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The Return of Hitler

Since the North Iowa Tea Party is bring it up again, as per the AP:  Iowa billboard compares Obama to Hitler; draws criticism, may I again point out my post on this exact topic:  Hitler Comparisons and Bad History.

The billboard uses the graphic displayed above, btw:  photo at the link above.

And I know that I am largely shouting into the wind with some people, but National Socialism is not the same as Marxism which, in turn, is not same as democratic socialism.  Moreover, while social democrats do, indeed, roam the earth in many European countries, Barack Obama, even with the health care reform bill, hardly qualifies as one.

Seriously, there are a plethora of  books out there on questions of history, political theory and ideology, European politics and so forth and so on.  If one is getting one’s definitions for these terms from talk show hosts, movies, or foggy memories of high school/college it might be time for a bit of a refresher.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. floyd says:

    More like passing wind, but it can be cathartic , can’t it. [lol]

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  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Obama may or may not be a socialist, national or otherwise, in your eyes Steve but every body that works for him is a communist or radical leftist. All of the people he has ever associated with are either Marxists, communists or people like Jeremiah Wright who’s beliefs are just an offshoot of communism. Frank M. Davis was a communist. Bill Ayers is a communist. Obama’s daddy was a communist. He was endorced by the American communist party. Looks to me like he is left of Hugo Chavez.. Right between Castro and Stalin.

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  3. Schooner says:

    “All of the people he has ever associated with are either Marxists, communists or people like Jeremiah Wright who’s beliefs are just an offshoot of communism.”

    Yeah ,Summers, Geithner, Volcker, Buffett, Bernanke, Gates etc..

    What a bunch of communists.

    What color is the sky in your world ? Commie Red or Fascist Black? or both?

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  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    The fact that you have a sizeable segment of the base of the Republican party subscribing to this nonsense and that they are not being told to pipe down by the leadership attests to a) the lack of any sense of reality by some people and b)the leadership vacuum that exists at the top of the GOP. These fruitcakes have always been there, Hofstadtler’s essay from the sixties detailed their thought patterns, but in those days the leadership of the party largely ignored or dismissed them. The problem now is that these people are largely in the driving seat and that has to be disturbing for Americans at large of whatever political persuasion. This is particularly so for more rational Republicans who have to realize this sort of hateful zaniness is no long term basis for a political party in our increasingly multi ethnic society where generational shifts are also bring more open social attitudes.

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  5. rodney dill says:

    … and what was the Democrat party leadership response to baseless attacks and insults on Presidents Bush?

    (….sound of crickets chirping…)

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, I suppose it is very cathartic for losers (in the literal, as in elections, as opposed to the pejorative, sense) to try to paint their political enemies in the most ridiculous cartoonish light…for all those people out there who get upset when the Tea Party people are laughed at with derision as fools, this is yet another example of why that is the case…

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  7. Schooner says:

    @ rodney

    A few idiots with blogs is equivalent to a political movement that insists it is mainstream and serious?

    Whatever floats your boat man.

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  8. Observer says:

    @Rodney,

    … and what was the Democrat party leadership response to baseless attacks and insults on Presidents Bush?

    (….sound of crickets chirping…)

    Ah yes. The ever popular “But MOMMMM, he did it FIRST!” defense. I forgot that it’s okay to behave in an unethical manner if your opponents are, too. Thanks for the reminder.

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  9. just me says:

    I think in general Hitler comparisons are over the top and more often than not baseless.

    However I have pretty much no empathy for Obama or most liberals now that the tables have turned. I view it as reaping what they sowed.

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  10. anjin-san says:

    I view it as reaping what they sowed.

    You mean idiots spouting nonsense? Yea, I loose a lot of sleep over that…

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  11. Steve Plunk says:

    It’s not my cup of tea but this is not about similarities between national socialism, Marxism, communism, or whatever. It’s about cult of personality and political mass hysteria. Obama was elected with no track record and nothing to offer but vague promises. If we’re not skeptical enough we can fall for anything. History shows how it happens.

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  12. Herb says:

    “Obama was elected with no track record and nothing to offer but vague promises. If we’re not skeptical enough we can fall for anything. ”

    Steve, I know you’re a rational guy, so please think about this for a minute. We are in the 7th month of the 2nd year of Obama’s presidency. And you’re still talking about campaign promises and his lack of a track record?

