What Trump Means

On this past election day we witnessed an event. The philosopher Alain Badiou defines an event as a total rupture with the existing situation. Something is named and brought into being that was previously unpresented. Events are born of contingency and become necessary only after they occur. Nothing in a given situation prepares us for an event. The event’s site does exist in a situation, but what the site contains is strictly unimaginable—existing within a void.[1] Because events can only be recognized after they occur, one must work to interpret them. The work of interpretation involves, according to Badiou, an active fidelity; we commit subjectively to an event and bring it fully into existence.

Donald Trump’s presidency is an event for several reasons. Most palpable is that his victory is wholly unprecedented. Each passing day of news coverage reminds us that we are in uncharted waters. Trump Tower, once a symbol of New York opulence, has transformed into a political fortress besieged by angry protesters. Steve Bannon and Mike Pence, two very different incarnations of the radical right, are positioned to wield great power in the new administration, along with a growing coterie of conservatives. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell—powerful men in Washington and their own party—are quickly adjusting to the reality of working with a man each deemed unfit to be president. The Obama legacy on issues of diplomacy, climate change, healthcare, and defense is in jeopardy. And on January 20 Donald Trump will lead the most powerful military in the world and have direct access to nuclear launch codes.

All this was literally unimaginable in the weeks leading up to election day. For months, commentators in the political, business, and media elite lined up to vilify Trump and tout the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s victory. The revelations of Trump’s sexually offensive comments were, according to many journalists, the final nail in the coffin of his broken candidacy. Racial bating, alleged sexual assault, pathological lying, outlandish threats, endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and Islamic State, there was nowhere lower for him to go. Trump plumbed the depths of depravity, and liberals and elites mistook this for signs he was weakening. In literally hundreds of polls conducted in the weeks and days before the election, Clinton’s lead was assured. The Times statistical team put her chance of victory somewhere between 80 and 90 percent in the week leading up November eighth. Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama were doing daily campaign stops for Hillary. Academics, policy leaders, journalists and media outlets—large swaths of the country’s elite—supported Clinton and made her triumph seem assured. Right up to election night, when contrary results were flowing in faster than pundits could process them, everyone believed she would win. She had to, there was no alternative.

There is one group for whom Trump’s victory was not an event: his supporters. They believed he would win. For them, his cause was righteous. Trump was speaking truth to great powers. He was going to restore American domination of the world along with the national glory that entailed. The return of good middle class jobs, dismantling a broken healthcare system, standing up to finance capital, projecting United States power around the globe. True believers were not surprised on November 9 because the knew he would win. Meanwhile the entire infrastructure built around Hillary’s unstoppable victory was left dangling after her stunning loss. Well regarded pollsters and journalists were wholly and completely wrong. The elites had to eat their words, and quickly too, because the man who they had castigated and humiliated was poised to hold the most powerful office in the world. It’s the stuff of Aesop’s Fables. Time will tell whether the elites will fully submit to Trump’s reign or whether large contingents will hold out in the hopes of a presidential change in four years. My personal guess is that elites will silently do penance and, however much they badmouth Trump in public, they will do little to obstruct his path.

Though Trump’s triumph was not an event for his supporters, it was a profound one for his detractors. Like all events, one must judge this one by its consequences, which are still being played out. I argue that the way we understand these consequences will determine the horizon of national politics for years to come. This is because Trump’s election is an event both for the Democratic party and the Left more generally (which is largely excluded from the political process). It represents a moment of truth for those who believed a Clinton presidency, however distasteful, was inevitable. Obviously it is not. Given this fact, the Democrats may either shift to the right, or shift fundamentally to the left. A third, highly likely option, is that they will simply rebrand themselves with no substantial change in policy or membership. But if a Democratic candidate loses to Trump again in 2020, this option will be far less viable. I believe a space has opened to argue for a more inclusive and left-leaning Democratic party. Given the event of Trump’s victory, however, an even stronger case could be made for abandoning the party as we know it and concentrating on constructing a progressive alternative. Unfortunately, this latter prospect has already been foreclosed by Bernie Sanders, the national leader of progressives. His call in a recent New York Times editorial was for a restructuring—not abandoning—of the Democrats. I think this effort will be uphill. The power is with the moderates and liberals, not the progressives. Sanders’ only weapon is Trump’s victory. If he and others can pin the blame firmly enough on the Democrats’ failed policies and platforms, then perhaps they can leverage more control over the party moving into the 2018 elections.

