It's not so far removed from the days of Hitler's highly robotic youth organizations—the real Jojo Rabbits and their mindlessly rote rah-rahs for the realm. Hitler's inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric, his monster-size parades of military might and the raised hand salute to "mein Führer" became synonymous with the smoke-and-mirrors illusions of the Third Reich—effectively masking the real issues of the time with the magic of pompoms and cheers. Hitler had seen the first World War as an embarrassment and economic disaster for his country. The Third Reich would make Germany great again.
Stirring the essential human need for belonging along with a fervor for ridding the country of a common enemy, Hitler manipulated the German people into a crazed mob and made his own face the symbol for needed change. It would seem that a similar level of promotional expertise is very much a part of the Trump White House today.
There's never been a White House like Trump's. The perpetual carnival atmosphere is crucial for maintaining his ongoing charade as president. And a charade it is. Currently, about 53% of voters shake their heads and ask: "Is it possible to find anything at all that's 'presidential' about this administration?" Like a TV soap opera, something surprising—or shocking—happens every day. A fitting Trump slogan might be "Make America Gasp Again." Few days will go by without a headline or an ever-full hopper of material for late-night TV hosts.
As much as I despise Trump's contempt for our laws and Constitution; his destruction of safeguards provided by the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government; his endless name-calling and blame games; and his surgical removal of both regulations and regulators, I have to give him credit for his brand, one that has created a super-glued loyalty from his misguided followers. It's all part of the sis-boom-bah that successfully invades brain tissue and causes normally intelligent beings to focus on a feeling rather than facts and substance.
Emotion is essential to all nationalist movements, including those of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. The colorful banners, pride-swelling battle songs and smart unison-clatter of goose-stepping storm-troopers create an infectious patriotic feeling and an energizing sense of being part of something unstoppable.
Of course, none of the despotic, autocratic regimes could have survived were it not for a systematic campaign against all legitimate sources of information. The "fake news" prong of the Trump takeover is, of course, key to keeping the dumb dumber, and even the most objective mass media critics can't help but question how much of what we read and hear is true.
Controlling the dissemination of truth is what all dictators do. By arresting reporters, shutting down the newspapers and broadcasting stations, and replacing journalists with fearful, party loyalists, Hitler showed no mercy to those who dared disregard mandates handed down by the propaganda ministry.
At a time when Americans should be more committed than ever to pursuing the truth, they have failed miserably on the matter of objectivity. Perhaps even worse, many have a sort of selective dementia, forgetting what Trump has done, not only as president, but consistently throughout his life. Becoming president didn't change the man or excuse his numerous bankruptcies, reports of sexual predation, creation of charities that served only his own interests, and purveying of lies. There may be, however, one possible greatness of the man: He is a wizard at self-promotion and is able to do so in a way that discourages any critical evaluation.
Much of Trump's PR magic comes from his tenacious commitment to The Art of the Deal—the title of his national bestseller, ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz—which might more accurately be called "the art of the lie." Every time he opens his mouth, his MAGA hats take on a different meaning. His gauche, rude, juvenile behavior seems to be about Making America Gag Again. Creating a leader whose un-presidential words and actions are the ultimate affront to America's greatness is all part of his branding expertise.
Remember, Trump took office when America was already great. Today, America's status as a world leader is that of a has-been; that reversal of fortune can be attributed directly to the leadership of Donald Trump. Now, we just have to hope that America's greatness can somehow survive the shame of his reign. It is your vote that will make America great again.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org