It is a full-time job to call out every one of Donald Trump's lies and efforts to divide this nation, but his "vermin" address on Saturday deserves special attention.
The ex-president and leading Republican candidate for 2024 dishonored military veterans and further tainted his political party with a hate-filled Veterans' Day speech featuring words that would have been at home in Nazi Germany.
He promised to "root out" his opponents — supposedly on behalf of veterans who fought to protect liberty.
"In honor of our great veterans on Veterans' Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections, and will do anything possible — they'll do anything — whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and to destroy the American dream," he said to a cheering crowd in Claremont, New Hampshire, after having posted essentially the same thing on Truth Social.
His words are repugnant for their historical connections to acts of racism, slaughter and populist dictatorship. The word "vermin" describes harmful rodents and insects. When turned on human beings, it implies the same response — extermination.
In response to criticism that Trump was calling for violence against his enemies, his campaign doubled down. Spokesman Steven Cheung told the Washington Post that "those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House."
Trump has taken over the party of Abraham Lincoln, who in the closing weeks of the Civil War called for "malice toward none" and "charity for all," and who urged that Americans worked to bind up the nation's wounds. Trump now leads the party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led U.S. soldiers in an epic struggle to throw out Nazis, fascists and others who branded people as "vermin" for opposing them.
Years after World War II, after his two terms as president, and after the witch hunts in which Sen. Joseph McCarthy promised to root out communists in the Army and the federal government, Eisenhower spoke to his fellow Republicans at their 1964 convention.
"I believe with all my heart that the kind of party ours must be is one that rejects as unfit and unwholesome all who are purveyors of hatred and intolerance, who are prone to the use of violence, who malign the character of fellow Americans and who baselessly charge decent Americans with treasonable acts or intentions," he said.
How can Americans, Republicans particularly, recognize Trump as the successor to their great leaders of the past? There is increasingly more of a resemblance to other leaders, of other countries, who, like him, hammered hatred, grievance and self-obsession into the opposite of liberty, justice and democracy. Those dictators were ultimately defeated only at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives.