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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Creator of Godwin's Law Says It's OK—and Necessary—to Compare Trump to Hitler

Green light for Hitler and Donald Trump analogies


The creator of Godwin's Law—an adage that says Adolf Hitler comparisons become increasingly likely as Internet arguments drag on—argued in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday that his rule in no way discredits efforts to draw parallels between the Nazi dictator and former President Donald Trump.

"Those of us who hope to preserve our democratic institutions need to underscore the resemblance before we enter the twilight of American democracy," wrote attorney and author Mike Godwin. 

"And that's why Godwin's Law isn't violated—or confirmed—by the Biden reelection campaign's criticism of Trump's increasingly unsubtle messaging. We had the luxury of deriving humor from Hitler and Nazi comparisons when doing so was almost always hyperbole. It's not a luxury we can afford anymore."

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden's 2024 reelection campaign posted to social media a graphic (see above) likening Trump's recent rhetoric—including his statement that immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country"—to Hitler's and arguing that the similarities are "not a coincidence."

During a speech in Iowa earlier this week, Trump—the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination—doubled down on his "poisoning the blood of our country" remark and acknowledged that historians and others have compared his rhetoric to Hitler's.

"They don't like it when I said that," Trump told a crowd of his supporters. "And I never read 'Mein Kampf.' They said, 'Oh, Hitler said that.'"

Trump told Vanity Fair decades ago that his friend Marty Davis gave him a copy of "Mein Kampf." Davis had a slightly different recollection, saying he in fact gave Trump a book of Hitler's speeches.

Last month, the former president said in a Veterans Day address in New Hampshire that if he's reelected, he will "root out" those he characterized as "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country"—a threat that observers described as openly fascistic. 

Weeks later, Trump vowed to be a dictator only on "day one" if reelected, heightening concerns about his authoritarian ambitions.

Citing two unnamed sources who have spoken to Trump in recent days, Rolling Stone reported Wednesday that the former president "has privately vowed to further amp up the volume on his extreme, anti-immigrant messaging" in response to the Hitler comparisons.

Godwin argued in his Post column Thursday that the former president's "express, self-conscious commitment to a franker form of hate-driven rhetoric probably counts as a special instance of the law: The longer a constitutional republic endures—with strong legal and constitutional limits on governmental power—the probability of a Hitler-like political actor pushing to diminish or erase those limits approaches 100%."

"Will Trump succeed in being crowned 'dictator for a day'? I hope not," Godwin added. "But I choose to take Trump's increasingly heedless transgressiveness—and, yes, I really do think he knows what he's doing—as a positive development in one sense: More and more of us can see in his cynical rhetoric precisely the kind of dictator he aims to be."