The Trump of the Will

Every year when I was at University of Virginia, I attended the screening of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. This classic propaganda movie was produced in 1934 to showcase the party rally in Nuremberg. Riefenstahl’s filming techniques were decades ahead of Britain and the U.S.  

At U.Va., we were fortunate to be instructed by our distinguished professor of Modern European History, the redoubtable Oron J. Hale. Mr. Hale had served as Allied High Commissioner in occupied Bavaria. This fact added immeasurably to our appreciation of his insightful commentary on the film

Today’s viewers can google Der Triumph des Willens as it was shown to German audiences. With its Wagnerian sweep, it retains its power to move us.

That, Mr. Hale warned, is exactly the point. We who know where such mass hysteria leads have a duty to speak out, to stand up, and to oppose its advance at every turn.

Donald Trump’s antics entertain and offend at the same time. When we see the film Triumph, we see its “star” possessed of much more dignity and commanding presence than ever attended the oafish Trump.

Nonetheless, Hitler’s base then is Trump’s base now. Hitler’s base did have grievances, real and imagined. First and foremost was the Dolchstoßlegende. This “Stab in the Back” legend was central to Hitler’s appeal. You have been betrayed, he told his followers endlessly. For his National Socialists, that betrayal referred to the World War I defeat and the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany. Hitler blamed Socialists and Jews.

Trump blames the entire governing class of the United States. All trade agreements are products of a conspiring elite determined to put honest Americans out of work. He, who “outsources” the making of his own brand of shirts, tells the credulous displaced garment workers it’s the fault of “the suits.” “They” are losers who have negotiated all those trade treaties. But somehow these losers are incredibly powerful -- so “they” stick it to you, honest workers.

Hitler was both nationalist and socialist. Historian John Lukacs in The Legacy of the Second World War teaches us that national socialism was the greatest threat to freedom of the twentieth century. Lukacs writes that it had a powerful and almost irresistible appeal to the masses. Millions of them felt disrespected and scorned by the elites of Germany. The Nazis were their instrument of revenge.

Trump’s policy -- to the extent he has any policy -- is all nationalist, all socialist.

There is a consistency in his message.

He is a nationalist when he goes after NATO, the most successful alliance in world history. NATO, with Ronald Reagan’s leadership, prevailed over the Warsaw Pact and helped bring down the USSR. All this without firing a shot.

But to Trump, NATO is only there to screw the American taxpayer. He says he wants America to be great again. He implies by that, America is weak and cowering. Despite the irresponsibility of seven years of the Obama administration’s cuts, and its determination to use the military as a social engineering sandbox, our all-volunteer force remains the most powerful on earth.

Yet Trump would order our splendid military to commit war crimes. He wants our soldiers to kill the wives and children of ISIS members. This is what Hitler’s SS did in occupied France in 1944 at Oradour-sur-Glane

No American soldier should ever obey such an unlawful order. Lt. William Calley did obey such an order at My Lai in 1968. Calley was tried, convicted of murder, imprisoned, and eventually paroled. But he has spent every day of his life since regretting his actions.

If Calley is repentant, Trump is not. That is the key to his character. He does not apologize. He has never asked God’s forgiveness because, as he tells us, he has done nothing for which he needs to repent.

That still small voice of conscience is not his guide; it is his accomplice.

Here, too, Der Triumph des Willens provides the clue. The tens of thousands of belt buckles worn by those goose-stepping, strong young men were emblazoned with Gott mitt uns. God is with us.

Trump believes this, too. And if He isn’t, then He is also a loser.

Trump’s economics are socialist. He backs socialist minimum wage and tax-the-rich proposals that will do nothing to help the poorly educated or the working poor. He backs single-payer health care, the keystone of socialism.

When pressed by Marco Rubio to say how his own plan differed from President Obama’s, Trump promised to get rid of state barriers to insurance coverage.

Rubio ridiculed this, drawing finger circles in the air that signaled loco, or crazy.

But Trump’s message was clear: Everything will be run from Washington, by him. Again, he’s a socialist, but a national socialist.

Lawlessness was a key to the Nazi movement. And to Trump’s.

Trump doesn’t need Congress. He doesn’t need the courts. He doesn’t need the Constitution. All he needs is a measure of public approval.

The German Weimar Republic in the 1920s deliberately inflated their currency to pay off indemnities to the victorious allies of WWI. This was like a man setting fire to his own house to avoid the rent collector. But the devastated working class and middle class in Germany became eager hearers of Hitler’s economic appeals.

In America, ObamaCare has caused great harm to working Americans. Skyrocketing premiums, out-of-reach deductibles make “guaranteed” coverage a cruel joke. And to these unfortunate citizens, Trump’s simplistic message is seductive.

When conservative friends tell me Trump is popular with many, I respond: What part of Volkswagens for all, highway construction jobs for the unemployed, and purposeful activity in the fresh air for young people would we not like? Demagogues don’t arise telling people what they don’t want to hear.

