There is something newly terrifying about Donald Trump now that he has the Republican presidential nomination in the bag: He seems to have a bit of a messiah complex. The way he talks, you'd think he's the second coming. And in many ways, he is — Trump is the second coming of right wing furor, nationalistic zeal, and trade protectionism, all of which hearken back to a post-Depression, pre-World War II state of affairs that historians, politicians, and especially the average American shouldn't wish to return to. This creepy Trump quote says all you need to know about his self-proclaimed hero status:
Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you've been looking for for 50 years. I'm the only one.
Thank the lord he did not claim we've been waiting for him since Jesus rose from the dead — just since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act half a century ago. Or perhaps it was when he created the Department of Transportation. Who knows what Trump meant?
I would wager he was a few years off in his calculations, though. That's because electing Trump would be a return to the policies and politics from 80 years ago, in 1936.
The world was still reeling from the Great Depression, and yet countries continued to raise tariffs and cut global trade, weakening the painfully slow recovery. Sound familiar? The United States was actually one of the first out of the gate, passing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930. Other countries continued to respond, raising tariffs through the rest of the decade. The trade war didn't cause the Great Depression, but it made its effects much worse.
Then think back to who came to power in Germany in 1933. That's the year that Hitler was proclaimed the Chancellor of Germany, beginning the rise of his racist, antisemitic rule over the country. He promised the return of a glorious Germany, and was happy to deliver at the expense of Jews, Poles, and other minorities. Again, I ask, sound familiar?
There's something unsettling about how Trump has set himself up to be the one and only answer to our problems. Whether the issue is far-away China's currency manipulations or close-to-home Mexican immigrants looking for a better life, Trump has tried to position himself as the only one who can deliver and change course, stopping these "problems." That's why they tend to be such a huge focus of his rallies — he is creating his own "problems" to solve.
If he has his way, the November election will not be a contest to see who's the better woman or man for the job. He will just need to proclaim himself the only candidate capable of starting a trade war with China or deporting the many hardworking parents of U.S. citizens that have called this country home for a decade. Hillary Clinton won't advocate for that — and Trump would run unopposed to be the savior of his self-created Armageddon.
He knows how to control the conversation, but the media can't let him. The conversation must stick to the real issues facing the United States — economic equality, racial justice, etc. If — god forbid — we let Trump spin the conversation, we'll really be screwed. Then, despite our best attempts, he will be the "only one."