Former president Donald Trump has been using a word that has a dark and sinister history in the annals of human hatred: vermin. In a speech on Veterans Day 2023, he called his political opponents, such as Democrats, the media, and the FBI, “vermin” who are trying to destroy America. He said, “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,” Trump said toward the end of his speech, repeating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. “They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream.”
The word “vermin” is not just an insult. It is a word that has been used by Nazi and fascist leaders to dehumanize their enemies and justify genocide. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Goebbels all used the term “vermin” to describe Jews, Poles, Communists, and other groups that they wanted to eliminate. They used propaganda to portray them as animals, insects, or parasites that had to be exterminated.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, Art Spiegelman, explained how he drew Jews as mice and Nazis as cats based on the Nazi propaganda that depicted Jews as vermin. He said, “I decided to draw the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats because I wanted to show how the Nazis used propaganda to portray the Jews as vermin. They wanted to make people believe that the Jews were not human, but animals that had to be killed.”
Trump has also used other terms that echo Nazi rhetoric, such as “poisoning the blood of our youth” and “globalist elite”, to attack migrants and his critics. He has accused them of being part of a conspiracy to undermine America and its values. He has incited violence and hatred against them, as seen in the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the recent wave of hate crimes.
Trump’s use of Nazi language is not accidental or coincidental. It is deliberate and calculated. He knows that by using words like “vermin”, he can appeal to the worst instincts of his supporters and stir up fear and hatred against his enemies. He is playing with fire, and we should not let him get away with it.
- It’s Official: With “Vermin,” Trump Is Now Using Straight-up Nazi Talk by Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, November 12, 2023
- Trump Compares Political Foes To ‘Vermin’ On Veterans Day—Echoing Nazi Propaganda by Sara Dorn, Forbes, November 12, 2023
- Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin,’ echoing dictators Hitler, Mussolini by Marianne LeVine, The Washington Post, November 12, 2023
- Did Trump Echo Hitler with Remark About Migrants, ‘Poisoning the Blood … by David Mikkelson, Snopes, October 4, 2023