“In essence, it was a label that meant death. It meant you were subhuman and entirely expendable,” said Mitchell A. Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is the connotation for anyone who lived in the Soviet Union or knows anything about the Soviet Union, which Donald Trump obviously doesn’t — or he doesn’t care.”
He said that it was hard to figure out whether Mr. Trump was aware of the resonance of the phrase or simply used it because “he knows it riles up people who have a certain degree of knowledge.”
“He is only alienating them, and they are the people he wants to alienate anyway,” Mr. Orenstein continued. “His base sees comparisons with Stalin as just more evidence of the liberal mainstream media going haywire.”
Moreover, by using such a loaded term in such a cavalier fashion, the president “is in the process of rendering it meaningless,” Mr. Orenstein said. “It becomes just na-na-na-na-na,” he added, because nobody really thinks Mr. Trump will bring back the guillotine.