographic of angry conservative whites in an increasingly diverse and inclusive nation. Obama won in 2008 and again in 2012.
     Following the Republican loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) issued an autopsy report calling for a more inclusive party as a means of salvaging its long-term viability. The report urged the GOP to shift its views on LGBTQ rights and immigration, listen to young people, women, people of color, and those who might not agree with the party.
     Republicans failed to heed the warning, and the result was an erratic, authoritarian narcissist named Donald Trump. The dog whistle of the Southern Strategy morphed into a loud “alt-right” bullhorn of extremism, and the GOP “big tent” coalition became a white sheet providing cover for Charlottesville neo-Nazis.
     One person who left the Republican Party, said grotesque had become the GOP norm and “Trump’s energy, unleavened by intellect and untethered to principle, serves only his sovereign instinct to pander to those who adore him as much as he does. . . With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. The faux nationalists of the ‘alt-right’ and their fellow travelers, although fixated on protecting America from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right.”
     About Trump, one conservative talk show host said, “The capacity of Republicans to rationalize their support appears to be bottomless.” The talk show host noted the “alternative reality bubble” he and other conservatives helped create, and the values conservatives have rejected in favor of “media clowns,” “crackpots and bigots.”
     He went on to say: “I am less horrified by Trump himself than by what he has done to the rationalizers and enablers. . . . Why are you people defending this, why don’t you see what he’s doing to your own cause?”[5]

     Are Donald Trump and his followers a Cult? This question has preoccupied certain psychiatrists and mental health professionals ever since Donald Trump rose to political prominence in 2016 and his and his followers’ often irrational behavior became apparent. Actually, such a question and the attempt to answer it dates back to the 1940s when the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) asked American psychoanalysts to analyze Adolph Hitler.
     Psychiatrist Bandy Lee’s bestselling edited volume The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017)[6] took a look at Trump through the eyes of a large group of mental health professionals who expressed their concerns that Trump was dangerous and mentally ill.
     One psychologist explained narcissism and asserted that Trump was (and is) a narcissist. He then described with concern how narcissistic leaders can devolve into a “psychotic spiral” over time. Working in a similar vein, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst described the criteria for sociopathy, then presented evidence that, in his view, showed that Trump was (and is) a sociopath.
     Among the book’s most thoughtful contributors is a psychoanalyst who said that Trump’s traits included impulsivity, a tendency toward angry retaliation, and an “insistence on his own infallibility.”
     Robert Jay Lifton, a leader in social psychiatry and in moral introspection, wrote that in Trump and his movement, he recognized some of the aspects of cultism that he had discovered in his previous work. He concluded that Trump “is a special kind of cultist.”
     For Lifton, Trump was not totalistic and he was not consistently ideological like many political leaders. Instead, he was (and still is) a self-absorbed purveyor of a powerful but misleading narrative. Trump’s narrative runs this way: “As a strongman and a dealmaker, he will restore America to its rightful world-dominating military and economic power.”
     There is more. Lifton thought there was “a ritual quality" to the chants that Trump encouraged at his rallies: "Lock her up!" and "Build that wall.” Much of Trump’s base, in turn, “can be understood as cultist” - that is, as following a guru who served as "teacher, guide, and master.” Lifton found apocalyptic and messianic overtones in QAnon, the group whose conspiratorial theories he believed Trump facilitated and called forth but did not quite endorse.[7]

     Former President Donald Trump today is facing a wall of accountability and truth as new revelations and investigations expose his abuses of power, his delusional lies about the 2020 election and the conduct of his business. Will this indicted and twice-impeached former President, who has always kept one step ahead of the law and political gravity by disdaining truth and ignoring shame, pay a price for all of this?
     There have been a flurry of exposés from Trump’s desperate last days in office. According to one, the then-President had “the eyes and mannerism of a madman” after his attorney general told Trump that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud. In another instance, Trump was reported to have as gotten into a shouting match with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after saying he (Trump) wanted to send the US military into cities that he claimed were in flames amid violence.
     These accounts build a record of malfeasance on the behalf of the former President. They show just how close American democracy came to the brink, thanks to a former commander in chief who tried to use tactics familiar to the dictators of recent history, like China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who Trump so admired.
     Trump’s continuing unhinged rhetoric gives a strong impression that the former President now exists in a bunker-like mentality, deeply convinced of his own invented version of reality.[8]

