Dem candidate ‘struck by the parallels’ between Trump’s rise and Hitler’s
The Democrat challenging Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) for his New York House seat said he was motivated to run for office because of “parallels” he saw between President Trump’s political rise and Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power in Germany before World War II.
The comments, made in February at a Democratic primary forum in East Marion, N.Y., were captured in a video sent to The Hill from a Republican operative and also posted online on the Facebook page of Southold Town Democratic Committee, a group committed to electing “leaders with Democratic values” in Southold, N.Y.
In the video, Perry Gershon, who previously worked as a lender in commercial real estate, recalls paying a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington during the 2016 presidential race.
“I was struck by the parallels between the rise of Donald Trump today and the rise of Hitler back then,” Gershon says. “And I just said to myself that we have to stand up and make sure this doesn’t happen in America.”
It was from that point on, Gershon said that he began to pay close attention to the presidential race.
“When Trump won, I just said, we — or I as a person — need to step up and fight back,” he says. “And we all as people — Democrats, but also Americans — need to step up and fight this wave of what could be authoritarianism.”
“If you look at what’s happened recently, it’s sure seeming to go that way,” he continues. “So I decided the best way I could fight the battle is to challenge Lee Zeldin for the office.”
In the video, Gershon also cites examples of “creeping authoritarianism” under Trump, pointing to the president’s support for a military parade in Washington and the president calling Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address “treasonous.”
Gershon’s campaign responded to a request for comment from The Hill by trying to tie Zeldin to Trump.
“Donald Trump’s disregard for our institutions, his belittling of our intelligence and law enforcement community, as well as the press, and his insistence that the rules do not apply to him have been troubling from day one,” said spokesman Phil Shulman.
“Congressman Lee Zeldin and his fellow Washington insiders have enabled this behavior by abdicating their responsibility to be a check on the executive branch. Long Islanders deserve a Congressman who will stand up for what’s right, regardless of political affiliation – Lee Zeldin has proven he will not do that.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Gershon beat out a crowded field of Democrats in New York’s primary in June to challenge Zeldin in the Long Island congressional district — one of a handful in the state that was won by Trump in 2016.
The seat has been rated as “likely Republican” by The Cook Political Report.
Zeldin’s campaign said comparing Trump’s rise to Hitler’s was “disgusting.”
“Gershon should be substantially more educated and sympathetic on this disgusting comparison,” said Zeldin’s campaign communications director Chris Boyle.
“It is appalling to compare the rise of President Trump to the rise of Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party who ordered the systematic killing of millions of Jewish people and other innocent people. This is the type of unhinged rhetoric that should disqualify Gershon from running for any office,” Boyle added.
Zeldin, a two-term congressman who has emerged as a staunch ally of president, easily won election in 2016 with just over 58 percent of the vote. But Democrats, energized by liberal opposition to Trump, are mounting an aggressive bid to oust Zeldin as part of an ambitious push to take back control of the House.
New York’s 1st Congressional District has swung in the past. Zeldin took office after defeating longtime incumbent Tim Bishop, a Democrat, in 2014. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016.
Gershon isn’t the first Democrat to float a comparison between Trump and Hitler. Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer said at a town hall event in Iowa in May that Trump, like the Nazi leader, was a “skillful and talented communicator.” But he also remarked that Trump, unlike Hitler, “hasn’t killed millions of people.”
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also made a comparison between Trump’s rise to power and that of Hitler in January. But he later walked back that remark, saying instead that the U.S. president was more like Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.