Representative Seth Moulton compared the rise of Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump to the election of Adolf Hitler and said Wednesday that constituents should warn “that crazy uncle” against voting for the businessman if he wins the GOP nomination.
Moulton, a first-term Democrat who represents the North Shore, made the explosive remarks during an appearance on the Globe interview series “Political Happy Hour” at Suffolk University.
He said voters should read up on how the German people elected Hitler in the 1930s, to gain a better understanding of how an educated society “can elect a demagogue.”
“I’m not saying that Donald Trump is necessarily Hitler,” Moulton said. “I’m not saying that.”
But he did not answer directly when pressed by Globe reporter Joshua Miller, who asked whether he believed Trump would govern in the same authoritarian manner as the German dictator if elected president.
“I don’t know him,” Moulton said. “I don’t know if he would be, but he’s certainly talked about carpet bombing the Middle East” to fight terrorism, “which, by the way, is fundamentally stupid.”
A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Moulton’s remarks.
The 37-year-old congressman, who served four tours of duty in Iraq with the US Marine Corps, said he even told a group of high school students earlier Wednesday to steer Trump supporters away from the Republican, even though he normally avoids partisan rhetoric when meeting with young people.
“I said, ‘If you know anybody who plans to vote for Donald Trump, you’ve got to take that very seriously and try to do something about it,’ ” Moulton said. “If nothing else, just find that relative, that crazy uncle, whoever it is that actually thinks that Donald Trump is a good idea, and convince him not to vote for this guy.”
Trump, who won the GOP presidential primary in Massachusetts, has taken many controversial positions during his campaign, including indefinitely blocking all Muslims from entering the United States and conducting mass deportations of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Asked to explain Trump’s popularity with much of the electorate, Moulton said voters are “so frustrated that they’re willing to overlook the actual substance and just” support someone new. “It’s frightening.”
But Moulton, who in 2014 unseated longtime incumbent John Tierney in a Democratic congressional primary, also had criticism for his own party.
He lamented that the Obama administration pulled troops out of Iraq in 2011 without, he said, staying engaged diplomatically with that country. As a result, Moulton said, US troops had to return to the fractious nation when the security situation deteriorated.
In addition, he said, the administration has not worked to help Syrian opposition forces organize politically.
“I do think it’s fair to say that there are times when President Obama has not been engaged enough with the Middle East,” Moulton said, adding that Islamic State militants “would not be around today if we did not leave a vacuum in the Middle East.”
Moulton, who this week traveled with a congressional delegation that accompanied Obama on a historic trip to Cuba, also called for lifting a decades-old embargo on that communist country.
Other topics included the federal minimum wage, which Moulton supports increasing to $12 per hour while also indexing the figure to inflation; improving health care and housing for veterans; linking railway lines across the state; and reforming the tax code.
Noting that some of the largest American corporations effectively pay no taxes, Moulton asked, “How is that fair?”
But while he praised his colleagues in the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation for their commitment to service, he also jabbed the party leadership multiple times during the hourlong interview.
Moulton said Democratic powerbrokers strongly criticized him for running in the 2014 primary against Tierney, a veteran congressman who at the time was mired in scandal.
The establishment, he said, told him that “you don’t have a chance of winning and you’re doing a bad thing,” which he interpreted as a warning not to participate in a democracy he had risked his life defending in war.
And while he said that Senator Elizabeth Warren has done “a fantastic job” in office, he also conceded that “I don’t always take the same approach,” particularly on the question of a divisive trade proposal.
“Senator Warren’s been, just more from the get-go, completely opposed to it, and I don’t think that’s the right approach,” he said, adding that he feels the need to analyze the proposal thoroughly to determine how it would affect constituents.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.