Trump Rally

The divisive candidate often uses a message loaded with demagoguery and racism to make his point. Opinions editor John Nash makes an argument to compare Trump supporters to members of Nazi Germany by way of social psychology terms and techniques.

As Democrats and Republicans duke it out over their party's nomination, one candidate has stood apart from the rest—and not for good reason.

In an article written earlier this semester, I made the comparison between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler; a comparison many have made but some believe as offensive. Millions of immigrants and minorities living in the U.S. live in fear of this comparison playing out. This comparison should be discussed further from a psychological perspective.

One can carefully compare these two men while also comparing their followers in the same way. With that said, the average German citizen in Nazi Germany could be compared to Trump's supporters today.

Hitler was known for his ability to captivate the crowds with his speeches. In a 1939 speech before the Reichstag in Berlin, Hitler spoke about the dangers of Jewish citizens in Germany. He proclaimed, "Anything that is obviously unimportant or even harmful to the existence of the community is not to be recognized as a moral code on which a social order can be built up." The Jews living in Germany were not only considered worthless by Hitler, but also considered harmful enough to Germany's citizens that they should not be recognized.

Does that sound familiar? It should.

Trump was recently quoted on the topic of Muslims in the U.S.: "We're gonna have to figure it out. We can't live like this. It's going to get worse and worse." The commonality that lies within both persons is a critique of an ethnic group, blaming them for problems that are either discussed as one-sided or problems of racism. No solution is offered, other than stopping "the other" from entering the country. Not only do both of these men generalize a problem that only exists in racial context, but neither one poses a plausible solution (other than eradication).

After World War I, Germany was in massive turmoil. The Marshall Plan (put in place by the U.S. government) ensured that American production increased, but with the goal of rebuilding Europe. What most don’t know is that it was at Germany’s expense. Not only did this shatter their economy, but it left them in a desperate enough position to move someone like Hitler into power.

The U.S. isn’t in as bad of a place economically as Germany was after WWI, but we do have some major social issues to work out: the middle class is disappearing, the Black Lives Matter movement is pushing for reformed civil rights, and pent-up xenophobia is expressing itself. When someone like Trump comes in the middle of all these problems and quickly assigns blame on anyone who isn't white and in power, members of the majority feel safe.

“I would never let something like the Holocaust happen again,” some say. While that may be true, if you and I would never give our allegiance to someone like Trump, then who would?

In a recent rally in Orlando, FL, Trump asked his supporters to pledge their alliance by raising their hands. What this mirrors at a certain angle barely needs an explanation. We all know that Trump is using fear to aid in his presidential candidacy bid. We also know that it can only go so far. A large contributor to this are his supporters—more importantly, how this rhetoric effects them.

The Milgram Experiment, an experiment on obedience to authority figures, was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. I won't explain the experiment in detail, but the average person was convinced to administer lethal shocks to a stranger. This experiment proved that most people would kill another under the guise of authority, assuming that the blame would go to the one dictating actions.

Most members of Nazi Germany were average folk attempting to restore power to Germany by taking commands to commit murder from authoritative figures. Trump is instigating fights at his rallies, making accusations of harm and fear based off emotion rather than logic. At his rallies, he insinuates that the big and scary Muslims are going to take away the freedom “our boys” fought so hard to obtain. Trump is manipulating the masses—arguably the same way Hitler manipulated Nazi Germany—by fueling an irrational hate of Muslims and immigrants.

Here we are in 2016. We have too many educated people to collectively allow this, right?

Wrong. 

Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology used to explain the loss of self-awareness in groups. In other words, they way one thinks, acts, and feels changes within a group setting. As Trump gains more power and supporters, the population becomes more susceptible to deindividuation. Not everyone in Germany agreed with Hitler but they followed him, arguably because conformity was more comfortable and safer.

I will say, Hitler's rise to power cannot be closely compared to Trump’s. On one hand, Hitler started from arguably nothing, fought in World War I, then slowly and methodically worked his way to power. On the other, Trump received a “small loan” of $1 million from his father to start a business.

Regardless, the similarities between the two is not to be ignored. If you have gotten to this point of the piece and still believe that Trump is not comparable to Hitler, let me leave you with one more thing to think about. As a young, white male, I will never know what it’s like to be subjugated to unfair treatments. Thanks to my friends, I get a taste. I see horror in their eyes when they discover that Trump has won another state. I hear it in their voices when they say, "This isn't funny anymore." I feel it on my shoulders when they cry. “If Trump becomes president, I will die,” said one friend.

While White America does not see what all others do, this joke has gone on long enough. It’s now a nightmare for many members of the U.S., quickly becoming a reality. Donald Trump has a plan to "Make America Great Again,” when really, it’s a plan to make America hate again.

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