February 22, 2017

Historical comparisons for Donald Trump

Donald Trump, to put it mildly, is unusual. No analogy or comparison or him is close to being perfectly accurate. Despite, or indeed because, of that, he’s wound up being compared to quite a few other figures, from history, fiction or current events. Perhaps a quick survey would be helpful as background to other discussions.

Three of the most popular Trump comparisons are:

I’ll discuss the first two below. The third will have to wait until future posts.

Further Trump analogies that I think are worth brief mentions include:

Donald Trump compared to Andrew Jackson

Let’s return to Trump’s own favorite analogy. President Andrew Jackson is probably most famous for:

Except for the military part, that all sounds a lot like Trump.


That sounds like Trump too.

Donald Trump compared to classical Fascists

Benito Mussolini popularized an ideology called “Fascism”, named after a symbol of authority in the Roman Empire. Key elements included:

Adolph Hitler did much the same thing for the similarly young countries Germany and Austria, based on an imagined German history. His actions are better remembered today than Mussolini’s, for reasons that include:

Many versions were tried in other countries as well, e.g. Franco’s Spain and Peron’s Argentina, the latter of which was of particular interest to Trump.

The messaging/propaganda side of fascism anticipates Trump. According to a famous 1990 profile of Trump:

And “Make America Great Again” fits well with classic fascist tropes.

Trump seems like a dabbler in fascist economics.

Finally, in a clear and important difference, Trump to date has been far less violent than the most famous fascists. Indeed, on the international front, Trump has managed to portray himself as a pacifist and a militarist at once.

Meanwhile, the street violence that helped Mussolini and Hitler take power has been replaced by “verbal violence” in the modern era, especially on social media. For as David Frum observes:

In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead.

Ultimately, no distant historical model is a perfect guide to Trump. He’s a clueless narcissist, and there are only two known ways for such people to become national leaders:

The best comparisons for Trump are the ones I’m out of space to write about here — other modern demagogues such as Putin (who however is much more rational and generally skilled than Trump), Erdogan (who however was a very competent mayor of Istanbul and Prime Minister before he went visibly cuckoo), or Chavez (who actually was as big an idiot as Trump).

Related links


4 Responses to “Historical comparisons for Donald Trump”

  1. Politics and policy in the age of Trump | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 1st, 2017 12:14 am

    […] I laid out some of the major historical (and fictional) comparisons for Trump. […]

  2. The wars on democracy and truth : The Monash Report on February 16th, 2018 2:21 am

    […] All of the above are also true of authoritarian wannabes, such as Donald Trump. […]

  3. Everything is at stake on November 6. Here’s how you can still help. : The Monash Report on October 26th, 2018 12:19 am

    […] I outlined in February, 2017 about historical parallels for Donald Trump has held up distressingly […]

  4. Republicans vs. democracy : The Monash Report on December 10th, 2019 4:49 pm

    […] Trump has been authoritarian-oriented from the […]

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