There is a book by Erik Larson called “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.” The book follows the lives of the American ambassador William Dodd as he arrives in Berlin in 1933 – just at the time that the Nazi’s are coming to power – and Dodd’s promiscuous daughter Martha. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what people thought of Hitler and the Nazis just as they were coming to power. And in fact, a lot of people (including Martha Dowd) thought that Hitler looked “like a clown,” similar to Charlie Chaplin. Few people thought he was going to have any real staying power before the “Machtergreifung.” And even after that event, daily life in Germany was largely unchanged. “Nazi attacks on the Jews were like summer thunderstorms that came and went quickly, leaving an eerie calm.” And so it began.
Now, people who have read my articles know that I’m not a fan of comparisons between Trump and Hitler. I don’t think they’re anything alike. But the frustration that progressive Germans must have felt as Hitler was inching closer and closer to power – and at that point no one had any idea of what was yet to come – is something I can identify with as Trump prepares to become the 45th President of the United States.
As I said to several friends after returning from a short trip to Germany, I’m not really sure that I returned to the same country that I had left 10 days earlier.
It’s so disheartening, there is so much deep frustration in knowing that a very slim majority of American voters preferred this completely unqualified and unhinged candidate over a supremely qualified (if uninspiring) candidate who would have continued the very reasonable policies of the (still popular) current President. By now, it’s completely clear that our country is a deeply, deeply divided nation, and that this is only likely to get worse.
As the election results reveal, our country is almost perfectly divided between people who think that Trump is refreshing and who think that he’s an unhinged übernarcissist.
About Silvio Berlusconi
With his election, we’re all going to have to experience the Trump administration. Like he did throughout his campaign, Trump is most likely going to be a one-man band who improvises his way through the Presidency. His advisers and cabinet will take care of the details, but Trump will set the agenda. That agenda is likely to change daily as Trump accommodates his own considerable whims.
Many of us, myself included, have maintained for quite some time that a better analogy than Hitler is Silvio Berlusconi, the former Prime Minister of Italy. Berlusconi is a remarkable guy, in both the good and bad sense of that word. His repeated electoral success in Italy is even more remarkable. So, to introduce the man properly:
- Like Donald Trump, Berlusconi began his business career in real estate, where he made his first fortune.
- Berlusconi became a media tycoon, having begun with a small cable television station which blossomed into a media empire.
- Berlusconi also had a rapidly rising political career. He was initially elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1994, reportedly admitting later that he was “forced to do so to avoid imprisonment.” He subsequently served as Prime Minister of Italy from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011.
- Berlusconi was involved in multiple scandals during his three stints as Prime Minister. These include but are not limited to:
- Giving false testimony in the trial of Licio Gelli’s secret quasi-Masonic lodge “Propaganda 2.” which aimed to change the Italian political system to a more authoritarian regime;
- The bribery of lawyer David Mills;
- Allegations of money laundering with Mafia associates;
- Allegations of extortion towards the RAI channel in the attempt to convince them to sign a cartel agreement on the advertising shares between RAI and the Fininvest TV networks;
- Allegations of illegally financing the political party All Iberian 1;
- Allegations of the bribery of the Guardia di Finanza;
- Allegations of false accounting and embezzlement connected to the purchase by Reteitalia of Medusa Film;
- Allegations of bribing a judge on Lodo Mondadori;
- Allegations of false accounting on Fininvest Media Group Consolidated;
- Allegations of embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting on Macherio estates;
- Allegations of false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud on Mediaset television and cinema rights;
- Violation of antitrust law, money laundering, and tax fraud, through transactions by the Telecinco TV channel;
- Allegations of Corrupting a judge and false accounting on SME-Ariosto;
- Allegations of tax fraud on Telecinco;
- Abuse of office in the “Unipol” case.
And that is just a partial list, my friends. Berlusconi was eventually done in by his many sexual scandals, his nasty divorce, and finally his “bunga bunga” parties with various prostitutes.
Italy survived Berlusconi’s three Prime Ministerships, just as we will survive Donald Trump’s Presidency. But it wasn’t pretty, and it certainly didn’t help Italy as a nation.
