What do some conservative US and leftist German politicians have in common? They use the other side of the Atlantic for fear-mongering.
The latest example is Jim DeMint, Republican Senator from South Carolina. According to The Washington Independent he made the following statement, when promoting his book at The National Press Club:
Part of what we're trying to do in "Saving Freedom" is just show that where we are, we're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they're easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that's where their security is.
Aha, I see, Iraq and Afghanistan and the current recession are for the United States what the WWI and the depression were for Germany. And the oldest modern democracy in Washington is still as immature as the Weimar Republic's, started after WWI. So Obama is running Weimar America.
OMG! People, get your guns, Hitler is just around the corner!
DeMint seems to be the first senator, who lowers the debate about Obama's reforms to the level of right-wing talk radio shock jocks and bloggers, who have been talking talking about "pre-WWII Germany," writes Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly's blog.
Are these just the statements of a few nut cases? Or is there more to it? Should we take their thinking serious? I think we have to, because many conservative Americans seem to be paranoid about social democracy, and they understand history much different than most folks in Europe do. Many are not crazy or stupid or lack general education, but they draw different lessons from history. This is a serious and fascinating transatlantic difference.
Apparently, as Michael Stickings writes in The Moderate Voice, "the Obama-is-a-socialist and socialism-is-fascism (and hence Obama-is-a-fascist) memes are big on the right, and DeMint was obviously riffing off that ridiculous connection. But what I think he was saying - or, at least, it's how it reads to me - is that social democracy is a precursor to fascism, just as Nazi Germany replaced Weimar Germany. In this sense, Obama isn't a Nazi but a pre-Nazi - or something like that."
Ed Kilgore explains in The New Republic's blog, that DeMint
was echoing, consciously or unconsciously, the popular right-wing nostrum that the "chaos" of [Weimar Germany's] regime's "decadent parliamentary democracy" made the advent of the Third Reich inevitable if not actually salutary. That would comport with DeMint's iron conviction that "social democracies" produce "tyranny" by seducing people into dependence on government and then encouraging them to loot their wealthy and virtuous neighbors. And it would also fit in nicely with DeMint's Jesse-Helms-style enthusiasm for right-wing coups in Latin America. After all, what's a little fascism-of the illiberal kind, at least-compared to the horror of progressive taxes or universal health care.
Yglesias is reading a lot into DeMint's statement and made this exaggeration: "DeMint Confuses Nazis and Social Democrats; Also Calls Obama a Nazi" Ah, it's all politics! Every stupid statement of your opponents can be used for politics.
Last week, I wrote about Another Crazy Bush-Hitler Comparison. But this one is even worse: Joyce E. Thomann, president of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County, wrote, according to the Baltimore Sun, in a letter on the group's homepage that "Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common in my view. Obama and Hitler use the 'blitzkrieg' method to overwhelm their enemies." Yes, of course, but Hitler didn't use a teleprompter.
BTW, did DeMint imply that Iran is some "place" in South America? Ah, so maybe it is a lack of education after all.