Violence. Trump approves it. He uses it. “There will be riots,” he informs us, if he is denied the nomination. He has never supported the Republican Party, its candidates, or its principles. His nomination would be a repudiation of the party’s entire past.

And yet, based on his pluralities in a badly splintered field, he thinks he is entitled to claim the brass ring.

Violence was central to the rise of the Nazis in Germany, too. Does paying off Storm Troopers who beat up Communists, Socialists, pacifists, and Jews differ materially from Trump’s offering to pay the legal expenses of assailants in his crowds today?

Obviously, there are stark differences between Hitler and Trump. Hitler bore himself with dignity, at least in public. Trump is constantly capering like a baboon.

Hitler was a genuine hero in World War I; his Iron Cross medals were not false.

Trump is a coward who dodged the draft, claiming heel spurs.

Hitler was a compelling orator. Trump simply rants; his speeches are incoherent.

But, like Hitler, Trump has mastered the communications techniques of the age. For Hitler it was radio and film. For Trump it is the Internet and Twitter.

Hitler’s public conduct was prudish, even puritanical. Insiders in the Third Reich knew he kept a mistress. Trump has had wives and mistresses. He has had other men’s wives as his mistresses. And he brags about it. And shows no remorse about the families he’s broken up.

The Lie. The Lie was central to everything in the Nazi movement. It had to be. And Joseph Goebbels was the evil genius in charge of the Lie.

Trump’s core is the Lie. No better example may be found than his baseless claim that “many” in the pro-life movement demand punishment for women who have had abortions.

I have been active in the pro-life movement for forty years. I have never once heard any pro-lifer call for punishing women. Ours is the movement that created pregnancy care centers that extend their love, practical help, and acceptance to all women. And their babies.

Trump has backed, and still backs, Planned Parenthood. This is an outfit that kills 800 unborn children every day. Then Planned Parenthood scavenges their hearts, lungs, and livers for sale.

In truth, there is nothing in the history of our pro-life movement or in the history of our country to support Trump’s outrageous falsehoods. Things were different in Nazi Germany, as Prof. Richard J. Evans writes in The Third Reich in Power. There, women were subjected to more punitive abortion laws -- unless they were Jewish. These were pressed to abort.

Does Trump really think there are many in America who want to punish women? OK, Trump: Name one!

Now is the moment to decide. Trump or NeverTrump. That decision was made for me more than forty years ago.

I’ll go with that old English hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation.”

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Robert Morrison is a writer in Annapolis. He was a Reagan delegate in Washington State and served in the administration. 

Every year when I was at University of Virginia, I attended the screening of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. This classic propaganda movie was produced in 1934 to showcase the party rally in Nuremberg. Riefenstahl’s filming techniques were decades ahead of Britain and the U.S.  

At U.Va., we were fortunate to be instructed by our distinguished professor of Modern European History, the redoubtable Oron J. Hale. Mr. Hale had served as Allied High Commissioner in occupied Bavaria. This fact added immeasurably to our appreciation of his insightful commentary on the film

Today’s viewers can google Der Triumph des Willens as it was shown to German audiences. With its Wagnerian sweep, it retains its power to move us.

That, Mr. Hale warned, is exactly the point. We who know where such mass hysteria leads have a duty to speak out, to stand up, and to oppose its advance at every turn.

Donald Trump’s antics entertain and offend at the same time. When we see the film Triumph, we see its “star” possessed of much more dignity and commanding presence than ever attended the oafish Trump.

Nonetheless, Hitler’s base then is Trump’s base now. Hitler’s base did have grievances, real and imagined. First and foremost was the Dolchstoßlegende. This “Stab in the Back” legend was central to Hitler’s appeal. You have been betrayed, he told his followers endlessly. For his National Socialists, that betrayal referred to the World War I defeat and the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany. Hitler blamed Socialists and Jews.

Trump blames the entire governing class of the United States. All trade agreements are products of a conspiring elite determined to put honest Americans out of work. He, who “outsources” the making of his own brand of shirts, tells the credulous displaced garment workers it’s the fault of “the suits.” “They” are losers who have negotiated all those trade treaties. But somehow these losers are incredibly powerful -- so “they” stick it to you, honest workers.

Hitler was both nationalist and socialist. Historian John Lukacs in The Legacy of the Second World War teaches us that national socialism was the greatest threat to freedom of the twentieth century. Lukacs writes that it had a powerful and almost irresistible appeal to the masses. Millions of them felt disrespected and scorned by the elites of Germany. The Nazis were their instrument of revenge.

Trump’s policy -- to the extent he has any policy -- is all nationalist, all socialist.

There is a consistency in his message.

He is a nationalist when he goes after NATO, the most successful alliance in world history. NATO, with Ronald Reagan’s leadership, prevailed over the Warsaw Pact and helped bring down the USSR. All this without firing a shot.

But to Trump, NATO is only there to screw the American taxpayer. He says he wants America to be great again. He implies by that, America is weak and cowering. Despite the irresponsibility of seven years of the Obama administration’s cuts, and its determination to use the military as a social engineering sandbox, our all-volunteer force remains the most powerful on earth.

