No, Trump Won’t Be Another Hitler

Donald Trump has been compared to Hitler by some famous and influential people lately.  But rest assured, Mr. Trump will likely not cross the Rubicon and break America’s increasingly tenuous grip on Republican governance. 

For one thing, it is hard to envision how a man of almost 70 who spent his entire life working in the private sector could be a Hitler due to his age.  History shows that becoming a despot is a young(ish) man’s game.  Here are twenty of the worst despots of the past two centuries, along with their ages when they became the head of state, to illustrate my point:

Mao Zedong was 55 when he assumed control of China as the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Joseph Stalin was 44 when he became General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Adolf Hitler was 43 when he became Führer of Germany.

King Leopold II was 30 when he became King of the Belgians.

Hideki Tojo was 56 when he became Prime Minister of Japan.

Pol Pot was 37 when he became the General Secretary of his party, and would become prime minister at 49.

Kim Il Sung was 33 when he became the Premier of North Korea.

Mengistu Haile Mariam was 39 when he became the Chairman of the Derg and Head of State of Ethiopia.

Yakubu Gowon was 31 when he became the Chairman of the Derg and Head of State of Ethiopia.

Jean Kambanda was 38 when he became the Prime Minister of Rwanda.

Saddam Hussein was 42 when he became the Regional Secretary of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Regional Branch.

Vladimir Lenin was 50 when he finally wrested control of Russia following the civil war that succeeded the October Revolution.

Bashar Al Assad was 34 when he became the President of Syria.

Hugo Chavez was 44 when he became the President of Venezuela.

Fidel Castro was 32 when he became the President of Cuba.

Idi Amin became President of Uganda when he was around 46, but nobody knows quite when he was born.

Ho Chi Minh was 55 when he became the first prime minister of North Vietnam.

Francisco Franco was 46 when he became the Caudillo of Spain.

Benito Mussolini was 39 when he became Prime Minister of Italy.

Hirohito was 25 when he became emperor.

In other words, men who yearn to wield unchecked power over a country get on with it before they’re eligible for Social Security.

Here’s what the ages look like when ordered from youngest to oldest:
















Bashar al-Assad




































Pol Pot


























Std Dev






So Donald Trump would be the oldest despot in the list by 14 years were he to become the head of state, and older than the average by almost 30. 

I suspect this is not a coincidence.  If you’re too young, you can’t ascend to power except if it’s one of those hereditary promotions (e.g. Hirohito).  On the other hand, if you’re too old you don’t have enough testosterone to want to be a dictator.  The Mayo Clinic says T declines by about 1 percent a year after you’re 30 or 40, meaning that by age 70, Mr. Trump’s is probably less than 75% of his peak level.

And higher levels of testosterone increase the likelihood of risky behavior.  This explains why the oldest of the 19 9/11 hijackers was 33 years of age: Smashing oneself into a building full of innocents while hoping that Allah will reward you is, among other things, extremely risky.  As a less evil example of youthful risk taking, here’s a study that says that testosterone causes young men to do crazy skateboard tricks when pretty women are watching.

Another factor that bodes in Trump’s favor is how few of the above despots rose to the position of head of state by free democratic election.  The number is one: Hugo Chavez.**  Democratically elected heads of state tend to not be despotic, despite the widely known (especially this year) stupidity of voters.  Therefore this is a second reason making it unlikely that Donald Trump would declare himself Fuhrer after election.

The third reason that Donald Trump is unlikely to become a despot is because he’s running for the Presidency of the United States, as opposed to say, Zimbabwe.  A large portion of Americans revere the nation’s founding documents, which curtail federal power, as well as its institutions, such as the Supreme Court and military personnel, which would undoubtedly act to restrain outright despotism if required.  These widely revered documents significantly curtail the president’s licit powers by both dividing state power into the three branches and by taking certain powers out of the government’s hands altogether, like the power to restrict people speaking out against Mr. Trump.

I am not saying that Donald Trump cannot become America’s first true despot.  I’m not saying that for two reasons: He could be taking testosterone replacement therapy, which would throw a bocce ball into my “he’s too old” theory.  It may well be that with the advent of hormonal technologies that the average age of a new despot will increase significantly.

The second reason I can’t be sure is the reason we can’t ever be sure of what others will do: He still has free will.  Anyone with free will can make a decision that is unlikely, which would discount my first two reasons.  With free will, for instance, Barack Obama can argue against his opponents’ actual arguments instead of using straw men at his next “I’m quite a bit better than the Americans who elected me” speech.  Hillary Clinton could tell us why, really, she didn’t use a federal email system even though it was cavalier at best to shun it.  And Debbie Wasserman Schultz can answer a question – any question – directly, ever.  I just wouldn’t count on these things.

All successful despots require large scale complicity in high ranking government officials and in the populace at large.  The United States would be a poor place to expect such complicity, even now, unless my judgment is tainted by an overly romantic view of the USA. 

I am not worried that Mr. Trump would be a president who will violently tear apart our Constitution and make the USA into Trumptopia before you can say, “I’ll make great deals.” 

But I do have a fear about him.  My fear is that he is a president that we have seen before -- that he is one who will fray the edges of our Constitution one millimeter at a time while soiling the Republican brand for decades to come by increasing the size, scope, and debt of the federal government.  Donald Trump will probably not become America’s first dictator, but that doesn’t mean he deserves the Republican nomination.  He doesn’t.


*It should be noted that before it was all over, Amin’s title expanded from “President” to “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”  That he did not Conquer the British Empire seemed to cause him hesitation only as much as not being Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas.  That is, not at all.

**It is a common myth that Hitler won election to become ruler of Germany.  In reality he lost his last election to famed WWI hero Paul von Hindenburg in 1932 and was thereafter tragically appointed to an influential position in Hindenburg’s government, which he used as leverage to take complete control of the country when the President died in office.

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