At this point, I think it is worth parsing the narratives emerging about why Trump won the election. Whether political struggle is waged within the Democratic party or outside it, our crucial weapons are interpretations. First, consider the argument that the election results are invalid because Trump lost the popular vote. This is, of course, true. A majority of American citizens voted for Hillary Clinton to be president. Yet according to election rules, the electoral college picks the president on a state-by-state basis, with delegates awarded according to that state’s population. This situation creates a perverse incentive: candidates are encouraged to campaign only where they have a chance of winning. In states where victory or defeat is assured, they don’t show. In essence, when we elect a president of the United States, we do not elect a national representative. We elect a representative of our nation’s states. Whether or not one agrees with the electoral college system, keep in mind that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency while losing the popular vote, the mainstream media would not be debating election reform. A few words might be mentioned on the subject, but they would be drowned out by the overwhelming chorus of self-congratulation and grand visions of the future. I think this debate over election reform, while valid, misses the point. Whether or not Trump was elected by a majority of citizens, he won according to the rules. We recognize him as the winner in order to even have this discussion. The most pressing question is not whether his win is legitimate or fair. Instead, the question is why he won, and what his victory means for those who do not support it.

If the electoral college narrative is a dead end, what about discussing third party candidates? The reprimand goes like this: if just a few hundred thousand voters had picked Hillary Clinton instead of Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, she would have won. Therefore, third party candidates (and those who voted for them) are to blame for Trump’s win. This argument contains a fallacy. It is not straightforward that if voters had picked Hillary over Stein and Johnson she would have defeated Trump. In fact, it’s a narrative that only works if she lost. Imagine Hillary had defeated Trump by a significant margin in the electoral college. There would be no mention of third party voters, other than perhaps to recognize them for voting their conscience and begrudgingly admit the value of alternative candidates. Now imagine she had defeated Trump by the slimmest of margins—only a few thousand votes. Still, liberals and media-elites would refrain from criticizing third-party voters because in the end they did not matter; the anointed candidate would have won. It is only in the actual scenario—Hillary losing narrowly to Trump in several key states—that pundits bring out their critiques of third party politics.

Just like the electoral college narrative, the third party debate misses the point. Yes, millions of third party voters did not vote for Hillary. So did tens of millions of Trump voters! Large sections of the population simply didn’t vote. Given the complexities of a presidential election, there are no shortage of groups, individuals, factors, rules, and contingencies to blame when you lose. But the nature of cause and effect dictates that these groups can only be blamed retroactively. I am not convinced that third party voters lost Hillary the election. I agree with Glenn Greenwald that primary causal agents are the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton herself.[2] Moreover, the premise of democratic elections is that for votes to be made freely and fairly, their contents (and thus the elections results) cannot be known beforehand. Blaming third party voters amounts to demanding that they vote the right way—a fundamental violation of democratic principles.

Finally, consider the argument put forth by many that a different candidate (namely Bernie Sanders) could have defeated Donald Trump. Sanders would have undoubtedly brought many strengths to bear against the Republican candidate. His outsider credentials are far more believable than Hillary’s. He espouses populist social and economic policies that are attractive to the middle and working classes. Young people—the same crucial constituency that showed up to vote for Barack Obama in 2008—came out for Sanders in droves. Most importantly, Bernie Sanders is a genuine politician, able to inspire voters on an emotional level. For all the vitriol thrown at Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most devastating critique one can make of her is an utter lack of political instinct. Though Hillary made all the right moves and said all the right things, somehow she always fell short of genuine inspiration. Of course, the argument that Bernie Sanders would have defeated Donald Trump (and therefore that the Democratic Party is to blame for shutting him out) is flawed on several counts. First off, it is a counterfactual. No one knows whether Sanders could have defeated Trump, just as almost no one in the media establishment predicted Trump’s win. Secondly, Sanders had flaws—big ones—that would have hindered him in a national election. These include his singular focus on economic issues, excluding the cultural and social, and his relative silence over issues of foreign policy. But, let us say that Sanders would indeed have beaten Trump. This narrative pins the blame for Trump’s victory on Hillary and the Democratic Party and takes us away from examining the social forces and political ideologies that propelled him to victory. Rather than looking at how Clinton lost, we need to examine why Trump won.

