Hitler, Mussolini, Trump and Rhetorical and Political Inconsistency

A number of media commenters have pointed out the inconsistencies and contradiction in Donald Trump’s speeches as he tries to drum up support for his presidential campaign. Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk, for example, has pointed out how Trump has argued for separate, and opposite positions on the Middle East, healthcare and the economy. For example, on the Middle East he has at one moment declared that America should go in much harder to carpet bomb whole cities, and torture and kill not just terrorists, but also their families. At other moments, sometimes just after he has argued passionately for the preceding policy, he has completely reversed his position. Instead of renewing America’s campaign in the Middle East, he has argued instead that America should not get involved, and instead leave Vladimir Putin to sort out ISIS.

His position on healthcare is similarly muddled. At one point he appeared to be arguing for something like the socialised medical service advocated by the Democrat, Bernie Sanders. He has then immediately reversed his position, and stated instead that he intends to repeal Obamacare, and increase competition and free enterprise. He has since been forced to clarify his position, and has since released a detailed description of his policy. This makes it clear that his policy is based very much on increasing competition, and allowing the insurance companies to deny or increase charges for people with severe and difficult to treat forms of illness. And by the way – this is exactly one of the reasons why supporters of the NHS in England actively oppose the introduction of insurance based health care. It actively denies care to those most in need, the chronically sick.

Trump’s stance on industry and the economy is also unclear. He has said at various points that if he got into power, he would prevent corporations leaving America to keep jobs in the country. At other moments, he’s stated that he intends to keep wages low. The two positions aren’t quite contradictory. Corporations are moving abroad to take advantage of the cheap labour available in the Developing World. So keeping wages low would encourage some companies to stay in America. This would, however, keep blue-collar workers in the in-work poverty into which they’ve been plunged by the Neo-Lib policies of successive administrations.

Hitler’s own policies, as stated in his speeches, were also a mixture of contradictory attitudes and positions. He at once appeared to be anti-capitalist and the defender of capitalism, and tailored his rhetoric to suit the differing audiences in the places where he was speaking. In rural areas with a strong tradition of anti-Semitism, he’d concentrate on stirring up hatred and resentment against the Jews. In industrial areas with a strong background of working class politics, either Socialist or Communist, he’d instead focus on the ‘Socialist’, anti-capitalist elements of the Nazi programme. And in 1929, speaking to a meeting of leading German businessmen, he claimed to be the defender to German private industry against the forces of Marxist Socialism.

Mussolini too changed his position frequently. Denis Mack Smith, in his biography of the Duce, Mussolini (London: Paladin 1983) describes how Mussolini’s frequent changes of position, and adoption of extreme views, came from his attempts to drum up excitement and interest amongst his audience. On page 39 he writes

Mussolini’s journalistic style prompted him to take an extreme position whenever possible. Extremism was always dramatic and eye-catching. He was far more concerned with tactics than with ideas, and his violent changeability was bound to seem confused it measured by strict logic; but he had discovered that readers liked extreme views and rarely bothered much about inconsistency. If he appeared successively as the champion of the League [of nations] and then nationalist, as socialist and then conservative, as monarchist and then republican, this was less out of muddle-headedness than out of a search for striking headlines and a wish to become all things to all men.

And on page 40 he notes that Mussolini

called himself a man for all seasons, ‘an adventurer for all roads’. As he said, ‘I put my finger on the pulse of the masses and suddenly discovered in the general mood of disorientation that a public opinion was waiting for me, and I just had to make it recognise me through me newspaper.

This sounds very much like Trump. And like Mussolini, Trump is also fiercely nationalistic and xenophobic, attacking Mexicans and Muslims, and encouraging the violent expulsion of protestors from his rallies. Trump probably wouldn’t be a ruthless butcher like Hitler or Musso, but he would turn America into a much less free, much more authoritarian and brutal place.

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One Response to “Hitler, Mussolini, Trump and Rhetorical and Political Inconsistency”

  1. 61chrissterry Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.

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