Examining the colossal threat of Donald Trump

November 16th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

On the evening of 8 November 1923, one hundred years ago last week, Adolph Hitler and a body of heavily armed storm troopers broke into a meeting of Bavarian leaders at the Bürgerbräukelle, a beer cellar just outside Munich, and began a serious attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government and then march to Berlin to take over the country, as the Italian Benito Mussolini had done a year earlier in capturing Rome. Known as the Beer Hall Putsch, the coup attempt had not been thought out well and did not reckon with organized police who would counter it.

Overnight Hitler’s allies gathered about 2,000 armed supporters, to each of whom the Nazis paid 2 billion marks for signing up to revolt (because of Germany’s hyper-inflation, this was worth just over $3 on that day). On the morning of 9 November, Hitler and his rabble set off to capture the Ministry of War, but were met by a strong cordon of police. Nobody knows who fired first, but someone did, and for the next minute the air was full of smoke from all the bullets. Herman Göring was shot in the leg and fell.¹ Hitler was pushed down and dislocated his shoulder. When the fighting stopped, 14 of Hitler’s marchers were killed along with four policemen.

The German government put Hitler on trial in early 1924, but, because everyone knew the Nazi leader could implicate many Bavarian politicians in the Putsch attempt, he was allowed wide latitude to bully and insult prosecution witnesses, as well as to speechify, which he did incessantly. He said he was “serving the interests of Germany,” which could never be judged treasonous. “The eternal court of history,” he declared, “will judge us as Germans who wanted the best for their people and their fatherland.”

Despite the undeniable fact that members of the putsch had killed four policemen and staged an armed and treasonable revolt, both offences punishable by death, the court sentenced Hitler to five years in prison, and a cushy prison, at that — Landsberg am Lech, just west of Munich. This was a place that doled out “fortress incarceration,” a mild form of imprisonment for offenders thought to have acted from “honorable motives.” This is where Adolph Hitler and his factotum Rudolph Hess settled in to while away some time. And this is where Adolph Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

After 264 days of a five-year sentence, the German government freed Hitler.

The reason I bring up this history is because in My Struggle, written ten years before Hitler and the Nazis came to power, Hitler told everyone who could read exactly what he and the Nazis would do when they ultimately took control. A poorly written book (although, after 1933, if you didn’t have a copy prominently displayed in your home a few Brownshirts might pay you a visit with unwelcome consequences), My Struggle lays out with precision the entire Nazi blueprint, including the extermination of the Jews  and other undesirables, the creation of the Concentration Camp society, and the invasion of the East to acquire Lebensraum, or the “Living Space” Hitler decided the German nation required to expand.

On 1 January 1933, the day Hitler took power, he began keeping every one of his promises first laid out ten years before. In late March of that year, the Nazis opened their first concentration camp — at Dachau, 12 miles northwest of Munich. They sent four busloads of political opponents and, yes, Jews, to the new facility while the citizens of Dachau, lining the streets, watched the parade go by. In early April, just to make sure everyone got the message, they walked four of the Jews outside and shot them each through the head.

Fanatical megalomaniacs tell you what they’re going to do, and if you let them, they do it. Adolph Hitler is not the only example I could cite.

Moving ahead 90 years, we see another megalomaniac who is telling us what he intends if restored to power. Like Hitler before him, Donald Trump is telling all of us just what we can expect if a year from now he wins the 2024 presidential election. And it should scare everyone. I urge you not to think Trump is simply hyperbolizing, exaggerating to feed his MAGA base. The man is not that subtle.

In the last week, we have learned much from the man himself, as well as from his sycophantish acolytes, his Görings, Hesses, Goebbels, and Himmlers.

On Veterans Day, the former president, in an authoritarian rant, wrote on his Truth Social platform, “We pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American dream.”

He said the same thing last Saturday night at one of his cultish rallies, this one in New Hampshire. It both infuriates and saddens me that the stadium-filled crowd cheered throughout his 90 minute invective.

These are Hitler-like words. The Nazis did all they could to dehumanize Jews, Gypsies and other groups they deemed inferior. Hitler and Goebbels, especially, called Jews and other undesirables “vermin.” In addition to Jews, Hitler’s bête noire were Communists and Bolsheviks. He went after them with nearly the same ferocity as he did the Jews. Any liberal or even moderate German was in the Nazi crosshairs.

Separately, Charlie SavageMaggie Haberman and 

They write:

Former President Donald J. Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled.

The plans would sharply restrict both legal and illegal immigration in a multitude of ways.

He plans to scour the country for unauthorized immigrants and deport people by the millions per year.

To help speed mass deportations, Mr. Trump is preparing an enormous expansion of a form of removal that does not require due process hearings. To help Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out sweeping raids, he plans to reassign other federal agents and deputize local police officers and National Guard soldiers voluntarily contributed by Republican-run states.

Stephen Miller is an architect of Trump’s first-term immigration policies who remains close to him and is expected to serve in a senior role in a second administration. He told the Times reporters, “Any activists who doubt President Trump’s resolve in the slightest are making a drastic error: Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown in history. The immigration legal activists won’t know what’s happening.”

But that’s just Trump’s assault on immigration. As master salesman Ron Popeil used to say, “But wait, there’s more!”

In addition to mass deportations, Trump’s team also plans a new Muslim ban, tariffs on all imported goods, and “freedom cities” built on federal land. They have policy books aimed at stripping tens of thousands of career employees of their civil service protections. That way, they could be fired as Trump seeks to “totally obliterate the deep state.” He would accomplish this by reissuing a 2020 executive order known as “Schedule F.” That would allow him to reclassify masses of employees, with a particular focus, he has said, on “corrupt bureaucrats who have weaponized our justice system” and “corrupt actors in our national security and intelligence apparatus.”

He would obliterate transgender and LGBTQ+ rights to appease the Christian fundamentalists in his MAGA base.

Under the mantra “DRILL, BABY, DRILL,” he says he would ramp up oil drilling on public lands and offer tax breaks to oil, gas, and coal producers. He would roll back Biden administration efforts to encourage the adoption of electric cars and reverse proposed new pollution limits that would require at least 54% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. to be electric by 2030.

Trump has also pledged to eliminate the Department of Education and push the federal government to give funding preference to states and school districts that abolish teacher tenure, adopt merit pay to reward good teachers and allow the direct election of school principals by parents. He has also said he would cut funding for any school that has a vaccine or mask mandate, and his administration will promote prayer in public schools.

In his first term, Donald Trump appointed a number of people to his administration who pushed back and kept him relatively tethered on many issues. He was inhibited by the likes of Reince Priebus and  General John Kelly, his first two Chiefs of Staff, General James Mattis, his first Secretary of Defense, and Rex Tillerson, his first Secretary of State. That tether, fragile as it was, will not be present in his second term. If he is elected, we will experience the complete and unhinged Trump, as only those who are fiercely loyal will be allowed to serve.

Our nation has withstood many deeply troubling challenges, most notably a civil war, but that was long ago. I fear we are now complacent and completely unprepared for the second coming of Donald Trump. We have put on size-12 blinkers and no longer see, much less appreciate, the evil closing in on the nation. Witness the collective national yawn as we watch him approach 91 criminal charges and mock our judicial system in the process. And witness current polling that shows this authoritarian demagogue neck and neck with Joe Biden, even ahead, in next year’s presidential election.

I can sum up the threat of Donald Trump by saying it is a short step from rounding up all undocumented aliens to rounding up legal immigrants you don’t like to rounding up political opponents who become a nuisance, to rounding up…anyone.


¹ The pain from this wound would bother Göring for the rest of his life and is the reason he became a lifelong opioid addict.