To understand the rise of Hitler and the spread of Nazism, I have generally relied on the German-Jewish émigré philosopher Hannah Arendt and her arguments about the banality of evil. Somehow people can understand themselves as “just doing their job,” yet act as cogs in the wheel of a murderous machine. Arendt also offered a second answer in a small but powerful book called “Men in Dark Times.” In this book, she described all those who thought that Hitler’s rise was a terrible thing but chose “internal exile,” or staying invisible and out of the way as their strategy for coping with the situation. They knew evil was evil, but they too facilitated it, by departing from the battlefield out of a sense of hopelessness.Arendt's answer to the dangers of totalitarianism was not speech control. Attempting to shut up the ideas of people who believe as Trump claims to believe is how you got here. I think it's accurately said to be the major source of his power: to hear someone speaking the forbidden thoughts shows him to be strong, because he stands in defiance to all the collected power of media and state, intelligentsia and 'decent society.' Clamping down on his ability to put out his message is only going to make that message stronger where it does get out.
One can see both of these phenomena unfolding now. The first shows itself, for instance, when journalists cover every crude and cruel thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth and thereby help acculturate all of us to what we are hearing. Are they not just doing their jobs, they will ask, in covering the Republican front-runner? Have we not already been acculturated by 30 years of popular culture to offensive and inciting comments? Yes, both of these things are true. But that doesn’t mean journalists ought to be Trump’s megaphone. Perhaps we should just shut the lights out on offensiveness; turn off the mic when someone tries to shout down others; reestablish standards for what counts as a worthwhile contribution to the public debate.
What Arendt suggests as an answer to totalitarianism is two things: thought and community. She was worried that the loneliness and collapse of traditional communities associated with modern life were what made us peculiarly vulnerable to the totalitarian draw. It was common sense, by which she meant the way in which we improve our individual views of the world by comparing them with each others', that was robust enough to stand against propaganda and power.
If you want to beat Trump, the way to do it is to make common cause. If left and right agree that Trump is not the answer, they can defeat him if and only if they can come to an answer they can agree upon. If you're on the Left and you want to beat Trump, what are you willing to compromise on in order to make common cause with those on the right who agree? Will you support Ted Cruz in preference to Trump? Rubio? Would you be willing to allow conservatives to reclaim Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court if that were the price of avoiding a Trump presidency?
Those on the right have to decide if they would be willing to accept Sanders or Clinton. For myself, I think Clinton is demonstrably worse. I would dare a Trump presidency gladly rather than vote for someone so corrupt, deceptive, and disdainful of those whose lives she would hold in her hands as Commander in Chief. Sanders has an ideology I don't care for, but I respect him as an honest man. Others may disagree even on Sanders, especially with the Supreme Court hanging in the balance.
If there are no ways in which we can come together in 'common sense' and community, Trump may well win over the objections of both left and right. In a sense, his victory will be deserved -- I mean that the country will deserve him. I speak chiefly to the left, though. You have to defy what Arendt calls 'loneliness.' I mean that you have to rediscover community with the hated right. You have to break out of the bubbles that keep you only with those ideologically aligned with you. It is your 'safe spaces' that are enabling him. Trying to strengthen the walls of those spaces will only allow him to grow stronger in the world without them.