Ten years ago mentioning Hitler and the Nazis in a political debate was considered hyperbolic and in poor taste. And rightly so. Today, it has become almost passé. No less than the President of the United States has accused the American intelligence agencies of behaving as if they were in Nazi Germany over “fake news leaks” in a tweet, for example.
And yet it seems that Mr Trump seems more determined than anybody to make comparisons to Nazi Germany apposite in the 21st Century. One of the executive orders he has signed in his frenzied first week in office was to require his administration to, “on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
So then: drill into the heads of the public the association between immigration and crime, ignoring context, such as the fact that immigrants are noticeably less likely to commit crimes and have lower rates of incarceration than native US citizens. Bully any local or state jurisdiction that refuses to indulge your fantasy by threatening to name and shame them – and, I presume before long, accuse them of being “un-American” and “un-patriotic”. And lay the ground for scapegoating these “criminals” and their “traitor”, “liberal” accomplices for any of your domestic policy failures on crime, social cohesion, and public order.
So far, so good, but this is rather closer to Putin than Hitler. Not to worry, Mr Trump has us covered: increase the number of detention centres, for these “threats to national security”, so we can fit all “illegals” in, irrespective of whether they are dangerous criminals or just kids trying to get an education.
Mr Trump was elected to the Office of President by promising the sun and the moon to a vast cohort of Americans that have been left behind by globalisation and who feel their very identities are under attack from a relentless “liberal culture war” to strip them of their “masculinity” and their conservative values. These people feel that they have been robbed of everything, and that only Mr Trump can rebuild America into a country where they can belong, by taking a hammer to “liberal economics” and liberal cultural sensibilities. They expect the maverick businessman to “shake things up”.
The problem is that Mr Trump has little to no interest in the wellbeing of his base. He wants their electoral support, sure, but in a post-fact world and with a base that is clinically resistant to facts and evidence after decades of indoctrination from Fox News and conservative talk radio, their wellbeing and their political support bear almost no correlation. What is actually important is Mr Trump’s image as the “man of the people”, the man who has their back.
He will fail to deliver what he has promised. That much is certain. This is something his team knows, and something he himself knows and is not too troubled by. But for that failure to not affect his image, and thus the support of his base, any responsibility for those failures must be deflected away from his administration and towards… well, anyone else will do. But his base are already inclined to blame immigrants and liberals for everything, so those two groups will do just fine as scapegoats.
When the inner city “carnage” Mr Trump described in his inauguration speech slips out of his deranged mind and into our streets because he is fanning the flames of a new race war in America, that will be “immigrant criminal gangs”, and “weak Democrat local government” like Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel. When another loner goes on a shooting spree and he just happens to be from a Muslim background, that will be all American Muslims. And everything that cannot be pinned on any “foreign” American, can easily be pinned on China. Brace yourselves for the best presidency, and it will be tremendous, because our President will never do anything wrong, and even though everyone is out to get him, he will put America first – and he will successfully run a business empire in parallel too!
Azeem Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Policy. This article was originally published by The Huffington Post on January 28, 2017.