Trumping History

The Donald in Context

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during his "Make America Great Again Rally" at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa, August 25, 2015. Ben Brewer / Reuters

Scrambling to understand Donald Trump’s wild and, so far, remarkably effective campaign for the presidency, commentators have rushed to find parallels to explain the man who has dominated coverage and led in most polls of likely Republican voters. Some see the orange-maned billionaire as a fascist akin to Hitler or Mussolini or compare him with such bygone American demagogues as Father Charles Coughlin, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, or Alabama Governor George Wallace. Others maintain that he is a homegrown version of Russian President Vladimir Putin or French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

But, at best (or worst), Trump bears only a superficial resemblance to any of these individuals. He evinces no desire to create a militarized state that abolishes free elections and jails or executes its critics, as did the former dictators of Germany and Italy. If he expanded welfare programs and commanded industrial firms to produce what

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