This means seeing Trump’s victory as an event. If we only think about reasons why Hillary lost, then we are confining ourselves, revisiting Badiou’s terms, to the existing situation. But the situation was not able to predict Trump’s political coup. Quite the opposite: every dominant term was aligned in Hillary’s favor. When we examine her loss, all we see are these terms reflected back upon themselves, mirroring a reality that no longer holds weight. If we analyze Trump’s ascendency, something different appears. The election outcome ruptured with the existing state of things. Donald Trump became the expression of a movement far exceeding him in scope—a symbol of mass discontent. Whether Trump is a racist, an assaulter, an egomaniac, or a crook (and he is all of these), his victory still functions as an event, sowing novelty in the heart of our political and social order. I argue that the election result signifies a profound disconnect between presentation and representation. The way things appeared to us: that Hillary would win; that Barack Obama’s legacy was secure; that racism was no longer a national political force; that neoliberalism was dominant; that young people and people of color would decide the future; all of this was thrown into question. All of these former terms were presented in the situation. That is, they were part of what exists. But there was a term present in the situation that, until this moment, had gone unrepresented. That term is the despair of poor whites.

Let me elaborate. In the tsunami of post-election analysis, everyone is trying to build a narrative of Trump’s win. Democrats tend to examine Hillary’s loss, which I parsed above, heaping blame on everyone but themselves. Conservatives tend to hail the election as a confirmation of the justness of their cause. They view the outcome as a mandate to implement arch-conservative policies at the economic, cultural, social, and international level.[3] Meanwhile the Left holds two competing viewpoints on how to interpret the stunning election results. Bernie Sanders’ op-ed in The New York Times represents the first view. In the article Sanders calls for radical transformation of the Democratic Party. He wants the Party’s base to include young people, working class people, immigrants and people of color, and to abandon its establishment ties with Wall Street and Big Business. Piercingly, Sanders recognizes that class played a role in Trump’s victory. People voted for Trump, according to Sanders, because they were fed up with a political system that “put wealthy and corporate interests above their own.” Working families are struggling in the wake of decades of outsourcing and financial deregulation. An anemic recovery from the Great Recession has done little to ease Americans’ anxieties or make them more economically secure. Americans turned to Trump because he expressed their precarity. He promised a return of good manufacturing jobs, to take on Wall Street and corporate interests, and to fight government action impeding American enterprise. In Trump, Sanders sees the inverted expression of a ringing truth: the United States is the richest nation in the world yet most Americans are struggling to get by. However distorted and malignant, Trump’s rhetoric sounded this truth in everyday Americans, and they voted for him.

This viewpoint is refuted in a recent article from Jezebel titled “Please Stop Saying Poor People Did This.” The author argues that class is absolutely not a factor in Trump’s win. She interprets data from the New York Times showing that Trump beat out Hillary in every income bracket except the lowest, individuals making under $30,000 per year. Her point is that Americans earning the least (where people of color tend to fall) voted for Hillary whereas white Americans, whether they were rich or poor, seemed to overwhelmingly support Donald Trump. Thus, the election was about race, not class: white Americans chose Trump because he would restore white supremacy and put African-Americans and immigrants back in their place; people of color overwhelmingly supported Clinton to advance the gains made under Obama and prevent rollbacks.[4] The Jezebel author then chews out Bernie Sanders for, essentially, thinking white voters chose Trump for class-based reasons rather than racism.

There is a problem with the data, as well as the author’s overall argument. The Times poll analyzed voting by race and by income level (an approximation of class) but there was no sub-category linking the two. It is impossible to see how a Latina voter making $100,000 per year voted compared to a Latina voter making $30,000. As far as I have seen, no exit polls list voting results broken down by class and race. The closest approximation is the “Education by Race” category, which shows how whites vs. nonwhites voted based on their education levels. Nonwhites, both with and without college degrees, voted for Clinton by overwhelming margins, supporting the Jezebel author’s claim that the election was about race. And Trump led among educated whites by four points while his lead among non-educated whites was 39 points. This figure represents a 14 point increase over non-educated whites who voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. If we take education as a loose marker of economic class (a move that carries interpretive risk) then a curious trend emerges. Educated whites did indeed support Trump, perhaps because of his anti-establishment credentials and undoubtedly because of his racial demagoguery. But their support was actually10 points down from Romney’s support in 2012, according to New York Times data analysis. In contrast Trump gained 14 points among uneducated whites compared with Romney in 2012; he got 67% of their vote compared with Clinton’s 28%.[5] Both educated and non-educated whites supported Donald Trump. But within these numbers, one discerns a definitive shift among uneducated whites, who fled the Obama coalition in large numbers and chose Trump to represent them.