The Victory of Anti-Intellectualism
When I first came back to this country at nine years of age, there is something that I remember that struck me vividly at the time: it wasn’t cool to be a smart kid. It was very cool to be athletic, but it wasn’t cool to be smart. That was very much in contrast with my home country of Germany.
As I’ve grown up in this country, this strong strain of anti-intellectualism has continued to impress me the entire time. George W. Bush famously preferred to go with his gut than with the factual assessments of his advisors, or God forbid, that of some experts. The right wing has started to invent a whole set of their own “facts” as an alternative to the facts that are objectively true. So, President Obama becomes a Muslim born in Kenya rather than an American Christian born in Hawaii. Or global warming becomes only a theory invented by liberals to regulate industries.
But Republicans find scientific facts to be incredibly inconvenient. So much so, that the son of the now-deceased Phyllis Schlafly went to the trouble to create an alternative Wikipedia, one where inconvenient facts could be turned on their head through pseudo-science or the opinion of extreme minorities.
Trump’s victory is, of course, a huge victory for anti-intellectualism. Instead of having to think about how things are, Trump’s supporters can just rely on how they feel. And how they feel is largely angry. That seems to be the dominant emotion among his supporters and among the man himself. Now they will get to exercise that anger through the power of the federal government, and they get to have their revenge against those of us who they’ve come to despise over the last several decades.
I Completely Failed in this Election
This election season I tried to tackle the election through the writing of articles. I didn’t want to make phone calls or canvas neighborhoods in part because I think we already have too much of that going on. By the time the end of October rolled around, I was probably receiving somewhere between 25 to 35 emailed requests for money every day; I was also receiving at least two to three phone calls every day. In short, it was overkill. I didn’t want to contribute to that overkill by adding to the phone calls and the canvassing. People aren’t going to do what you hope they will do by being harangued. This election was everywhere, and if people hadn’t decided whether they were going to vote or who they were going to vote for, they just weren’t paying any attention.
While writing my articles, I secretly hoped that some of them would go viral, and maybe a few people who were open to persuasion would read them and decide that what I was saying made sense. For others, I was hoping to consolidate what they themselves were thinking, so that they could be clearer about it for themselves, and perhaps persuade a friend or two. Or that maybe a few readers might be persuaded that this election was important enough that they should go out and vote. I know that was largely a pipe dream, but one can always hope.
It didn’t happen, of course. I did get a lot of nice positive feedback on my writing, with a number of people feeling that I had consolidated their own thinking process. But no articles went viral, and I doubt anyone was persuaded or motivated.
So, I largely feel like a complete failure. I did what I could, but really, it had no effect whatsoever. This country was still willing to elect an unqualified lunatic because he resonated with what a lot of people were secretly thinking but afraid to say out loud.
That almost half the country resonates with what Donald Trump is willing to say out loud may be the most discouraging thing I’ve ever written about this country.
 A lot of people don’t realize that the Nazi’s never won a majority of electoral votes in the Reichstag, and only “won” the electorate after their “Machtergreifung,” when the issue was already effectively settled.
 Berlusconi is also the owner of the world-famous soccer club AC Milan.
 In November 2010, the teenage Moroccan belly dancer and alleged prostitute known as “Ruby Rubacuori” claimed to have been given $10,000 by Berlusconi at parties at his private villas. The girl told prosecutors that these events were like orgies where Berlusconi and 20 young women performed an African-style ritual known as the “bunga bunga” in the nude.
 Just for the record, global warming is not a “theory” any more than evolution is a “theory” any more than the law of gravity is a theory. They are established scientific facts. The questions relative to global warming or evolution are not about whether they are true; the questions about them revolve around the details of how these phenomena function, about which there is still much to learn. That we may find out more about the details of how something evolves does not cast into doubt the theory of evolution as a whole.
 Why Donald Trump, a man who seems to have had every advantage in life, is so angry, is a source of constant fascination on my part. His extreme narcissism probably has something to do with it, but otherwise your guess is as good as mine.