The Republican obsession with Hitler and Nazism is a particular brand of mental illness that requires specific, expert training to diagnose and treat. Thus, I bring you our friend Werner Herzog's Bear, Phd, Md., and the man with the plan when it comes to breaking down the GOP fixation on linking Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Recently there’s been a lot of Nazi-talk in the air, the vast majority of it disseminated by hardcore conservatives, who have been known to display Obama-as-Hitler signs at Tea Party rallies. This week it seems to have taken a turn for the surreal. A few days ago someone at the NRCC posted a “tweet” with the much-used clip of Hitler ranting from the film Downfall, but this time with subtitles that had him speaking as if he was Obama. This week Glenn Beck also compared the White House’s recent tiff with Fox News to the persecution of Jews under Nazi rule. Most recently, Ann Coulter claimed that George Soros (a Holocaust survivor) was a “Nazi collaborator.” By now I’ve come to expect Beck and Coulter to spew this ridiculous stuff, but seeing it from an official GOP organ is something new.
How to explain this crap? Here are five reasons why the GOP seems obsessed with linking Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Ignorant name calling
Actual historical knowledge about Hitler and the Nazis in this country is practically non-existent. Hitler has come to represent pure evil, and so calling one’s opponents Nazis is essentially a way of calling them evil. God knows that the Republican attacks have no basis in actual historical reality. As I’ve noted before, the whole notion of “liberal fascism” is a complete oxymoron and the opposite of the truth. Furthermore, the main ideological component of Nazism was racism. Hitler would have viewed Barack Obama, the product of an interracial marriage, as a subhuman. This is why representations of him as Hitler fill me with a blinding rage; not only are they hateful, they are a rapacious abuse of the past.
Calling someone a Commie doesn’t work anymore
Yes, Beck and co. still like to call Barack Obama a Marxist (this despite the fact that he won’t even consider single payer!), but the Hitler comparisons are made more often. Conservatives cried wolf so many times during the Cold War that most right-thinking people just stopped listening. The Cold War itself has been over for twenty years, so the charge just lacks power. It’s also patently ridiculous, since the Obama administration is willing to sign a health care bill without a public option, supports polluter-friendly “cap and trade” legislation, and basically sought the approval of Big Pharma before making a move on health care. Again, since the Nazis are shorthand for evil, rather than authoritarian, messianic, race-based nationalism, conservatives think they can get away with the analogy.
The Republicans’ actual ideas have been discredited
The GOP has to resort to name-calling because they have absolutely nothing positive to offer voters. Dubya put a hard Right agenda into action, and it turned out to be a disaster. Since the collapse of the financial markets, the praise of the free market as “rational” and the solution to all of our problems looks completely deluded (as it always should anyway.) Now, if the GOP was not a regional Southern party, but an actual national party, they would have started taking a more moderate tack by now. Unfortunately for them and for our public discourse, they have become as ideologically rigid and doctrinaire as a humanities department (yes, I can dig at my own kind too.) Since these ideas are extreme and unpopular, conservatives have instead resorted to name-calling and fear mongering.
Extreme Republicans can’t say what they really want to say
If you follow the political blogs, you know that every couple of weeks or so a GOP official gets in trouble for sending racist images over the internet. As someone who lives in the South I can tell you that the level of racial fear and loathing among Obama’s fiercest opponents has a great deal to do with the vehemence of their opposition. Basically, the NRCC can’t “tweet” the images of a White House watermelon patch that their operatives send to each other. Instead of being openly racist, they have sublimated their hatred into constructed images of Obama that make him out to be evil. I’m not saying that all or even most on the Right think this way, but a very substantial portion does.
This is all a smokescreen for fascistic behavior
What better way of covering up your own fascistic tendencies by screaming as loudly as possible that your opponents are fascists? When Ann Coulter called Soros a Nazi collaborator she was echoing the talking points of the LaRouche crowd, who are the closest thing we have in this country to a bona fide fascist party. Perhaps Glenn Beck keeps comparing Obama to Hitler because Beck’s own brand of messianic, “we surround them” nationalism constantly attacks shadowy internal enemies and has turned the tragedy of 9/11 into the 9/12 manifesto of national “re-birth.” (I’m not saying that Beck believes in an authoritarian government or is even a “fascist,” but that he talks about the nation in certain ways that are unmistakably reminiscent of fascism.) It’s not just a matter of rhetoric either, but of methods. This quotation from Nazi official Hermann Goering strikes me as particularly relevant to understanding what’s going on these days:
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the
bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them
they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of
patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in
When conservatives were in power that was their modus operandi. Now that they are on the sidelines, they have made the leader of our own country the threat, instead of terrorists. At the end of the day, that is what gives all this Nazi talk a kind of fearsome potential. If enough people buy into the idea that the president of the United States is the embodiment of pure evil, and that he is out to get them (a la death panels) the potential for redemptive violence is high indeed. For that reason responsible conservatives need to cut this shit out and disown those who engage in it