The Real Reasons the GOP Convention in Cleveland Should Unsettle You

July 19, 2016

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Most observers of the GOP convention in Cleveland are fixated on the disorder on the floor, Melania Trump’s apparent plagiarism of a speech by Michelle Obama, and the overly lengthy speech by a former three-star general. But something far more insidious occurred in the hall in Cleveland last night.

I stood on a platform some years ago overlooking what is now a parking lot overrun with weeds in Nuremberg, Germany. This used to be Zeppelin Field, where Adolf Hitler yelled and screamed his way to party unity at his annual rallies. And when I watched Rudolph Giuliani address the convention last night, my thoughts went back to a time and place that our civilization wishes it could take back.

I am not comparing the former mayor of New York City or Donald Trump to Hitler, but one would have to be ignorant of history to miss the severe and scary parallels between the mood, tone, and rhetoric of the Trump movement and the rise of the National Socialists in pre-war Germany. As a history major and part Jew, these details land a bit harder on me. On 9/11, I was sitting in my History of Nazi Germany class and as we watched footage of the towers falling, my professor remarked something to the effect of: “no matter what happens moving forward, we must not become like them.”

While Giuliani was almost uncontrollably waving his arms and screaming into the microphone last night, I saw a bloodlust in the eyes of the delegates. Each and every time he said the word “Muslim” the eyes of these largely white and middle-aged delegates burned a little hotter, their cheers taking on a primeval quality.

I’ve been a pretty good Republican in my adult years. I helped out the Romney and Rubio campaigns, and I think there are some real stars in the party, such as Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Ben Sasse.

But my country is more important than my party. A few years ago a group of my Naval Academy classmates and I wrote a book talking about our experiences graduating into war in 2002. I can tell you with certainty that exactly zero of my shipmates went to the battlefield excited about killing the enemy. They did it because it was their job to keep America safe. No one jumped up and down with passionate tales of killing those damn terrorists.

America wins, has always won, with cold and calculated temperance. With resolve and a strong moral compass.

Trump is not the answer. This is not because I’d like to see Hillary Clinton occupy the White House, but because I’d like to see America keep its identity as the bastion of free thought and compassion in our world.


John Ennis advised the Romney and Rubio Campaigns on defense policy. He is a former Pentagon speechwriter and co-author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, In the Shadow of Greatness

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7 thoughts on “The Real Reasons the GOP Convention in Cleveland Should Unsettle You

  1. Guess what, Mr. Ennis, ALL politicians can remind you of Hitler and the Nazis because ALL of them use the tactics the Nazis employed on the way to power.

    Whether it is the tactical(catchy slogans) or strategic(demagoguery, use of most modern mediums) political ladies of today openly use the Nazis playbook.

    There are no Hitlers, Goebbels, or Streichers. There is no Volkischer Beobachter or Der Angriff. But most of all there is no SA or it’s successor, the SS.

    This ought to have referred to the South of the Civil Rights Era because that is what Trumpism looks most like. Fear of change drives people to embrace a virulent strain of Populism involving racism and nationalism.

    But in no way is it like Nazism. Not even close.

  2. While it brings me great pleasure and satisfaction to see The Establishment roiling and burning in their own arrogance, thinking that they are the only ones with The Answers, that it is only Their Way that matters, seeing their demands for details, to demand things be explained to them so that it can be approved or denied by THEM, so it can be JUDGED by Them, seeing that arrogance DENIED and turned back on Them, something The Establishment themselves ALWAYS do to the American People with their C/S/TS, and also FOUO which isn’t even classified info, the most recent example that comes to mind are the secret FBI non-disclosures that agents had to sign concerning Clinton, this situation is nothing like the European 1920s and 1930s.
    Reagan used strong rhetoric as well in order to thump Carter.
    Now it is happening again, finally, as this recent era of political correctness has been so incredibly destructive to society as a whole that it beggars description.
    Finally we have someone who will call a spade a spade and The Establishment is apoplectic about their gravy train coming under scrutiny and then becoming derailed.



  3. “…one would have to be ignorant of history to miss the severe and scary parallels between the mood, tone, and rhetoric of the Trump movement and the rise of the National Socialists in pre-war Germany.”

    But it wasn’t “pre-war Germany”; it was Weimar Germany, a new republic supported only by the center left, and under sustained attack by the far left and everyone to the right of the Social Democrats. It wasn’t a strong constitutional order — like ours in the United States today — but rather a very young and weak one. It was hobbled by the Treaty of Versailles and the depression and even the judiciary opposed it.

    In the end, Adolf Hilter and co. just had to push and it collapsed.

    So there is no real comparison between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Donald Trump (if he indeed wins the election in November).

    But that isn’t what really bothers me about this comparison, which critics for the last few presidents have thrown around since Naomi Wolf accused the Bush administration of plotting a fascist coup and military dictatorship. What bothers me is that complete lack of faith in our constitutional order all of this entails.

    It should not matter who wins the presidency if our constitution remains strong, if the powers remain separated, if the judiciary retains its independence, and if the press remains free and elections continue at the federal, state, and local level.

    I don’t support Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton, for that matter). But I think it’s shrill and irresponsible to say or imply or hint that we will succumb to fascist dictatorship if he wins the presidency.

      1. No, Ennis not as bad as Trump. He didn’t say that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the JFK assassination. lol
        Don’t forget that Hitler could use the “brown shirts” to threaten violence to those who opposed him. Hopefully Trump’s age will prevent him from being as active as Hitler was. Also it seems that policy is beneath his level so his kids and other unfortunates will be handling that.
        But this could all lead to a situation resembling that of the Weimar Republic, since whoever wins in November will not be trusted by the other side.

  4. Well said Mr Ennis, critical examination always needs to happen through the contextual lens of history if we to stop a political system from disintegrating.
    Yet your comments also reminded me of a comment by Michael Ware, former war correspondent in Baghdad, the world need to be sceptical of “True Belief ” and that is from dictatorship and ideology, to democracy, we must never become blind due to belief. This is why I see people like Giuliani and co perturbed, blinded by their own belief in democracy, they remain impervious to their own policies and its sometimes similarity to Nazism, for example their policies towards Hispanics and Muslim immigrants.
    And its why the American people need to stand up to these lunatics.

    1. Trump isn’t the answer, but neither are Romney or Rubio. The bloodlust you speak of did not appear overnight, nor is Trump the source of it. Rather, GOP leaders were all too happy to stoke it for their own partisan purposes. I don’t know about you, but “killing those damn terrorists” is very much the tone I get from this party, and it is antithetical to what America stands for. Honestly if you want a leader with “resolve and a strong moral compass”, I’m going to have to insist that those words best describe Barack Obama…Hillary Clinton perhaps less so, but she has still been far and above the best candidate this election cycle.