When Nazi Comparisons Are Apt

by Brendan Beery

Many ‘debate police’ have decided – stupidly – that as soon as one party in a debate “plays the Nazi card,” the debate is over. Such a comparison is never appropriate, we are told. This proposition is so roundly accepted that it’s become a cliché. But this cliché runs headlong into another cliché: those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.

If we are never to point out the tactics and thinking of Nazi ideology and their application by elements today, then how are we to avoid their reemergence?

What is one to say about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s propaganda about gays: that gays have disproportionate financial wherewithal; control of the media, popular culture, and the arts; control over institutions of higher learning, including law schools; and an agenda with which they seek to infect the entire body politic through the exercise of disproportionate political power? Are we to say that this is not like the propaganda the Nazis used against Jews? What kind of a fool could say that?

This is not to say that Scalia is Hitler or that his anti-gay screeds are an evil analogous to the Holocaust. That’s the leap called “the slippery slope” – the mindless tendency to slide wildly outside the contours of an argument and fire back at a position that nobody took in the first place. While it would be unhelpful to call Scalia a genocidal fascist megalomaniac, it is not at all unhelpful – or out of bounds – to say that his anti-gay propaganda dangerously parallels the anti-Semitic ramblings of Mein Kampf.

This brings us – where else? – to Donald Trump. When I saw his press conference and speech Tuesday night, I began to squirm. It occurred to me that he is getting better at what he does. Still unwilling to state concrete policy positions, he is nonetheless now starting to explain why he won’t. He is asking for allegiance to his persona and trust in his greatness. He is saying that people with plans are dolts and idiots and weaklings so naïve that they don’t know never to tip their hands to the enemy. He is doing all this in a way that will appeal to angry lemmings hungry to follow behind a larger-than-life vanguard who’s going to kick some serious ass.

Donald Trump is a charismatic leader. He is a malignant narcissist. He will never say what he will do with any specificity. What he will do is tell us who to fear – the Mexicans, the “illegals,” the rapists of our wives, sisters, and daughters. And he’ll tell us that he will handle these people – just trust him, these people will be dealt with.

Like Scalia, Trump is something less diabolical than a killer on the scale of Hitler. But the lessons of history are clear. When a charismatic leader tells you who’s to be feared and who’s to blame and claims that he will – shhhhh – handle the problem, only a population blind to its own destructive capacities can make him more dangerous than he should be.

So let’s not call Trump a Nazi. Let’s just resolve not be 1930’s Germany.


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