The Corner

Politics & Policy

A 50-Year History of the Worst Comparison

Everything old becomes new again, and such is the case for comparing Republican presidents to Nazis. Last weekend’s “nationwide day of protest” were filled with placards and signs insinuating so. Salon recently published an article that compared President Trump’s criticism of the media to that of Hitler. Protesters in London decried Trump and his supporters as “Nazi scum.” In April, Democratic presidential hopeful alleged that the president’s rhetoric “echoed Nazis.” On June 18th, CNN’s Don Lemon once again deployed this technique and compared President Trump to the Nazi leader. Aside from being old, tired, and untrue, this trope is nothing new. For decades, left-wing activists have compared Republican political leaders to Adolf Hitler.

As Larry Elder has recounted, liberals have compared everyone from Barry Goldwater to George W. Bush to Nazis. It’s a history that dates back at least 55 years. And as Steven Hayward has recounted, even Ronald Reagan met with the calumny:

Democratic Rep. William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” The Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (later a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”

There was ample academic support for this theme. John Roth, a Holocaust scholar at Claremont College, wrote:

“I could not help remembering how 40 years ago economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I​—to send the world reeling into catastrophe. . . . It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our postelection state with fear and trembling.”

Maybe the people with the problem are not Republican leaders but the ones using divisive, unsubstantiated hyperbole.

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