Accusing liberals of being like Nazis or socialists is unacceptable

During the last year and half the right has constantly leveled a barrage of disgusting attacks at President Obama. Former GOP Speaker of the House and possible 2012 presidential contender Newt Gingrich called liberalist “the secular socialist machine” and said it “represents as a great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” Rush Limbaugh not only claimed that “Obama’s got a healthcare logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook,” he claimed that the Democrats’ social policies were similar to those of the Nazis. Right wing economist Thomas Sowell accused Obama of being like the Nazis because of the pressure he put on BP to create a $20 billion compensation fund for those affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sarah Palin endorsed that editorial. Glenn Beck has claimed that progressives are similar to Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Che Guevara. The list of conservatives who have accused Obama of being a social, communist, or Marxist is almost endless. Tea Party darling Rick Barber even created an ad that used a Lincoln reenactor to smear the Patient Affordability and Protection Act as “slavery,” followed by images of the Holocaust.

The first problem with these accusations is that they have no basis in reality. Someone should remind them that the great conservative opponent of Marxism and fascism, Winston Churchill, said in 1944 “Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.” They should be aware that Abraham Lincoln is not their ideal spokesperson. After all, he supported labor unions, massive federal funding of infrastructure, the awarding of free government land to western settlers, and the creation of the first progressive income tax. Obama is nothing more than a conventional liberal.   

Of course the second problem with people who make these accusations is that debating the facts is precisely what they want to avoid. Smearing one’s opponents as supporters of a totalitarian ideology is a way of delegitimizing any arguments they make or any policies they support. It is a tactic straight out of the playbook of Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy. It makes mature debate impossible. The American Jewish Congress rightly pointed out that such attacks “reflect a nasty and hyperbolic tendency on[in] our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics.”

Worst of all the people making these attacks are creating an equivalency between Obama’s policies and the crimes of the most evil regimes in history. These people diminish the horror of these monstrous crimes by comparing them to Obama’s policies. These people dishonor the victims of those crimes by using them to score cheap political points. To compare liberalism to socialism, Marxism, Nazism, fascism, or communism is despicable and wrong. To compare Obama to Hitler, Stalin, or Mao is disgusting and wrong. It was wrong when Democrats did it to Bush and it is wrong now. Anyone making these attacks should be ashamed.

—Peter Sicher, Magazine Editor

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