2 Responses to Donald Trump and ‘America First’: recycling the past?

  1. Steve

    I think the parallels with the 1930s are worryingly clear and not only in the context of the isolationist, nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric . Your reference to Lindbergh and in particular his relationship with Goering draws comparison with Trump’s scarcely concealed admiration of Putin who clearly wants to see him in the White House. I think electorates in any democracy would do well to reflect on ‘What outcome would Putin want ‘ before casting their votes- a factor which was unwisely overlooked in our recent referendum. It is unfortunate that the Democrats could not find a candidate from outside the perceived establishment (Obama this time around would have been perfect) as, again taking our own recent experience and those of other countries, there is , since the financial crash a clear and growing desire to give the old elites a good kicking and this works very much in the Trump’s favour as an outsider against the Clinton ‘dynasty’. It’s a sobering thought that if Hillary wins , by 2020 the country which regards itself as the epitome of modern democracy will have been led by two families for 24 out of the previous 32 years! There are growing signs that the Republican establishment is belatedly distancing itself from Trump but the bandwagon is well and truly rolling and may now transcend two party politics. Scary times indeed.

    Tim

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    • Thanks, Tim. Very interesting and thoughtful comments, many of which I agree with. As a historian mainly working on the 1920s and 1930s, it is deeply alarming to me how our current decade seems to be recycling many of the trends of the interwar period, including the growth of intolerance, the trashing of ‘experts’, the marked rise in racism, and the new patterns of intimidation of opponents by some individuals – the all-out shouting down of anybody (or anything) they disagree with (whether that is via ‘trolling’, physical abuse, bricks through windows, or whatever). It is also quite striking, from a historian’s point of view, how democracy seems to be under pressure in many places around the world, especially in Putin’s Russia, where the governing party is doing its level best to deny the opposition parties any kind of voice. A number of historians and writers have referred to the ‘Weimar atmosphere’ there, and I am beginning to think they may be right. The other aspect of wider politics that is particularly interesting from a historian’s long-term perspective is the apparent growth of demagogic personality cults (Trump, Putin, and – dare I say? – Corbyn), where the ‘masses’ are encouraged to think the ‘leader’ is always right and the leader regularly refers to the ‘democratic vote’ or will of ‘the people’. As I noted in the Trump piece, I would hesitate to label this as ‘fascist’; it is more populist in nature. Clearly, though, this kind of politics does move dangerously close to legitimising more extreme forms of politics. I have just read an article on the resurgence of the far right in the new (5th) issue of ‘The New European’ newspaper, and it provides much food for thought. We are certainly living in interesting times! Regards, Steve.

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