     On 4 April 2023, former President Donald Trump was charged with 34 counts of felony fraud in New York. Trump pleaded not guilty, becoming the first former president to be charged with a crime, thus threatening America with appearing to become to another "3rd world dictatorship" if Trump were to be nominated and re-elected in 2024. The indictment also solidified the Republican Party’s status as nothing more than Trump’s mouthpiece.
     Almost as soon as the Manhattan District Attorney’s office published the charges, Republicans in the House and Senate began releasing statements in lockstep sentiment with Trump’s tirade against indictment. Most followed near-identical language, giving the public a blueprint for the GOP's public relations strategy: deny, attack and reverse. As in any 3rd world dictatorship, the search for truth and justice was never a consideration in their pro-Trump diatribes.
     It took a few hours, but the GOP's official Twitter account finally caught up with the newly issued strategy and aped the language, decrying "political prosecution." Shortly after that, more Republican members began parroting the phrase in their respective online squawk boxes.[9]

     Thankfully, a majority of Americans have retained their common sense and say that the multiple criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump's conduct are fair, despite Trump's continued efforts claiming they are conspiracies against him.
     A survey of more than 1,300 adults found that despite the love for him among Republicans, Trump remains highly disliked, continues to struggle mightily with Independents and 6 in 10 Americans don't want him to be president again.
     The results came as Trump faced at least four criminal investigations: (1) the hush money investigation out of New York, (2) a federal case stemming from classified documents found at his Florida home, (3) one federal case examining his role in the 6 January 2021 insurrection, and (4) one from Georgia that is looking at his pressure campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost. At Trump’s first 2024 presidential campaign rally in Waco, Texas, he baselessly described the investigations as the result of "prosecutorial misconduct."
     But most Americans didn't agree with him. By a 56%-to-41% margin respondents said the investigations were fair and not a "witch hunt." As expected, there was a huge partisan divide — 9 in 10 Democrats said they were fair, while 8 in 10 Republicans called them a witch hunt. A slim majority of Independents called them fair, but they were closely split, 51% to 47%.
     Those most likely to say the investigations were a witch hunt were core Trump supporting groups: white men without degrees, white evangelical Christians and those who lived in small towns.
     Republicans liked Trump a lot — 8 in 10 had a favorable opinion of him. But, more broadly, Trump remained highly unpopular. Just 39% overall had a favorable opinion of Trump, 51% had a negative view. That included just 37% of Independents who had a positive view of him. Even though Trump's 2024 campaign was well underway, 61% of respondents didn't want Trump to be president, including almost two-thirds of Independents.
     For Republicans, it's a different story — three-quarters did want Trump to be president again. So Trump remains very popular with his Republican base, but he’s politically toxic with everyone else. That represents a real conundrum for the GOP because with numbers like those, it's hard to see how Trump can win a general election. It’s also hard to see how he can lose the Republican nomination — without a sustained effort from others in the party to go after his glaring vulnerabilities that have cost the GOP in recent elections.[10]

     In a chilling warning, a conservative judge at the Capitol Riot Hearing said that Donald Trump, his allies and supporters were “a clear and present danger to American democracy”.
     Further, Trump brought the U.S. “dangerously close to catastrophe.” It was also said that that the former US president and his Republican supporters were preparing in open sight an “attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election.”
     In a statement before the hearing, the retired federal judge, a George HW Bush appointee, testified in his capacity as an adviser to Mike Pence, who was vice-president to Trump between 2017 and 2021. He said: “A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge.
     “America was at war on that fateful day, but not against a foreign power. She was at war against herself. We Americans were at war with each other – over our democracy.”
     The retired judge went on to say: “I don’t speak those words lightly. I would have never spoken those words ever in my life. Except that’s what the former president and his allies are telling us … the former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024 in the open, in plain view of the American public.”[11]

     Republicans did significantly worse in the 2022 midterm elections than expected. Maybe, just maybe, Republicans are finally waking up to the disaster in their midst – that disaster being Donald Trump and his extremist supporters.

