As Trump Builds His Authoritarian Presidency, Echoes of 1930s Germany and 1950s McCarthyism Abound

Steven Rosenfeld's picture

When Richard Spencer, a leading alt-right white power ideologue finished his speech at Saturday’s day-long “Become Who We Are” summit at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building, someone yelled, “Heil the people!” and the room shouted back, “Heil victory.”

It wasn’t the evening’s first Nazi reference nor most brazen. Soon after Spencer started slamming the mainstream media, overlooking how it gave the president-elect endless free coverage, he jeered, “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” The crowd shouted back, “Lügenpresse,” a Nazi-era word for “lying press.” Spencer continued, to cheers, that white power was rising. “America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity… It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

America under Donald Trump is entering an uncharted authoritarian era. Whether apt historical precedents are in the first months of Hitler’s rule in 1933 in Germany or closer to the 1950s anti-Communist witch hunts led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy remains to be seen. But there are myriad events that everyone is seeing and unfolding behind closed doors that are forming a prologue to Trump’s authoritarian rule.

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