Donald Trump: a 21st Century Charles Lindbergh?

As the nation suffers through Donald Trump’s bombastic racist xenophobic campaign for President, and wonders whether his campaign will have enough staying power to carry him into the White House, I was reminded of Philip Roth’s fictional account of Charles Lindbergh’s defeat of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential campaign, entitled The Plot Against America.

Plot_against_usa

While Lindbergh is best remembered for his valiant trans-Atlantic flight, during the 1930s, he revealed himself to be a known anti-semitic Nazi sympathizer. Nazi military leader Herman Göring presented him with the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle, on behalf of Adolf Hitler, in 1938, the same award the Nazis presented to another famous American anti-Semite, Henry Ford earlier that year.

Lindbergh actively opposed entry into World War 2, which was not that uncommon prior to Pearl Harbor. What was more disturbing about Lindbergh’s opposition to the war was his clear sympathy for the so-called racial purity theories espoused by the Nazis. He spoke at America First rallies and in 1939, published an article entitled Aviation, Geography, and Race in Reader’s Digest in which he stated,

We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.

In his diaries, Lindbergh wrote,

We must limit to a reasonable amount the Jewish influence … Whenever the Jewish percentage of total population becomes too high, a reaction seems to invariably occur. It is too bad because a few Jews of the right type are, I believe, an asset to any country.

While Lindbergh did not run for President, he had an avid following which makes Roth’s book both realistic and frightening. I highly recommend it, and for those who have not read it, I will not reveal the ending.

I doubt that Roth had Trump in mind when he wrote The Plot Against America, but the lessons in that book which reveal how racist xenophobia can quickly catch fire in our nation and potentially elect a candidate who spews vile hate to the most powerful job in the world are well worth heeding. Recently, some have compared Trump to the infamous red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, and like McCarthyism, the media has some responsibility in fueling Trump’s rise.

Hopefully, Trump will not rise as far as McCarthy, but will fall as hard as he did when he was finally discredited. Whether you prefer the McCarthy comparison or the Lindbergh comparison, Trump’s vile racism does not belong in the White House. Our nation has a long way to go in defeating racism, but we turned a corner in electing Barack Obama twice, and we must not allow the pendulum to swing so far back we end up with a xenophobic racist in the White House.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

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One thought on “Donald Trump: a 21st Century Charles Lindbergh?

  1. The history of the rise of European fascism and the popularity of U.S. celebrities and politicians with racist views provide insight into Trump’s candidacy.

    Over the almost 2 1/2 centuries of our nation’s existence we may have a developed firewalls against fascism:

    1. Stability and relative prosperity: The economies of Italy and Germany were in chaotic collapse when fascism arose in those nations. Our current hard times can’t compare to that. Also, though our social safety net has been weakened, we still have a more comprehensive and effective one than those nations did at that time.

    2. Long tradition of democracy: Italy had only been a nation since about 1860 and was struggling to be a constitutional monarchy. Germany had only a few years of experience trying to be a democracy after years of rule by a militaristic monarchy.

    3. Loyalty of a non-ideological military: The fascist parties of both Italy and Germany had large militias with WWI combat veterans armed with WWI weapons. Some military units had more loyalty to fascist ideologies than to the state and the rule of law.

    The loyalty of our armed forces broke down only once 150 years ago with the Civil War. Issues that caused that break down have been resolved and changes in the command structures of state national guards have been changed so that is extremely unlike to occur again.

    We do not fear coups from our armed forces.

    4. Our police are expected to protect all the rights of all citizens: While we are working to end the excessive use of force by police against minorities that problem in no way approaches the behavior of police forces in nations where fascism arose. As described above with military units, some police forces in countries where fascism was rising had greater loyalty to fascist ideology than they had to the state or their nation’s citizens. In those, police forces not only refused to protect minorities, they actively participated in their extermination.

    Overall our police can be trusted to enforce laws and court orders.

    Even if Trump won, he’d still need to get implementing legislation passed, get Congress to fund his programs (which may be the biggest obstacle), and have his programs ruled Constitutional by the courts.

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