The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion GOP still unsure if guy who likens himself to Hitler should be leader

Former president Donald Trump gestures during a rally to boost Ohio Republican primary candidates in May. (Reuters/Gaelen Morse)

WASHINGTON — At time of writing, one entire major political party was still unsure whether a man who compared himself to Hitler, but in a wistful, “if-only” sort of way, ought to be its standard-bearer. The alternative being considered was literally anyone else.

To observers who thought that this sounded like, maybe, a very easy call, party members responded that this was true but they just were not making it. Why? Some said they were afraid of getting yelled at. (If there is anything they know about people who aspire to be like Hitler, even a little bit, it is that they are good at yelling!) Others just rushed away, saying nothing.

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Yet others said that maybe the problem was people who were being divisive by comparing their party’s chosen standard-bearer to Hitler, even if, technically, he was one of those people doing the comparing and what he had said suggested that he viewed Hitler’s example as aspirational. Still others said that maybe when he wanted to be like Hitler, he just meant an inspiring leader, despite all the other more ominous racist, exclusionary, autocratophilic parallels he had already laid out in speeches.

Scholars scratched their heads at this behavior. “You would think, maybe, that this was like playing history on easy mode,” said one of the men who appears in World War II documentaries for a living. “Often you wonder what you would have done if you had been alive during horrible past events because people at the time might not have known which way the arc of history was bending and have been tricked by the banality of the evil, or something. But we are living through history in the present, and we know who Hitler is because there is some sort of program on TV 100 percent of the time with a name like ‘Hitler’s Minutiae’ or ‘Hitler: Rise of Evil’ or ‘Hitler: Worst Evil or Wurst Evil?’ We may not know everything about history, but we do have our finger on this guy, and the headline about him is that he was bad news!

“So you would think that this was a gimme. Suppose that you have to choose the figurehead for your political party, a person who could be president next and be endowed with huge, sobering amounts of power. And your options are: A guy who told the generals around him he wished they were more loyal, like Hitler’s generals (which is not even correct)! Who loves the idea of throwing himself a creepy military parade, like the dictators have! Who does not want his parade to feature wounded veterans because they are a category of people he disdains! Who is currently under several criminal investigations! And who definitely encouraged a mob to try to storm the seat of government to help keep him in power after he lost an election!

“Or literally anyone else! Those are your options. That feels like maybe not so hard a choice? Potentially?”

Republicans agreed, but at the time of writing, they had still not made the choice.