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  13. It’s about cult of personality and political mass hysteria.

    On this count, I would refer you to my linked post.

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  14. Steve Plunk says:

    Herb,

    First, my snark. He’s still talking about and blaming Bush.

    Second, my rational response. It was his cult of personality that got him elected and now we are seeing the realities of his being president. We should learn and prepare for the next election. BTW, I would consider Palin to be a beneficiary of the same sort of thing.

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  15. Steve Plunk says:

    Dr. Taylor,

    Whether it be through democratic means or not the accumulation of power based upon charisma can be a dangerous/irresponsible thing. That charisma can be derived from personal charm or charming ideas but either way healthy skepticism is tossed aside. In Obama’s case serious questions were not asked before the election and serious questions are still not being asked.

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  16. Steve,

    Part of the point of the post is that charisma angle with Hitler is radically overplayed.

    Beyond that, it is rather simplistic to reduce Obama’s electoral success to simply one of charisma.

    Third, having said that: don’t all politicians, especially those aspiring to the presidency need a little charisma to get elected?

    Fourth, I still don’t see evidence that Obama is especially different than other presidents we have had.

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  17. wr says:

    “Fourth, I still don’t see evidence that Obama is especially different than other presidents we have had.”

    Well, I see one… and it’s that one that drives the crazies even crazier.

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  18. sam says:

    Anybody here ever read Tbogg? His intro to his piece on the defeat of Rick Barber (of the infamous G Washington “Gather Your Armies” BS ad) pretty much says it all re the teatards:

    I don’t suppose that anyone will mention that the Tea Party, which represents a groundswell of Real Flag-Waving Red-Blooded Americans Who Are Tragically Confined To Lawn Chairs and who believe in the Constitution, fiscal restraint, and smaller federal government (particularly when the President is a black man who is not only black but also black) is having some difficulty getting their candidates elected.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    “Beyond that, it is rather simplistic to reduce Obama’s electoral success to simply one of charisma.”

    Well of course some people have to think that way…how else could they justify the fact that he won the election with over 69 million votes…speaking of crazies…what must go through some people’s minds to think that this guy, this black guy with the funny “foreign”-sounding name, the “thin” resume, and the “shady” connections was actually elected president of this country? It’s not surprisng that some resort to Hitler and Lenin comparisons…what other straws do they have to grasp…

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  20. Steve Plunk says:

    Dr. Taylor,

    What about the shivers up Chris Matthew’s leg? The failure of the press to question his academic record? They sure questioned the previous president. The excess of personal images in the campaign? Charisma was a larger part of his candidacy than most realize.

    I can agree with some of your points but each has varying degrees. Sure all candidates need charisma but they also need substance. Obama didn’t rely solely on his personality but more so than most candidates.

    Your last point is in error. This president is radically different than previous ones. His push toward a more socialist country, one that spreads the wealth around, is very different.

    I guess it’s all a matter how people compare things. He’s not Hitler or Lenin but he is straining tradition and relying on personality to overcome real policy questions. Those who point it out have something of a point.

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  21. Steve: some responses below:

    What about the shivers up Chris Matthew’s leg?

    In fairness, surely that is an issue to take up with Matthews. I am honestly unclear on what relevance it has as it wasn’t as if we didn’t know his general political leanings. I would note that he was pretty complimentary of Bush in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 making Churchill comparisons. Over-reaction is sort of his move.

    The failure of the press to question his academic record? They sure questioned the previous president.

    I see this mostly as a talking point, in all honesty. Further, I just don’t buy massive media conspiracies. It isn’t as if a more conservatively-oriented reporter couldn’t have pursued the story, if there was one (and that statement stipulates for the sake of argument that “liberal media” was ignoring the story).

    The excess of personal images in the campaign? Charisma was a larger part of his candidacy than most realize.

    It may well be that there was more usage of personal images than in other campaigns. However, this is the kind of thing that would require serious comparative study, not just personal impressions. Presidential campaigns are always personalized, I would note. All those “W” stickers weren’t policy-statements.

