SolarCross wrote:Germany had been ruled by the kaisers for the longest time, and for the most part that rule was very effective while being on the political absolutist model. That came to an end with WW1 not even only two decades before Hitler's rise not so long ago.
I broadly agree with that statement and permit myself to expand upon it for the sake of this thread.
Germany (or rather, the German lands) underwent considerable political changes following the Napoleonic wars, from the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire to multiple confederations until being partly united under Prussian supremacy. The German empire itself didn't last half a century. While it is true that during most of the time that is relevant to us the Germans have lived in a monarchic system, one must be careful as to when it is appropriate to call the power of the supreme ruler absolute and whether or not most Germans culturally considered the supreme ruler a primary leading figure in politics. Nevertheless, I will agree that the political dynamics of the late German empire did favour the kaiser and that, by the time of the Weimar republic, nostalgia probably got the best of the German people as regards to accurate historical remembrance.
However, a more important factor in my opinion would be the very context of the birth of the German empire: The Franco-Prussian war. By 1871, not only did the Germans defeat the French with an unprecedented swiftness, but they established themselves as a military and economic powerhouse that took a Franco-British alliance to defeat, itself being unprecedented in terms of scale. Taking this into account, the turmoil of advancing through French territory in 1914 seems almost nonsensical. They are indeed sound geopolitical, technological and military reasons for the way the Great War turned out to be, but these don't hold a candle to the romanticism of patriotism.
I insist on this point because these brutal shifts in the balance of power at the end of the Pax Britannica are consequential to the moral and economic collapse of most of German lands in the early twentieth century and are therefore a central reason as to why the Germans followed
Hitler. The United States never experienced such profound economic and political changes and therefore a majority of the American people is insensitive to most of the associated populist narrative archetypal of Hitler's rhetoric. "Make X great" is more in line with a series of economic reforms aimed at industrial and financial prosperity than it is with a bellicose idea of continental domination. It can be argued that both seek to bolster nationalistic sentiment, but I believe the profound contextual differences are enough to properly dissociate Hitler from Trump. At this point the only things they would have in common are political practices that are far from being exclusive to them. And, while I do agree that antagonizing political opposition and catering to a misinformed populace (be it due to actual ideals or for strict political gains) is dangerous in itself, it is still far from turning an Ad hitlerum argument into something productive. It is another story when it comes to a more general anti-populist argument, though.
Another very important point is the economic factor. The Germans did not only inherit a debt considered unfair by many (and especially them), it was also ridiculously large. There are political reasons for this, and surely debt repayment has been remodeled with the Young Plan, but it was still a powerful nationalist argument on the political scene of the Weimar Republic. The Great Depression also contributed to an overall negative sentiment regarding foreign powers, especially through the Smooth-Hawley Act. While it is true that the fear of external economic intervention during the inter-war period was not exclusive to Germany (the French for example had some resentment regarding the UK's alleged manipulation of exchange rates), the German situation was the most exceptional. Yet again, the United-States never experienced such turmoil and the American people are largely insensitive to the economic threat a foreign power could pose. Such cases exist: Russia and China specifically. And though overall Chinese opposition is a consensus in US policy-making I believe it is still nowhere near the levels reached in pre-WWII Europe. Yet again Trump's position can hardly be compared to that of Hitler, their attitudes also differ: Trump's concerns over foreign powers is for the most part limited to the reformation of international trade the US engages in.
I will conclude by saying that both characters differ greatly in terms of context and policy. I will not venture into talking about their psychology but what I have read of Hitler and seen of Trump does not lead me to believe they are alike. I do consider the rise of Hitler to power an interesting topic for this thread but resent the idea of furthering the comparison with Trump.