Yet Trump would order our splendid military to commit war crimes. He wants our soldiers to kill the wives and children of ISIS members. This is what Hitler’s SS did in occupied France in 1944 at Oradour-sur-Glane

No American soldier should ever obey such an unlawful order. Lt. William Calley did obey such an order at My Lai in 1968. Calley was tried, convicted of murder, imprisoned, and eventually paroled. But he has spent every day of his life since regretting his actions.

If Calley is repentant, Trump is not. That is the key to his character. He does not apologize. He has never asked God’s forgiveness because, as he tells us, he has done nothing for which he needs to repent.

That still small voice of conscience is not his guide; it is his accomplice.

Here, too, Der Triumph des Willens provides the clue. The tens of thousands of belt buckles worn by those goose-stepping, strong young men were emblazoned with Gott mitt uns. God is with us.

Trump believes this, too. And if He isn’t, then He is also a loser.

Trump’s economics are socialist. He backs socialist minimum wage and tax-the-rich proposals that will do nothing to help the poorly educated or the working poor. He backs single-payer health care, the keystone of socialism.

When pressed by Marco Rubio to say how his own plan differed from President Obama’s, Trump promised to get rid of state barriers to insurance coverage.

Rubio ridiculed this, drawing finger circles in the air that signaled loco, or crazy.

But Trump’s message was clear: Everything will be run from Washington, by him. Again, he’s a socialist, but a national socialist.

Lawlessness was a key to the Nazi movement. And to Trump’s.

Trump doesn’t need Congress. He doesn’t need the courts. He doesn’t need the Constitution. All he needs is a measure of public approval.

The German Weimar Republic in the 1920s deliberately inflated their currency to pay off indemnities to the victorious allies of WWI. This was like a man setting fire to his own house to avoid the rent collector. But the devastated working class and middle class in Germany became eager hearers of Hitler’s economic appeals.

In America, ObamaCare has caused great harm to working Americans. Skyrocketing premiums, out-of-reach deductibles make “guaranteed” coverage a cruel joke. And to these unfortunate citizens, Trump’s simplistic message is seductive.

When conservative friends tell me Trump is popular with many, I respond: What part of Volkswagens for all, highway construction jobs for the unemployed, and purposeful activity in the fresh air for young people would we not like? Demagogues don’t arise telling people what they don’t want to hear.

Violence. Trump approves it. He uses it. “There will be riots,” he informs us, if he is denied the nomination. He has never supported the Republican Party, its candidates, or its principles. His nomination would be a repudiation of the party’s entire past.

And yet, based on his pluralities in a badly splintered field, he thinks he is entitled to claim the brass ring.

Violence was central to the rise of the Nazis in Germany, too. Does paying off Storm Troopers who beat up Communists, Socialists, pacifists, and Jews differ materially from Trump’s offering to pay the legal expenses of assailants in his crowds today?

Obviously, there are stark differences between Hitler and Trump. Hitler bore himself with dignity, at least in public. Trump is constantly capering like a baboon.

Hitler was a genuine hero in World War I; his Iron Cross medals were not false.

Trump is a coward who dodged the draft, claiming heel spurs.

Hitler was a compelling orator. Trump simply rants; his speeches are incoherent.

But, like Hitler, Trump has mastered the communications techniques of the age. For Hitler it was radio and film. For Trump it is the Internet and Twitter.

Hitler’s public conduct was prudish, even puritanical. Insiders in the Third Reich knew he kept a mistress. Trump has had wives and mistresses. He has had other men’s wives as his mistresses. And he brags about it. And shows no remorse about the families he’s broken up.

The Lie. The Lie was central to everything in the Nazi movement. It had to be. And Joseph Goebbels was the evil genius in charge of the Lie.

Trump’s core is the Lie. No better example may be found than his baseless claim that “many” in the pro-life movement demand punishment for women who have had abortions.

I have been active in the pro-life movement for forty years. I have never once heard any pro-lifer call for punishing women. Ours is the movement that created pregnancy care centers that extend their love, practical help, and acceptance to all women. And their babies.

Trump has backed, and still backs, Planned Parenthood. This is an outfit that kills 800 unborn children every day. Then Planned Parenthood scavenges their hearts, lungs, and livers for sale.

In truth, there is nothing in the history of our pro-life movement or in the history of our country to support Trump’s outrageous falsehoods. Things were different in Nazi Germany, as Prof. Richard J. Evans writes in The Third Reich in Power. There, women were subjected to more punitive abortion laws -- unless they were Jewish. These were pressed to abort.

Does Trump really think there are many in America who want to punish women? OK, Trump: Name one!

Now is the moment to decide. Trump or NeverTrump. That decision was made for me more than forty years ago.

I’ll go with that old English hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation.”

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Robert Morrison is a writer in Annapolis. He was a Reagan delegate in Washington State and served in the administration.