    I can agree with some of your points but each has varying degrees. Sure all candidates need charisma but they also need substance. Obama didn’t rely solely on his personality but more so than most candidates.

    Again, by what measure?

    Your last point is in error. This president is radically different than previous ones. His push toward a more socialist country, one that spreads the wealth around, is very different.

    This vexes me, as there have been, for example, no changes in the taxes structure (save for a slight tax cut on payroll taxes). Many of these allegedly “socialist” policies, like the GM bail-out started under Bush. Stimulus spending is temporary, not structural (and isn’t unprecedented, either). People talk about radical changes, but it is just talk. What is it that you see as pushing “towards(s) a more socialist country”?

    He’s not Hitler or Lenin but he is straining tradition and relying on personality to overcome real policy questions.

    Not to be pedantic, but by what metric? What does this mean? Could you provide an example? (And I am sincerely asking).

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  22. sam says:

    Gee, Steve, is he more socialist, or Nazi, or whatever, than this guy?

    …initiated the Environmental Decade by signing the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act amendments of 1972, as well as establishing many government agencies. These included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Council on Environmental Quality.] The Clean Air Act was noted as one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation ever signed.

    …established the Consumer Product Safety Commission

    That would, of course, be Richard Nixon.

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  23. rodney dill says:

    A few idiots with blogs is equivalent to a political movement that insists it is mainstream and serious?

    Schooner – If you want to purport that everyone that’s used, endorsed, condoned the baseless Bushitler, Shrub, etc.. insults as idiots then I’ve been on board widdat since day one.

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  24. rodney dill says:

    Ah yes. The ever popular “But MOMMMM, he did it FIRST!” defense. I forgot that it’s okay to behave in an unethical manner if your opponents are, too. Thanks for the reminder.

    Observer – I guess you were too busy proving you didn’t know what I was posting about to realize that I neither condoned nor endorsed nor defended the billboard. i only emphasized the point of the Democrat Party silence in similar situations.

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  25. rodney dill says:

    “Fourth, I still don’t see evidence that Obama is especially different than other presidents we have had.”

    Well, I see one… and it’s that one that drives the crazies even crazier.

    He doesn’t make anyone crazier than the real crazies that suffered from BDS.

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  26. An Interested Party says:

    Whether it be BDS or ODS, or CDS in the 90s…obviously both sides of the ideological divide have their very own proven band of real crazies…here’s the thing, though…comparing our current president to Hitler or Lenin or even Hugo Chavez will do about as much to stop him from being reelected as “Bushitler” did to stop Bush from being elected in 2004…but hey, let’s continue to see all these foolish comparisons as well as the birther meme and the socialist tag…one of the best ways for the president to serve a second term is if his opponents are perceived as being a bunch of crazy crackpots…

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  27. Rock says:

    A simple search of the net will result in plenty of Bush = Hitler signs. I don’t recall bleeding hearts being upset over these:

    http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=612

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  28. @Rock: Speaking for myself only (and I am not sure if you are directing your comment at me or not): I have been griping about Hitler comparisons for some time.

    A quick look at my archives gives me, for example a post in 2006 and two in 2004 (as part of list here and again here).

    More from ’04: here and here.

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  29. Even better: I had forgotten, but I wrote a newspaper column for the Birmingham Post-Herald on this subject as well back in 2003: Pop Quiz on Dictatorship

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  30. Rock says:

    @Steven: No, my comment wasn’t directed at you. It was meant for those who complain now who didn’t see anything wrong with comparing Bush to Hitler when they should have.

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  31. anjin-san says:

    Democrat Party

    Since there is no such thing as the “Democrat Party” outside of the idiotsphere, I think we can safely discount Rodney’s “arguments”. You use this infantile Rushisim, yet if someone called Bush “shrub” they are derranged….

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  32. Liandro says:

    “What is it that you see as pushing “towards(s) a more socialist country”?”

    @Steve:

    It is about ideology. Take, for example, socialized health care as an entitlement. Social Security is incredibly strained and needs fixes. Medicare/Medicaid aren’t so hot, either. The economy is down, jobs are down. Instead of investing in these problems, Obama came in a pushed a huge new entitlement. People can argue all they want that he hasn’t raised taxes, but what he has done is far worse. He has taken an already depleted financial structure that had many long term debts and shortages, and added a huge new entitlement.