These statistical data, imperfect as they are, call both the Sanders and the Jezebel positions into question. No, the election was not just about class. Hillary won the lowest income brackets, with the higher brackets more or less tied. But one can attribute this class polarization in favor of Clinton to the fact that people of color tend to make less money, and that Hillary carried 88% of the black vote and 65% of the Latino vote. Missing in the Jezebel analysis is impossibility of isolating race from social class. And yet, race is not the sole factor either. Though whites supported Trump by a margin of close to 20 points, this figure is barely changed from 2012. And the evidence indicates that college-educated whites went over to Hillary in large numbers. The site of real change this election was neither race nor class. Rather, it was their peculiar intersection in the figure of poor whites. Asserting the intersectionality of race and class (along with gender and sexuality) is nothing new. However, academics often focus on intersecting identities of oppression. By no means am I negating these efforts. But this election was clearly about an intersection of privilege and powerlessness. Poor whites saw themselves reflected in Trump’s persona, his plans, but most importantly his tireless assault on the establishment, right down to its politically correct mores. Their dream is represented in the now iconic call to “Make America Great Again.” America was great once—in the revolutionary period when it stood for freedom against tyranny, in World War II when it saved the world from the Nazis, and in the postwar years, when the middle class rode waves of unparalleled growth to financial and social security.

But for some, America is great no longer. Since the 1970’s, economic deregulation has outsourced jobs and gutted the US manufacturing industry. A series of financial crises, most notably the 2008 recession, concentrated wealth in a tiny fraction of individuals and corporations. Things that most Americans once took for granted—decent, long-term jobs, healthcare, affordable education, and homeownership—are simply not available for everyday people. This causes real harm, and it also fosters a constant state of anxiety. Young people know very well that their future is not secure. On an international level, the United States has seen its power decline, offset by emerging geopolitical hubs such as China, Latin America, India, and of course the Middle East. For citizens of other countries, I think this diminution in power is viewed positively. The US is now forced to re-think some of its more brutal and exploitative practices, lest it lose the support of far-flung allies. Still, American imperialism endures, and with Trump as president, another war in the Middle East is within the range of possibility. Restoring greatness on the domestic front will be paired with forceful foreign policy, aimed at compensating for a lack of absolute power with paranoid violence.

Historically, two readings have prevailed of America’s loss of greatness. On one side is the argument that America was never great to begin with. This is the dominant Leftist view. Yes, the US implemented modest social reforms during the Great Depression (largely dismantled now), and yes the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights Movement, and other struggles have brought a measure of equality to our nation’s social fabric. But America has always been a capitalist, imperialist, and fundamentally racist nation—no different from other world powers in history. The Left thus seeks a political, social, and economic alternative to American hegemony and American capitalism. But so far they have been unable to fully imagine this alternative, let alone realize it.

On the other side one can argue that America is an exceptional nation whose hallmark is human freedom enshrined in the rights of the individual. But since its creation, America has been threatened both without (from rival nations and blocs) and within by those wishing to overthrow American imperialism and privilege social reforms over protecting the constitution. This, of course, is the conservative view. These two positions, leftist and conservative, are irreconcilable. The question is not which position is correct, for this would assume some neutral middle ground from which one could observe and decide rationally. No, the fundamental question is how both positions relate themselves to Trump’s election. In other words, how does this event in American politics resonate within leftist and conservative discourses. What consequences does it provoke, both at the level of official policy and ruling ideology, but also at the level of political and ideological resistance?

