Home | About | Donate

Revisiting 1930s Authoritarianism Through Donald Trump

Revisiting 1930s Authoritarianism Through Donald Trump

Rick Salutin

Give this to Donald Trump: he helps us picture how the anti-democratic, right-wing, personality-driven movements of the 1930s came to power. Those movements are usually characterized as fascist though they were diverse, and the term itself is hellishly hard to define. As time passed, they faded into an inexplicably "evil" moment in history which thankfully couldn't happen here or now.


Trump 2016! ‘cause we’re just not done hatin’, yet…


Another male analyst who can’t–or refuses–to connect dots that pertain to gender. In this case, it’s Trump’s primped up version of machismo. All that talk about strength? It’s code word for “real men throw out Hispanic guest workers and keep women in their places.”

The overt and therefore obvious sexism that is so much a part of Trump was left out entirely in this gender-neutral characterization:

“Trump has found his demographic. It’s overwhelmingly white, demoralized and vindictive.”

Add to it “Wise Owl’s” use of the all-inclusive, one size fits all “WE” frame, and it’s a double hitter for perspectives that are conspicuous for what they don’t say.

Who is the WE, fool?

“we’re just not done hatin’.”

Speak for yourself since you post FIRST every morning to minimize the content of almost every article with glib, generic one-liners. These suggest a tactic in place to turn would-be real discussions into fluff.

1 Like

I thought this was a very insightful piece and rightfully offers a warning that in the past when people had endured long term economic stress and were feeling “vindictive”, that an authoritarian appeared in the role of the classical ‘strong man’ leader to exploit the situation. No Trump wouuld probably not become a dictator/leader but he would help pave the road that leads up to one.

Our country doesn’t need an oligarch to become an autocratic type of leader. The author of this piece is very observant and didn’t miss much imo. The points raised in this artcicle need to become part of the discussion among voters because the conditions exist that have seen the rise of dictators in the past and with the approaching climate caused instability and unrest… an imperious presidential style is the last thing we need. An autocratic leaning presidential style would certainly be more possible later and then a dictatorial president might just follow. Leaders like that pop up like dictators have done elsewhere in the past when conditions were right. Climate change will make those conditions right for that kind of thing btw.


His (Trump’s) policies are utterly vague;>

Tell us which leader’s policies are transparent. Obama’s? Or any other Democratic/Republican candidate whose proposed policies are not opaque? Paradoxically, it’s because, compared with other candidates, both Republican and Democratic - Sanders excepted - Trump IS more transparent and that’s why he got his votes. Trump is honestly fascist, unlike most other politicians past and present.

It amounts to trusting him absolutely, the strong leader …"

Remember someone who rode “tall in the saddle?” Isn’t being a “strong leader” something promised by every politician?

There’s no concrete participation.<

Well, tell us WHEN there was, ever, any concrete participation in US history. The closest that came to it was the administration of FDR, and the most promising was JFK. That’s all I can think of.

But Trump shows that people go soft on democracy>

That’s assuming that democracy exists, a debatable assumption.

In a time of rising inequality and diminishing fortunes for most people, a kind of democratic despair could occur here <

The “rising inequality and diminishing fortunes” came about precisely because of an absence of democracy. “Despair” and “democracy” shouldn’t be lumped together. Most of the time, the former’s presence is due to the latter’s absence: true democracy seldom generates despair.


“But Trump shows that people go soft on democracy when it’s not delivering and they and their families are suffering.”

People go soft on democracy when representatives don’t deliver because people think representative government is democracy, which it isn’t.

If its not grassroots direct and decentralized, its not democracy.

1 Like

How do you know that this author is refusing to connect dots that pertain to gender (or incapable of doing so)? Or that generalizing in this case (although he was pretty careful about his definitions) is not intentional and correct? I would argue that you can’t reduce everything to male versus female and we vs them (“them” being the big bad rich people)–with yourself always coming out as the oppressed and ignored, inasmuch as you are female and not among the very wealthy (or I assume so based on past comments).

Mannheim (1936) wrote eloquently about ideology and its roots in social construction of reality: we create what we perceive to be real, and when this “reality” is institutionalized, it acquires a pseudo-legitimacy that convinces those with few critical thinking skills. Trump is creating the new narrative for the white population, namely those who have managed to live in a state of semi-isolated (from the world) privilege, whose history has glorified their successful imposition of western ideals and cultural traditions around the world (although mostly through violence), and whose rage is becoming ever more manifest as these houses of cards collapse due to the emergence of new power centers (shifting demographics). His appeal is visceral, just as was that of Hitler or Mussolini, or any other ideologue who manipulates the base emotions of the illiterati.

One area of disagreement I have with this author, is his use of the word democracy. We are not a democracy, we never have been. We are a representative republic, with some features of democratic governance including the vote. The elite have always ruled this nation, the people’s voice has always been suppressed or distanced from truly wielding power (one reason we have the electoral college!) , and we now resemble an oligarchy more than any other type of government. it’s high time we call this what it is and stop kidding ourselves. reminds me of Montesquieu’s essay on the ease with which democracies become despotic states. Seems he too was spot on.


“Further, it’s never a good idea to assume that any electronically tabulated American election will be conducted fairly.”

So true. One only has to go back to Florida in 2000, or Ohio in 2004, or… How did Scott Walker ever win in Milwaukee County? Something’s wrong here. But, think about it, those same PTB might conspire to elect Hillary over The Donald.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

Have we all here, and across the nation, forgotten Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer”???..by god, if there is one, we better read or reread it…it’s a thin little book, short and sweet but so jam packed full of things that apply today it is a must do kinda thingy…be afraid, very afraid, the author is correct, plain and simple…;


Trump is all head … no soul …

One gets the sense that Trump’s personality would turn the presidency into a throne and woe to those who cross the king or fail to obey his commands.

