Flag from Wikimedia. Trump by Sambeet on Pixabay. Illustration courtesy of the author

Stabbed in the Back for a Lost Cause

The similarities between Trump’s election narrative mirrors both Nazi and Confederate rhetorics

The Nazis came to power, in no small part, because of a conspiracy theory that is known to History as the Stab-in-the-back myth. Not only did the Nazi promote and distribute the theory, but they also made it an integral part of their lore.

1919 Austrian postcard. Unknown authorWikimedia

According to Hitler and other proponents of this theory, Germany was on the verge of winning WWI on the battlefield (spoiler alert: it wasn’t) when it was betrayed on the home front by a cabal of Republicans and Jews.

The Nazis referred to the government officials who had signed the Armistice as the November criminals and depicted the surprisingly modern and liberal Weimar Republic (who saw the emergence of the first gay rights movement) as

a morass of corruption, degeneracy, national humiliation, ruthless persecution of the honest ‘national opposition’ — fourteen years of rule by Jews, Marxists, and ‘cultural Bolsheviks

This perceived and propagandised persecution of the honest national opposition can also be found at the core of another historical myth, that of the Lost Cause.

According to this revisionist view of the Civil War, the war waged by the South was heroic and morally justified. In this view, slavery was presented as just; a necessary social construct for the South’s prosperity.

More to the point,

Lost Cause narratives typically portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble, and its leaders and armies as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, whose defeat by the Union armies was because the South’s greater military skill and courage was overwhelmed by the North’s numerical superiority and immense industrial power.

Rooted deep in both rhetorics is the idea of an unfair situation being forced upon a willing, noble, and well-intentioned group of patriots. This unfairness springs either from underground networks operating against the well-being of the State (a deep state) or from unfavourable odds (the election is rigged).

Trump’s appropriation of both these rhetorics poses a grave danger to the American society, the American population, and the global balance of power. It will justify and support the survival of Trumpism whatever happens in the next two months.

Should Trump succeed in stealing the election and depriving Biden of his term, he will have done so by claiming (as he is now) that for 4 years, the Democrats and the so-called deep state had been undermining him and his legitimacy, stabbing him in the back.

Should Trump fail and Biden become president in January 2021, he will undoubtedly promote a form of lost cause rhetoric around him and his administration, telling whoever will listen (and there will be many millions) that his fight was the right one, a just and noble cause doomed to failure, faced with insurmountable odds (the Democrats had an unfair advantage).

I write about politics, business, society and culture on Medium. For startup/business content, check my newsletter: fundraisedd.substack.com

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