Here, I reiterate my claim that Trump’s victory was an event for everyone except his supporters. It has plunged the conservative elites into a frenzied struggle for power. Many conservatives who denounced Trump, either for his political incorrectness or his ever-shifting policy views, are supplicating themselves in order to receive government appointments. Trump is making great promises, both on the domestic and international fronts. But he seems to be drawing appointees from the old guard, establishment conservatives who are radical on social issues but faithful to free-market principles. In other words, one might gather from Trump’s recent pronouncements (and the tenor of his campaign) that America is on the cusp of drastic social, economic, and political changes. Despite the rhetoric, the fear, the talk of Muslim registration, and the comparisons to Hitler, it is difficult to outline the contours of a political revolution in Trump’s nascent administration. Certainly, we will be treated to more demeaning language and incitement to racial violence. Obamacare will probably be repealed, or at least curtailed significantly. US foreign policy may become more hawkish, leading perhaps to war with Iran or the invasion of Syria. Both of these represent monstrous disasters which, whatever one’s philosophical leanings, must not be allowed to happen. But I do not think Trump’s victory will change much in everyday life. Trump’s presidency will reveal many existing elements of our society more starkly. These include structures of racial and sexual violence, Islamophobia, government surveillance, class stratification, divides between the educated and uneducated, rural and urban, liberal and conservative, and so on. But if his presidency throws these elements into sharper relief, it will not abolish them or massage them into the periphery.

***

According to Alain Badiou, events leave a mark on human subjects in the shape of an active fidelity. To recognize something as an event is to invest it with subjective faith. This faith becomes the basis for interpretive thought and intervention. We, not Trump, will write the historical consequences of his presidency. Earlier, I claimed that poor whites were the site of Trump’s surprising win. That is, poor whites were presented but not represented in the situation. Trump won because he was able to represent himself as a champion of poor whites and as the key to restoring their economic and racial greatness in America. The double bind of economic insecurity and racial anxiety had gone without representation in our political scene. By giving voice to these dual concerns, Trump’s name emerged from obscurity, ascending to heights of political power. Trump may try to fulfill his promises and the expectations of his supporters. But he will not succeed. The weight of existing institutions and power structures is simply too strong. Moreover, the double bind of poor whites speaks to their symptomatic position; restoring both economic and racial security is not tenable or possible in our current political situation. It would require a counter-revolution equivalent to 20th century fascism. And while this prospect is frightening, I do not believe Trump’s presidency will draw it much closer into being.

Despite the specter of fascism that leftists cultivate, a faithful response to Trump’s presidency does not mean a return to 20th century forms of political resistance. These relied on the premise of a real choice between two different versions of capitalism: social-democratic or state-fascist; with the supplement of a state-socialist form. But as Alain Badiou points out in a recent discussion, today we have no choice. There is simply neo-liberalism, executed with different degrees of social control and varying respect for individual and civil rights. It has become fashionable since Trump’s election (and the Brexit vote) to claim that neo-liberalism is dead. But this would mean that Trump and Brexit represent a real alternative to neo-liberalism. Neither phenomenon will be able to dissolve the symptom of poor white despair. The most Trump can hope for is to give poor whites an ersatz solution in the guise of a war or some over-hyped domestic campaign (e.g., repealing Obamacare or constructing new oil pipelines). The deadlock of poor whites will remain, calling Trump’s presidency into question even as he embarks on experiments in ultra-conservative policy.

If this deadlock forecloses a fidelity to Trump’s presidency itself, what modes of intervention are open to those who call his election an event? This is basically the question of responding to Trump’s election from a position of non-support. Already, there is no shortage of options. The Democratic party is quickly positioning itself as a bulwark against the worst effects of a Trump administration (much as Republicans dug in their heels after the 2008 election). Progressive elements in the party, most notably Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are hoping to gain power and push the Party to the left. Outside these efforts, leftists of all stripes are protesting Trump’s election and preparing for battles over major social issues—reproductive rights, gender equality, immigration, climate change, etc. But with conservatives firmly in power and the Democratic party weakened, many of these struggles seem like lost causes. At this point, I believe that Trump himself foreshadows the most effective means of resistance (and thus fidelity) to the event of his presidency. His genius is an instinct for provocation, which unifies his core supporters while splintering the opposition. In representing poor whites, Trump split conservatives and frayed the left into an apolitical mass. In attempting to put him to rest, each opposing group isolated itself and doubled down on its parochial commitments. Thus, women’s rights groups, the environmental movement, working class struggles, immigrant groups, and Muslims are (despite a veneer of common protest) far less united against Trump than they were towards the Obama administration. There is no consensus on how to proceed, resist, or develop a unified alternative. But Trump is his own worst enemy here. By provoking the left into a sectarian struggle, he risks the possibility of its resolution. If the event of Trump’s presidency has created the chance of something new, I argue it is the prospect of a political moment on the US Left.

