Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan, explains the underlying theme of Trump’s inaugural speech. It echoes the use of language used by German leaders in the 1930s.

 

What a great example of close reading, combined with deep historical knowledge. Cole pins down what others sensed.

 

When Trump spoke of returning power back to “the people,” Cole writes, it means “Das Volk.”

 

He writes:

 

“You may be confused, as an English speaker. Trump, a billionaire real estate developer and serial grifter who founded a phony university that defrauded thousands, has appointed a cabinet of billionaires and multi-millionaires, the wealthiest and most elite cabinet in American history, which even includes the CEO of petroleum giant Exxon-Mobil.

 

“How, you might ask, can he represent this coup by the super-rich as ‘giving’ power ‘back to’ ‘the people’? The people wouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the gated communities where Trump’s officials live.

 

“The confusion arises from thinking in English instead of 1930s German. “Das Volk” or the people was a mystical conception for the German far right. It comprised the German people as an organic whole, uniting great landlord and lowly peasant. The great German corporations, too, were said to be expressions of “the people” (Hence the German automobile company Volkswagen, now led by perfectly nice people but not so much in the 1930s). The phrase comes into focus if you understand “the people” as “white Protestants and some lately admitted ethnic Catholics” who are united across social class (though of course led by their billionaire betters), and who stand in contrast to the cosmopolitans, the mixed-race people, infiltrating minorities, the socialists and others bent on diluting “the people” and subverting its prosperity and power by kowtowing to foreigners.