Joe Biden, Donald Trump and the Weimar Republic: History's dark lessons

Joe Biden/Shutterstock
Joe Biden/Shutterstock

If Donald Trump's movement is destined to be America's answer to Nazism, then the Joe Biden administration is currently a rough equivalent of the Weimar Republic — the unstable constitutional democracy that governed Germany before the rise of Adolf Hitler. The comparison is imperfect, but the cautionary tale is still clear. There is an obvious risk that Biden and the narrow Democratic majorities in Congress will fail, and that Trump or a successor will take over and then cement themselves into power for at least the next generation. Every American who wants to avoid this — especially Biden and the leading Democrats in Congress — needs to learn the right lessons from Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

It would require a medium-length academic article to lay out all the similar and dissimilar qualities of these two nations in these two periods. But for the purposes of understanding the threat posed by Trumpism, there are five key similarities:

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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