Donald Trump has been likened in the past to Adolf Hitler, especially in the mainstream media. So how accurate is this portrayal of the businessman turned politician?
Is Donald Trump a new Adolf Hitler?
There are some parallels- Donald Trump does indeed approach politics from the direction of a nationalist. This is demonstrated in many of his speeches, as well as his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.” However, seizing on nationalism at a time of general dissatisfaction with a largely out-of-touch establishment, and general economic decline is not a new tactic, nor is it one exclusively attributed to Adolf Hitler.
Donald Trump also advocates for some aggressive foreign policy maneuvers, such as the use of scorched-earth tactics against radical groups like ISIS. This type of political rhetoric also seems like something that might be used by Adolf Hitler in 1938.
It is also fair to say that both Trump and Hitler had a disdain for the establishment politics of the day. This is also a characteristic which hints at both of the men having authoritarian leanings.
Adolf Hitler was not a businessman, nor was he a successful general. Hitler was a fine arts student, a laborer and a war hero (World War One) turned politician. Adolf Hitler had few notable exploits prior to the horrific conditions faced by young men in the trenches and his world view, anger, and general disposition was melded by witnessing years of economic, political and military fumbles by the German State.
While it’s impossible to say where Trump’s true intentions are, I would argue that this is where the similarities end. In fact, I believe that Trump is more likely to be the modern day version of another famous historical figure: Gaius Julius Caesar.
What similarities are there between Trump and Julius Caesar?
It is probably fair to say that the United States was built upon the experiences of the Roman Empire when it was first assembled, including the use of a Republic. Both the United States and the Roman Republic made use of eagles in their iconography (although unsurprisingly, so did Nazi Germany.)
Unlike Adolf Hitler, both Julius Caesar and Donald Trump sprung out of aristocratic class. Both men were broadly successful in their youth. While Donald Trump had financial backing from his father (see the “small loan of one million dollars” debacle), Julius Caesar was financed by one of the wealthiest men in human history, Marcus Crassus.
From a young age, Julius Caesar was walking a tightrope between existing within the establishment and skirting it. Caesar grew up during a time of political unrest within Rome. His uncle and powerful political figure, Gaius Marius was in a bloody political war with an opponent during Caesar’s youth. To this day I have yet to meet a businessman who does not view the political authorities with some modicum of skepticism. This springs from the political pursuit of power and the nature of government in seizing and redistributing wealth. It is likely to say that both men learned early how to navigate the nebulus void of the political seat of power.
Both Trump and Caesar were successful in their respective national pursuits: Caesar was a decorated general who pacified and conquered Gaul, and Trump is a billionaire who built a business empire. Rome’s predominant expansion was borne through military conquest, whereas the United States favors trade.
Both were respected by the populace broadly for their strength and leadership abilities and each figure was a unifier of men. Furthermore, both men were benevolent to their friends and allies (see Trump’s inclination to extend an olive branch to political allies- evidenced by his early praise for Ted Cruz, and for his support of Ben Carson when Cruz undermined him), but both were ruthless with enemies. Julius Caesar exhibited this trait when he forgave Brutus when he turned on Caesar during the war for control of the Roman Republic between Pompey and Caesar. Brutus later proved to the be catalyst for Caesar’s assassination.
The largest similarity, however, is the direct conflict with establishment politicians that both men faced when running for political office. Caesar was brought into direct conflict by figures in Rome who were fearful of his power- a host of senators and his prime political opponent Pompey. Indeed, the fight for the leadership of the Roman Republic was so fierce that it fractured the Republic down the center. Based upon the rhetoric and the fierce criticism coming out of both the GOP and the Democratic party, it seems that history may well repeat.
If I am correct in my assertions and the parallels continue to hold then turbulent times are ahead. Caesar defended himself and destroyed his opponents when the Roman Senate fragmented, brought his enemies back into the Senate after Pompey’s death in Egypt. He bribed the population who broadly loved him, and named himself as the dictator. This power grab ended in assassination and a second bloody civil war which led to the rise of Caesar’s great nephew, Octavian (his named heir), who later became known as Augustus and was arguably the greatest political leader in Roman history.
If we do see a historical repeat, expect wholesale rebellion and odd political alliances forming behind closed doors, we might even see partisan alliances forming between established Republicans and Democrats. Mitt Romney, could play the Pompey type figure in the battle for power at a brokered convention for the Republican nominee. Trump would likely run as an independent in such an event, which would make for a very interesting presidential race.