One of the most overused ways to attack a political opponent in America is to liken them to Adolf Hitler. Former President Donald Trump bears the unusual distinction of rightfully earning the comparison. And as 2024 looms, his evocations of Nazism have become disturbingly verbatim.
During a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Trump went on a distinctly Hiterlian diatribe about the threats that immigrants pose to America. “They let — I think the real number is 15, 16 million people into our country. When they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They’re poisoning the blood of our country,” Trump said. “That’s what they’ve done. They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just to three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world. They’re coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.” Trump subsequently doubled down on the claim on Truth Social, where he wrote, “Illegal immigration is poisoning the blood of our nation.”
The “blood poisoning” narrative has officially gone from soft launch to hard launch.
Trump used similar language in an interview with a niche right-wing website in September. But this was the first time he used it at a rally. The “blood poisoning” narrative has officially gone from soft launch to hard launch.
Anybody in the United States who hears this language ought to find it immediately repellent. The basis for citizenship in a democracy is agreeing to a set of rules and civic values, not ethnic heritage. One need not be a scholar of democratic theory to see that describing Latino, Asian and African immigrants as “poisoning the blood” of the body politic is predicated on racist bigotry, and stems from the premise that the U.S. is an ethnostate that belongs to white people.
But there’s a dark history to this idea — it’s the exact language used by Hitler to build the case for a Nazi regime and whip up popular support for his program of extermination of Jews and other minorities. In his manifesto “Mein Kampf,” Hitler wrote, “All great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.” In another passage he describes Jews as disabling Germany through blood poisoning: “It seemed as if some all-pervading poisonous fluid had been injected by some mysterious hand into the bloodstream of this once heroic body.” Hitler also argued that “Teutonic” — Germanic — people in North America owed their dominance to avoiding miscegenation: “In North America the Teutonic element, which has kept its racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock, has come to dominate the American Continent and will remain master of it as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.”
In addition to warnings of blood poisoning, Trump has recently toyed around with other Nazi and fascist language as well by likening left-leaning dissidents to “vermin.” Are Trump or his allies studying 20th century fascist rhetoric? Who knows. What we do know is that throughout his political career Trump has consistently articulated and pursued the principles of white nationalism. Now he is drawing language from the most extreme and most vile white supremacist enterprise in human history. Experts on fascism are sounding the alarms. “The Nazis made the fear of blood pollution of their master race and their civilization a foundation of their state,” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian of fascism at New York University, recently noted. “Trying to dehumanize this group now over and over again to get Americans used to the idea that they should be persecuted so they won’t resist when the repression comes later, this too is a fascist tactic.”
This goes deeper than signaling a reactionary agenda on immigration, which Trump has already established with his promises of raids, mass deportations, detention camps, and new processes for expediting removal of undocumented immigrants. Trump is socializing his base to think it’s normal to conceive of the U.S. as a white ethnostate, to view the mere presence of ethnic minorities as an existential threat to their safety and well-being. This kind of worldview affects the way his base thinks about everything from law enforcement to affirmative action to discrimination in the workplace to voting rights. While people left-of-center are astonished at his words, in MAGA world they’re received casually: Perhaps even more chilling than Trump’s utterance of blood poisoning this weekend was that his audience was unfazed by it. It sounded completely normal to them.
This language is corrosive to the republic regardless of whether Trump pursues a political program as extreme as the fascists he echoes. As long as he keeps using it, it will intensify bigotry against immigrants and racial minorities, embolden militant white supremacists, increase politico-cultural polarization, lay waste to social trust, and make it even more difficult to tackle the difficulties of building a welfare state in a multicultural democracy.
But we must remain vigilant about the possibility of more extreme turns in Trump’s political program, particularly as the GOP refuses to rally against Trump. (The initial response of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to Trump’s comments was indifference.) For example, a second-term Trump could try to weaponize the language of overt white supremacy in pursuit of another Jan. 6-type insurrection; even if he failed again, it could wreak havoc on the social fabric of American society. But regardless of what kind of action Trump takes in the future, his rhetoric is poisonous for this nation.
Zeeshan Aleem is a writer and editor for MSNBC Daily. Previously, he worked at Vox, HuffPost and Politico, and he has also been published in, among other places, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, and The Intercept. You can sign up for his free politics newsletter here.
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