For Conservatives, Everything is the Holocaust
During the 2012 presidential campaign, GOP nominee Mitt Romney declared that discussion of the nation's record-high income inequality should be left to "quiet rooms." As their casual comparisons of modest tax increases to the Holocaust show, conservatives would do well to heed his advice. After all, before Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins warned that scrutiny of America's 1 percent was leading to a repeat of Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht against the Jews, Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman complained that President Obama's proposal to raise tax rates on private equity firms is "like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."
Sadly, these disgusting statements aren't exceptions to the rule of Republican rhetoric. They are the rule. When it comes to tax rates, the national debt, education, health care reform, abortion and more, Republicans now routinely equate policies they oppose to the genocide that was the Holocaust.
Take, for example, Rep. Virginia Foxx's February speech to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. There, the North Carolina Republican appropriated the famous Holocaust maxim to protest federal regulation of for-profit colleges. As Inside Higher Ed reported, Foxx complained that non-profit, private institutions should have joined in their defense:
"'They came for the for-profits, and I didn't speak up'...Nobody really spoke up like they should have."
For her part, Foxx was only following in the footsteps of her GOP colleague, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. Federal student loans, he cautioned in 2012, weren't merely unconstitutional, but the first step to the gas chambers:
"If you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad...The Holocaust that occurred in Germany -- how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope."
Virginia Foxx's previous claim to fame was her high-profile role in propagating the "death panels" slander of the Affordable Care Act that became Politifact's 2009 Lie of the Year. Democratic health care reform, she warned, will "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."
And that, some Republicans suggest, makes Obamacare little different from the Holocaust. State exchanges helping to enable 30 million people in the United States to obtain insurance, Idaho state senator Sheryl Nuxoll darkly warned last year, are the equivalent of a final solution for health care:
"The insurance companies are creating their own tombs. Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange."
As it turns out, she's far from alone in crying Holocaust over health care reform. In Maryland, the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County explained five years ago that "Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common." Last summer, Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding Obamacare:
"We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo -- the IRS."
LePage was not the first Republican to compare the Internal Revenue Service to Hitler's henchman. During the GOP's successful crusade to gut the agency in the late 1990's, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott decried the IRS' "Gestapo-like tactics" while Alaska's Frank Murkowski protested, "You don't need to send in armed personnel in flak jackets."
Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee couldn't agree more. Despite the fact that the total federal tax burden as a percentage of the U.S. economy hit its lowest level in 1950, presidential candidate Bachmann had a different story to tell New Hampshire Republicans in May 2011:
Bachmann recounted learning about a horrific time in history as a child -- the Holocaust -- and wondering if her mother did anything to stop it. She said she was shocked to hear that many Americans weren't aware that millions of Jews had died until after World War II ended.
Bachmann said the next generation will ask similar questions about what their elders did to prevent them from facing a huge tax burden.
"I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action," she said, referring to the Holocaust. "But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to."
While Michele Bachmann was in Manchester wondering, "what will you say to that next generation about what you did to make sure that wouldn't be their fate?" Mike Huckabee was in Pittsburgh asking the same thing. As the Daily Beast reported, the former Arkansas Governor and Baptist minister told the National Rifle Association that the mounting U.S. national debt is akin to, you guessed it, the Holocaust:
He spoke of how, at Israel's Holocaust museum, he looked over his 11-year-old daughter's shoulder as she wrote in the guest book, "Why didn't somebody do something?" Then he said, "We cannot afford to be a generation that leaves our children with nothing but a huge debt and the very erosion of the freedoms that our founders and our fathers died and gave us so valiantly. And that's why I say, 'Let there never be a time in this country where some father has to look over his daughter's shoulder and see her ask this haunting question: Why didn't somebody do something?'"
Of course, when it comes to gun control and the National Rifle Association, conservatives are doing something, all right. They are insisting common sense gun safety legislation is a steppingstone to the Holocaust.
"In 1939, Germany established gun control," GOP Congressional candidate Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher announced, adding ominously, "From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated." As Salon reported, Mr. Plumber has plenty of company within the ranks of the GOP in spouting the handguns-to-Hitler myth. Calling out Fox News, the Drudge Report and Ohio Republican Debe Terhar, the Anti-Defamation League lamented that "Holocaust imagery taints gun control debate."
Then there's issue of abortion. Last January, Virginia GOP legislator Dick Black marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by comparing family planning clinics to the Nazi's death camps:
I recall back to the days of Nazi Germany, there was a place called Auschwitz. And over the gates of Auschwitz was a sign, and the sign said "arbeit macht frei," which means roughly "your labors will make you free." People who went behind those doors never returned. Their labors didn't make them free. And I'm reminded that we refer to our clinics as "women's health clinics" and we talk about women's reproductive rights and so forth.
In 2011, the people behind Mississippi's failed "personhood" initiative distributed 600,000 DVDs declaring, "Saying it's OK to choose is the same thing as saying it's OK for Hitler to choose." Again, as Salon reported that year, the Holocaust analogy was one happily shared by some of the leading lights in the Republican Party:
Mike Huckabee, who supported Personhood USA's failed efforts in Mississippi, has often compared the Holocaust and abortion, saying of Nazi extermination, "educated scientists, sophisticated and cultured people looked the other way because they thought it didn't touch them." The day before Phil Bryant was elected governor of Mississippi -- at the same time the state's voters rejected the Personhood amendment -- he evoked the Jews of Nazi Germany "being marched into the oven," because of "the people who were in charge of the government at that time" as an argument to vote for it.
As it turns out, even a Republican can go too far when they target other Republicans with the Holocaust smear. In his now infamous "Uncle Sugar" speech last week, Governor Huckabee also protested that Tea Party conservatives who denounce "Republicans in Name Only" were following in the Nazis footsteps "when you start with the idea that people just aren't as valuable as you are." As Red State's Erick Erickson put it:
"I hope he seriously reconsiders these remarks in his disagreements with conservatives. That is really uncalled for. The establishment has no inherent right to re-election and supporting Matt Bevin in Kentucky does not make one a Nazi."
But for Erickson,supporting the Affordable Care Act or unions or just about anything else in the Democratic platform does.
Which is exactly what many Republicans and their supporters on the far-right have been claiming for years. Protesting tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, Powerline declared, "First, they came for the rich." Angered by the Obama administration's rules requiring employers to include contraception as part of their employees' health insurance, Michelle Malkin similarly argued, "First, they came for the Catholics." And during the last election, many social conservative leaders warned that voting for Obama could trigger another Holocaust. In so doing, they were just updating the nightmare scenario described by CBN founder and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson after he was criticized by the Miami Herald over his involvement in the 1990 Florida governor's race:
"Do you also have a ghetto chosen to herd the pro-life Catholics and evangelicals into ? Have you designed the appropriate yellow patch that Christians should wear?"
Here's a friendly suggestion for the Holocaust peddlers of the GOP and its allies in the gilded class and the religious right. The next time you feel compelled to compare, say, Head Start, a carbon tax, food stamps or just about any other Democratic policy to Nazi Germany's extermination of six million Jews, just repeat this helpful phrase silently to yourself.
That done, conservatives can get back to what they do best: comparing everything to slavery.