     “Republicans: Trump is your problem. Wake up,” came the headline in The National Review, and much of what was left of the party’s anti-Trump faction agreed.
     Mitt Romney identified a paradox that had doomed his party: “If you get endorsed by him in the primary , you’re likely to win. If you get endorsed by him in the general [election], you’re likely to lose,” Romney told reporters. “So, for someone who actually wants to win an election, getting endorsed by him is the kiss of death.”
     Mitch McConnell, who was left doing another stint as Senate minority leader after the hoped-for “red wave” fizzled, came to a similar conclusion. “We ended up having a candidate quality test,” McConnell told reporters. “Our ability to control the primary outcome was quite limited in ’22 because the support of the former president proved to be very decisive in these primaries. So my view was do the best you can with the cards you’re dealt. Now, hopefully, in the next cycle we’ll have quality candidates everywhere and a better outcome.”
     Or will they? Five months after their disastrous midterm showing, a number of extreme Republicans are once again poised to run in primary elections. “(F)ar-right candidates are mulling runs and gaining traction amid clear signs they will fail miserably in the general election, putting GOP hopes of reclaiming the chamber at risk.” In fairness, the GOP has made some effort to course-correct. Steve Daines is the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), having taken the reins from Rick Scott. Daines insists that he is all about electability. “Chairman Daines has been clear he’s willing to do whatever it takes to nominate candidates who can win both a primary and a general election,” said the NRSC spokesperson in a comment that could be interpreted as a shot at both Scott and Trump.
     But the NRSC chairperson and his colleagues may not have enough thumbs to put on the scale to tip things back toward “electable.” Donald Trump’s endorsement isn’t the only factor. Republican voters, given the choice between extremists and staid alternatives, are sticking with the weirdos. For many in the party, the fact that the 2020 election was “stolen” is holy writ, and they want candidates willing to make that part of their message. Extremist Republican voters, moreover, aren’t thinking necessarily about electability - looking toward the presidential election cycle, a recent poll found that Republicans prefer a candidate they agree with over one who can beat Biden.The GOP base is as issue-oriented as ever, but those issues are now more often the kind that generate attention only in hermetically sealed environments, such as right-wing cable news. Concerns about “election integrity” and “wokeness” have yet to be translated into election-winning ideas.[12]

     In the end, will Donald Trump and his extremist supporters end up the same as most dictators, would-be dictators and their supporters – out of power and relegated to the waste-bins of history?

     Real, democracy loving Americans can only hope so and work to make this happen!

  1. Mussolinii, Richard J.B. Bosworth, Continnuum-3PL, March 2011.
  2. Trump Appoints Son-in-Law as Top Adviser, Richard J.B. Bosworth, VOA Learning English, 10 January 2017.
  3. Mussolini and Italian Fascism, Giuseppe Finaldi, Routledge; 1st edition, 10 July 2008.
  4. The Scary Parallels Between Trump and Mussolini, Mark Bickhard, History News Network, 19 March 2017.
  5. This is how Trump is destroying the Republican Party, David A. Love, WHYY, 19 April 2018.
  6. The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, Bandy X. Lee,
    St. Martin's Publishing Group, 19 March 2019 (Updated).
  7. Donald Trump and His Followers: Are They a Cult?, Robert Jay Lifton, Psychology Today, 27 September 2020.
  8. Trump’s false reality is being exposed on multiple fronts, Stephen Collinson, CNN, 9 June 2021.
  9. America now a "3rd world dictatorship": GOP mirrors Trump tactics — deny, reverse, attack, Rae Hodge, Salon, 4 April 2023.
  10. Don't call them 'witch hunts.' Most Americans say investigations into Trump are fair, Domenico Montanaro, npr, 27 March 2023.
  11. Trump a ‘clear and present danger to US democracy’, conservative judge warns, Martin Pengelly, The Guardian, 16 June 2022.
  12. Republicans Are Starting to Regret Cultivating a Base of Extremist Voters, Alex Shephard, The New Republic, March 16, 2023.

  25 May 2023 {Article 576; Politics_81}    
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