Such a moment is difficult to imagine and impossible to forecast. It will not be discovered, I argue, in the simplicity of a united front against Trump. Protesters and commentators have already taken up this superficial “no” as a rallying cry. But the simple negation of Trump does not indicate any genuine alternative, just more of the same. We saw the result of negating Trump in the Hillary coalition—Wall Street, leftists, Democrats, and many Republicans banded together to prevent his election at all costs. Their banner was (and is) nothing more than neo-liberalism, a reproduction of ideological and state power, and the violent maintenance of empire.[6] While we should be wary of shallowly negating of Trump’s presidency, the moment also requires that we refuse to normalize it. This is part of what thinking Trump’s election as an event means. The state (Badiou’s term for centers of ideological power) will quickly coalesce around the new reality; it will portray Trump’s election as explainable, even inevitable. A thousand experts will be conjured to reinterpret the data and prove that Hillary, in fact, had no chance of winning. Here, it is crucial to insist on the event’s rupture with its situation, and the total lack of relation between the two. To interpret Trump’s victory as an event is to maintain its radical contingency. Only after the fact does his victory become necessary; beforehand it was a hidden, seemingly impossible chance. Thus, I argue that our political situation irrevocably changed on election night—not because Trump won, but precisely because the possibility of his victory wove itself into being. It simply was not possible, before November 8th, to imagine Trump winning.

This incommensurability between situation and event has an implication. It is important to resist normalizing Trump’s win because doing so erases the very contingency it was predicated on, transforming history into mere necessity. If we want to think a way out of Trump, the place to start is the utter impossibility of his administration. Perhaps the truly correct denunciation of Trump—far from ridiculing his persona—is to maintain that his victory was absolutely by chance. It was not inevitable, and holds no more claim to existence than what we allow it. But this contention is not enough, on its own, to dissolve the power of the executive. Only the expediency of a political moment can replace sameness (in the guise of a plot twist) with its unpresentable alternative. Trump’s administration may serve as our moment’s provocation, but its form depends on staging the particular as false universal. True politics, on the other hand, always wagers the universal in the guise of the particular—a strategy to remedy the fractured, identitarian resistance Trump is banking on.

 

[1] For Badiou, the void is what cannot be presented in a given situation. In other words, what doesn’t exist. However, a crucial part of his philosophy involves demonstrating that the nonexistent does, in fact, have a place within being in the form of events.

[2] But, as I will argue, the factors contributing to Hillary’s loss are not the same as those responsible for Trump’s win.

[3]  Of course, Trump’s own behavior may undermine their crusade. So far, he seems to be towing the ultra-conservative line in his choices for senior staff and cabinet positions. But the conservative forces Trump has elevated may well come into conflict with one another, and with Trump’s own volatility.

[4] Intentionally missing in the author’s analysis is the impossibility of isolating race from social class. Saying Trump’s victory is solely about race is refusing to fully understand it.

[5] These statistics are given more play and context in a recent Upshot article in the Times. However, my overall point in this essay is that how one interprets statistical data is much more important than the data itself. Before the election, all interpretations pointed towards Hillary’s victory. With this option quashed, we need new interpretations to make sense of what happened.

[6] Trump is often compared, explicitly or through juxtaposition, with Hitler, as an echo and repetition of the Nazi rise to power. This comparison, however stirring, is flawed for several reasons. First, Trump stands precisely as an apolitical expression of discontent, not a genuine alternative. The difference is that Trump represents a false universal—the white, middle class America that no longer exists. Second, while Trump’s election is portrayed as a sweeping into power of highly irregular elements, he is stocking his administration with ultra-conservative members of the establishment. There is no indication, so far, that his administration will represent a crisis of executive power. Finally, the conditions in which Hitler rose to power are fundamentally different from those of contemporary America. The most volatile factor here may be the economy. If it crashes while Trump is president, America could look slightly more like interwar Germany, though the disparities are unbridgeable.

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