Republicans Compare Obamacare--and All They Hate--to the Holocaust
On Monday, Tennessee Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield posted a message reading, "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory [sic] sign ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the 40s." As it turns out, the only thing more horrifying than Campfield's casual equation of millions of Americans obtaining health insurance to millions of European Jews being slaughtered in Hitler's death camp is that the analogy is now frighteningly commonplace for Republicans. From health care, taxes and the debt to public education, abortion and gun control, the GOP's best and brightest now routinely compare everything they hate to the Holocaust.
Senator Campfield was actually late to adopt the GOP's health-care-as-Holocaust analogy. State nsurance exchanges helping millions of people in the United States obtain coverage, Idaho state senator Sheryl Nuxoll darkly warned, 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."
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 1990s, 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?'"
Why didn't someone do something is the same question that haunted Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) when it came to protecting the bottom lines of for-profit colleges. In her speech to National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, 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."
The same kind of slippery slope, the National Rifle Association and its GOP water carries warn, which runs from commonsense gun safety legislation directly to the gas chambers.
"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 the 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." (Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins agreed, warning that scrutiny of America's 1 percent was leading to a repeat of Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht against the Jews while 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.") 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.