In all seriousness, Trump doesn’t look like a patient and toughtful man. He reminds me of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror’s contention that the kings and nobles of the middle ages were rash, impetuous, emotionally immature and reckless. They went to war without reckoning cost nor capability but on mood and often whim.

Trump seems itching to ‘Have at them’ like he is astride some palfrey with lance a tilt. Trump’s won’t take their shit attitude is basically insanity to everyone else who has a reasoning brain.

Who needs impatience in the white House?

Who needs intolerance in the White House?

Who needs an oligarch in the White House?

Who needs a throne in the Oval Office?

It is instructive to note that Eric Hoffer demonstrated the connection between organized religion (all flavors) , political ideologies (all flavors), and revolutionary movements (all flavors).
The common denominators that unite the faithful followers of these movements include:
The desire for change on the part of seriously discontented groups of people.
The loss of control over their lives and no confidence in existing culture or tradition.
The willingness to renounce any individuality for the sake of being a part of a movement.
The conviction that all mass movements are in competition for the same limited number of true believers, thus making the gains of one group at the expense of another.

When looked at in this light, the vague utterances of Bernie Sanders are just as potentially ominous as the bumptious blowhard pronouncements of Donald Trump.
The Pope’s many non-religious proclamations are just as troubling as the ravings and behavior of ISIS.
The calloused indifference of big business to anything except their bottom line profits are just as dangerous as the civilly disobedient mobs raging everywhere today with the ultimatum of getting their way or they will “burn the bitch down”. (This is true from the Ukraine to Beirut Lebanon, to Athens Greece, to Fergueson MO)
The common denominator among all of the above is their desire to recruit as many “true believers” as possible out of a limited number of potential converts.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all this alienation, discontent, and powerlessness, the establishment candidates of JEB! and Hillary portray themselves as defenders of an unacceptable status quo. (And why not, it certainly has worked out well for them and their families!)
These polarizing leaders are like sparks in a forest full of the dry tinder of discontent. If the discontent is not removed then one of these days there will be a spark big enough to start a conflagration that engulfs the entire world.

Andrew, if you think “The Donald” will make any difference in the vice-like grip that the MIC and multi-national corporations have over the governmental affairs of the US, then you need to go and rewatch the Zapruder film. Note also that the military has pretty much had its way since the Kennedy assassination and (along with the manufacturers of all their “toys”) been given just enough rope to hang their collective selves and the citizenry whose security they are supposed to be insuring.

1 Like

Your first paragraph is basically correct if overly simplistic and the equating of mass movements and religions while similar in some respects are not the same and not what Hoffer said.

However after that is amazingly strange. You pose polar opposites as being virtually the same in operationif not intent. Moreover you take simplicity to extremes when equating a progressive with a arch reactionary merely because the mainstream calls them outliers who are gathering supporters in an election while ignoring their diverse messages and type of supporters.

You then equate the Pope’s encyclical about the environment with the ravings of Isis merely because they are part of differing religions. A religious person can talk about the world he lives in and making it better without it being equated to the maniacal ramblings of Isis seeking to impose their corrupted view of religious law on others.

Just being opposites is not what Hoffer was talking about. Big business is not to be equated with people with feelings or intentions. It is more like a robot (unfeelingly) working towards profit while mobs are emotionally reactive and more like those mass movements that were mentioned before.

Your definition of a true believer is again simplistic. I recall a passage in Hoffer’s book where a wealthy man in his limo is approached by a wino for a hand out. The chauffer (a true believer) who identifies with his wealthy employer as being worthy and the bum as not, reacts with anger and tries to chase the man away for bothering the wealthy man.and feeling outraged that this unworthy person would dare beg for money and annoy the rich man etc.

Hoffer’s tale relates that the wealthy man stops his chauffer and orders him back into the car. He then gives the bum five dollars ( like a $20 bill in today’s money). According to Hoffer the rich man understood that to him five dollars was mere pennies and that he had a great life while this poor soul didn’t. He didn’t mind giving him five bucks and felt pleased to have helped the fellow. The chauffer had so identified with what he thought being a rich man was like and believed that he was being like the way rich people felt about things although he was wrng in this.

That his intolerance is the danger that exists in the followers of mass movements … the true believers who lose themselves and their perspective in their fantasy of what their identification with whatever they are attracted to. The over compensation often displayed by a new convert who wants to prove themselves to the old guard etc. .

All fanatics share this lack of empathy in their utter identification to something other than themselves whether it be a religion, group, country, whatever… the larger outside beyond themselves that they want to be part of.
The last sentence of yours is an observation although Hoffer was concerned about the rise of a charismatic leader when conditions of instability and discontent make for fertile ground for a dictatorial leader. However the later Hoffer works were never up to the standards of his short but penetrating opus - the True Believer

Great over view, thanks Poet…I only differ with on Sanders, he has been saying the same thing(s) for over 40 years…if we take your over-view and combine it with over population, global warming/climate change, what chances do we really have? I try very hard to think of this whole thing as a very bad movie whenever I walk outside my door. I also try very hard to remind myself that the Buddha asks, does it really matter…Peace to you and yours…onedman

What the hell is “The True Believer?” Some kind of religious tract? Never heard of it. Maybe it belongs over on the Religious Right, or Faux News for dummies…

1 Like

…read the book…

Great title, but I don’t get the back-off. Robert Scheer’s explained fascism pretty well recently. Scapegoating is all around these days. Some anglos wish to scapegoat Afro Americans. Trump is tuned into something more global…immigrants, plain and simple. But the main thing is that the atmosphere is good for scapegoating.