    I WISH Obama had only raised taxes, Dr. Taylor. That could have been much more easily undone. No, what he did was far worse. Other entitlements have grown more expensive and cumbersome over time, and that is exactly what health care will do. Tax increases are inevitable in a much more structural way now. The VAT is already getting air time, and none of the other entitlement issues have been dealt with. CBO has already modified it’s cost analysis over $100B higher, and says it very well could keep increasing. Well, duh. And that is without all the short-term savings that were packed into it to help sell it.

    Like I said, it is about ideology. It is about the direction Obama is taking this country. He is kicking the can down the road on major issues like national debt and its resultant interest payments (over $500b/year soon?), social security, medicare/medicaid, foreign policy costs, immigration, education structure and costs, etc. And he is rapidly growing federal power and further centralizing our economy. He is literally taking power from the hands of individuals and states and giving it to the federal government.

    Considering I haven’t even touched on the types of judges he is nominating, the political appointees he is spreading, or the message he is championing from his immense soap box (what I would frame government reliance), I can only ask how you can NOT see his socialist push. He is mostly being checked by the limitations of what Congress will let him do, not by any lack of will.

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  33. Liandro says:

    Oh, and for the record, that sign was complete nonsense and never should have been put up. Obama maybe be a socialist, but he is not a mass murderer or anything close. It was reprehensible to tie him to that, and quite frankly it was self-defeating in a very foreseeable way. They did their cause no favors and just distracted from real dialogue.

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  34. @Liandro:

    So (and I am not being snarky or sarcastic, but am seriously trying to get a good idea where you are coming from): Bush’s expansion of Medicare was a socialist too, then, yes?

    It sound like you consider any kind of social welfare program to be “socialist”–is that accurate?

    In terms of judges: of the two Justices he has appointed, I must confess I do not see out of the mainstream appointments.

    The turning to government bit is partially a function of his philosophy and partly the economic crisis. Didn’t the Bush administration do something very similar with TARP and the loans to GM and other such actions?

    Yes, he is on the liberal side of our political spectrum, but I just don’t see the radicalism.

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  35. Liandro says:

    Without a doubt Bush’s Medicare expansion was a push in that direction. And getting burned by him is part of why the tea party folks won’t tie themselves to the R party as a whole, I think; instead they focus on specific candidates. Bumping Bennett is a great example. I supported heaving him out of office. R primaries have been more contested then normal–R’s just can’t be trusted.

    I would differentiate between Obama and Bush in that Obama knew the economy and other issues were highly troublesome and pursued a *brand new* entitlement anyway. Bush at least tried to fix SS (with no success and great controversy, granted), and he “merely” expanded an *existing* entitlement. I still call it foolish, especially since he never really paid for any of the expensive things he did (wars, entitlement expansions, tax cuts). Bush was no fiscal conservative and I was glad to see him go.

    In short, yes, any move to push our society away from personal responsibility and towards government dependence I consider a slide towards a more socialist direction. I am especially wary of those who would push that ideology without even facing the shortcomings of our current entitlement burdens. As I said, Obama is kicking the can down the road. How often have you heard him mention social security? He knew if he tried to solve entitlement problems he could never afford to push his ideology–even with his willingess to hit trillion dollar deficits.

    As for judicial appointments, I have watched hearings on more then just the Supremes. Sonia was far from the most liberal judge he has appointed, and no one knows how his current Supreme appointment will turn out. But it is the others that bother me (case in point: the UC law professor). I also agree that any liberal would consider these mainstream. If anything, that scares me more. Our country has been on this path for a very long time, arguably since the beginning. I’m sure I would have been no fan of Hamilton.

    Oh, and on Bush v. Tarp: agreed. The argument is TARP was necessary, but it was never even used for its intended purpose. The problem with Bush (or one of them, rather) is he didn’t really have a governing ideology, especially in terms of federal control vs. his state level experience. I think he was heavily influenced by advisors. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of respect for him. If he had been wiser, some of the things that lead into “necessitating” TARP would have been addressed before the inevitable happened. That just wasn’t a strenght (or even an interest, apparently) of his.

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