"Raise your right hand..." Donald Trump makes FL crowd swear they'll show up to vote for him pic.twitter.com/9M2QRzrbpW— Michael C. Bender (@MichaelCBender) March 5, 2016
On Saturday, a bizarre, extremely disturbing video was posted to Twitter that showed hundreds of people raising their hands in allegiance to Donald Trump during a rally in Orlando, Florida.
The scene evokes imagery akin to the Nazi salute to Hitler, cemented all the more by Trump’s insistence that with the salute, his supporters “swore [to vote for him]. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”
The apt comparisons of Trump to Hitler have been made countless times, but it is one thing to hear Trump spew Hitler-esque rhetoric of banning Muslims (along with forcing them to wear ID badges and closing mosques), and completely another to witness hundreds readily partake in an unmistakably Nazi-reminiscent salute and swear allegiance to Trump.
Abraham Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, agrees. Foxman, who lived in Poland in the 40s, survived the Holocaust and the Nazis thanks to his Catholic nanny. He now says that, “As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America,” according to the Times of Israel.
Foxman is absolutely right. The rise of Trump and unwavering fealty of his followers was unthinkable even a few years ago. It’s been posited that Trump’s innate appeal is his authoritarianism—a Politico article found “Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclination.”
“Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened,” Politico’s Matthew MacWilliams argues.
Foxman believes Trump knows exactly what he is doing. “It is a fascist gesture,” he said. “He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him.”
This is right on the money. Trump is, if nothing, extremely cunning. He knows by failing to distance himself from white supremacist groups and feigning ignorance he can send a signal to his racist base while remaining inculpable in the public eye.
Foxman says this “break all the taboos of civil behavior” and is “outrageous” at a “rally for a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States.”
He believes despite the U.S.’s terrible history regarding slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow, “there’s never been anything like this, and nothing on this scale.”
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