Comparing Trump to Hitler, State Senator Abandons GOP

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David Johnson. Photo: Iowa Legislature

State Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan Republican, announced in a statement today that he has switched his party membership from Republican to no party in response to racially charged comments presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump recently made about Mexican and Muslim judges. The decision makes him the first elected official to leave the Republican Party because of Trump.

“If Mr. Trump is the nominee, he becomes the standard bearer for a party that’s on the verge of breaking apart,” Johnson said in his statement. “He simply cannot unify the GOP. If there is a profound split, I’ll gladly re-join Republicans who are dedicated to equality and justice for all, and let Mr. Trump lead his supporters over the cliff.”

In recent days, Trump has attacked U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana judge who is of Mexican heritage and is presiding over two lawsuits against the sham Trump University. Trump has argued that, because of his politics (“We will build a wall, and you know who’s going to pay for the wall!”) and Curiel’s heritage, the judge is inherently biased against him. Trump also made similar comments about a hypothetical Muslim judge.

In an interview with the Guardian, Johnson criticized Trump’s remarks and the candidate’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Similar to Adolf Hitler, Johnson suggested, Trump has gained popularity “by reducing his campaign to reality TV and large crowds and divisive language and all the trappings of a good show for those who like that kind of approach, and that’s what happened in the 1930s in Germany.”

Johnson supported former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and, after he dropped out, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for president.

Speaking to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Johnson noted that he hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with Iowa Republicans, including Gov. Terry Branstad, on several issues in recent months. That would apparently include his opinion of Trump: Earlier this week, Branstad offered only the most tepid of criticism over Trump’s remarks. “I think it’s not smart to comment on any judge, especially a judge that’s going to handle your case,” the governor told reporters. “It certainly goes against conventional wisdom, but then again, he’s gone against a lot of conventional wisdom.”

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.