is not the German that comes to mind when I think of Donald Trump. Trump has been accused of demagoguery, and there are those who observe that he has amply displayed his flair for tapping into prejudices, particularly racial, in a way reminiscent to the Nazi dictator. However, if his outbursts in the past week are anything to go by, he resembles less the nightmare fuel that was Hitler and more the desperation of two other German military men — Paul von Hindenburg
and Erich Ludendorff
— and what would come to be known as the Dolchstoßlegende
Going by the polls, things are not looking good for the Donald. He might have begun to realise that the wider electorate does not see things his way. And with the possibility of defeat, Trump has been repeating his allegation that the election is rigged, ad nauseam, in tweet after tweet and in speech after speech. However, while his ire towards what he describes as the "dishonest" media, and his lack of regard for Republican leaders Paul Ryan and John McCain, are not news to anyone who is following the elections, his outbursts against both the media and the other leaders have increased in their pitch.
After the second presidential debate last Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to vent his ire. "It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to," he wrote. The tweet was followed by: "With the exception of cheating Bernie out of the nom (nomination) the Dems (Democrats) have always proven to be far more loyal to each other than the Republicans!" Not stopping there, he added: "Disloyal R's (Republicans) are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!"
Trump particularly singled out Ryan for giving him "zero support", tweeting: "Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!" Trump followed that up by tearing into McCain, writing: "The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!"
The accusation of zero support against Ryan stemmed from the fact that Ryan castigated Trump in no uncertain terms after a 2005 video showing Trump making lewd remarks on women and boasting about making unwanted sexual advances surfaced the week before, the same remarks that Trump has brushed off as "locker room remarks".
Senator John McCain formally withdrew his support to Trump in the presidential race over the content of the video. To be clear, Ryan, for his part, is still endorsing Trump, even if he won't defend the latter's remarks in the video or campaign for him.
As the video took the campaign by storm, Ryan and McCain were not the only Republican leaders to question Trump's fitness as a presidential candidate; and that could very well be what a beleaguered Trump needs.
Let us take a look at the The Real Clear Politics
polling average across the months of September and in October so far. The Real Clear Politics
polling average is a daily average of the latest publicly available election polls.
According to the average, Clinton was leading by 4.9 points at the start of September. By September 18, Clinton was barely leading by 0.9 points. Between then and the beginning of the month, Clinton had her own gaffe when she described "half" of Trump's supporters as "deplorables" and a health scare when she left the 9/11 commemoration ceremony early and, it was revealed, she had been suffering from pneumonia. On the day of the first presidential debate, Clinton was leading by 2.3 points and after the debate, on September 27, she was leading by 2.4 points. A day before the Washington Post released the 2005 video of Trump, on October 6, Clinton was already leading by 4.1 points, gaining back close to her lead in the beginning of September. Of course, by then the New York Times had already reported that Trump might not have paid taxes for 18 years. Both candidates entered the second debate, on October 9, with Clinton leading by 4.6 points. By then, the video had gone viral and many Republican leaders, especially Ryan and McCain, had already blasted Trump for his remarks. After the debate, the next day, Clinton had already bettered her September-start numbers and was leading by 5.8 points. As of October 16, the poll average shows Clinton has a 5.5 point lead.
Trump might have consummate confidence in himself, or he might not; but even he cannot ignore the numbers and that he might well lose the race to the White House come November. Assuming that Trump can see past his reflection in the mirror and realise that his chances don't look good, he will not be particularly keen to accept responsibility for said defeat, especially when he has garnered such a staunch support base. That’s a support base described by The Atlantic's
Michelle Cottle as "the angry, white, blue-collar workers who are outraged or terrified that America has become some topsy-turvy multi-cultural nightmare where a hard-working man cannot make a decent living anymore".
Even as this week came to a close, Trump padded up his theme of an election rigged by the media. "Election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news!" tweeted Trump on Sunday.
However, he might find betrayal by his own party's leaders a more compelling narrative to sell to his supporters as the reason behind his possible, and at the moment apparent, defeat in November.
Enter Hindenburg, Ludendorff and the Dolchstoßlegende, which translates to the "stab-in-the-back myth".
Hindenburg and Ludendorff were the two men best known for having led the German Empire through World War I. Having built up the hopes of the populace and after promising a roaring victory, when the two were faced with the prospect of a defeat, neither wished to shoulder the responsibility or let the German army take the blame for the loss.
The myth was simple: The German army had not lost the war on the battlefield, and most definitely Hindenburg and Ludendorff had not directed a losing effort. Instead, the war was lost when the army was "stabbed in the back" by its own civilian populace and some politicians. Everyone from the Marxists to the Jews were held responsible for this betrayal.
Both men, for their part, insisted after the war years that it was this betrayal above all else that led to Germany's humiliating defeat. In 1919, when the new government investigated into the causes of the war and Germany's defeat, Hindenburg in his testimony officially cited this "stab-in-the-back" as the reason.
The Nazis would make this theory, which stands discredited today, an integral part of their propaganda.
The truth however, as historians will tell you, was different. Germany had nothing left to fight with, even as American troops poured into France by the time the war came to an end. But, the myth found resonance with the people of the nation, and persisted till the end of World War II.
Trump could very well be looking to pull off a Dolchstoßlegende.
Will his supporters buy it? One way to answer the question is to look at how Trump and his surrogates have handled the recent bombs dropped on his campaign.
Speaking on CNN
last week, Conservative pundit and former lieutenant governor of New York, Betsy McCaughey, said that Hillary Clinton's appreciation for Beyonce made her a hypocrite for calling Trump's remarks in the video "horrific". The logic was that even if what Trump said was objectionable, Clinton's appreciation for Beyonce and rap music, which according to McCaughey contain "lewd and bawdy language", disqualified her from calling out Trump. Another Trump surrogate, Scottie Nell Hughes, speaking on CNN
again, responded to how it was OK for men to speak like Trump had in the video by blaming it on the proliferation of movies like 50 Shades of Grey, Magic Mike and the Twilight trilogy. Hughes' logic was that a "50 Shades of Grey" culture in today's society makes it OK for men to talk like that, like Trump. His supporters are willing to make excuses for him, that much is apparent, even if the excuses sound silly to the rest of us.
Time will tell if Trump succeeds in his stab-in-the-back ploy. What we do know is that Hindenburg went on to serve as the President of Germany, only to see Hitler syphon all of his political powers away.