You may remember Arthur Chu, the Jeopardy! contestant whose strategies last year kept him in the game for 11 episodes and earned him plaudits and derision alike.
He’s also a political columnist on the liberal side of the spectrum, and in a column for Salon on the Donald Trump phenomenon, he says enough with the Hitler and Mussolini analogies when it comes to the real estate billionaire and candidate for the Republican presidential nod.
“It’s impossible to imagine the effete reality-show billionaire at the head of a Beer Hall Putsch or going to prison as a martyr for his cause. His supporters are violent, frightening, boorish mobs but they’re nothing at all like an army, not even the ersatz army the SA were. And despite how ugly things have gotten in the United States during the War on Terror we are still comfortably the world’s wealthiest superpower; Weimar Germany would be lucky to have our problems,” Chu writes.
Instead, Chu comes up with an American historical analog to Trump: Henry Ford, who also flirted with a GOP run for the presidency, in 1924. Both were extravagantly wealthy media darlings, and both were outspoken about marginalizing a minority — Jews in Ford’s case, Muslims in Trump’s.
He writes: “Ford was beloved by his fans because he was perceived as a straight-talker, a truth-teller, someone insulated enough by his wealth he didn’t have to recite polite fictions. Among serious pundits of the chattering classes, an eccentric billionaire who goes on rants about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or Barack Obama’s forged birth certificate has disqualified himself from being taken seriously for office. Among voters who hate and resent the serious pundits of the chattering classes, those ‘fringe’ views only underscore the billionaire’s ‘outsider’ credentials.
“It may well be the case that Ford, had he not bowed out of running for the Republican nomination in 1924, would never have won a general election once enough people blasted the contents of his raving anti-Semitic newspaper the Dearborn Independent to a national stage–indeed, the Anti-Defamation League successfully shut down that newspaper with a boycott in 1927. It may be that historians are correct that Ford would never have made it that far into the election because, like most people who storm into presidential elections with no past political experience, he simply didn’t have the taste for politics.”