Saturday, January 28, 2012

An Old Jew Hears Hitler in Gingrich

Tempting as it is, we Democrats should not root for Gingrich to be the GOP nominee. Even if he would be easier to defeat in November than Romney, he must not have the national stage for the rest of this year. He's far too dangerous.

My father's Jewish family in Warsaw was exterminated by the Nazis in the Holocaust. They could have escaped. In the midst of the Depression my father's family in America, frightened by the rhetoric of Hitler, scraped together boat fare for the Warsaw relatives to come to America. But they didn't come.

They couldn't believe that a comical little man and his ravings were anything to fear.

I didn't begin blogging to raise alarms. As an old woman, I wanted to encourage those to whom the future belongs. But as a lawyer and student of history -  and a witness to it  -   I can't ignore a very dark storm cloud gathering strength over America.

The rhetoric in the GOP presidential primary is not just rhetoric, especially that of Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. It isn't even just race-baiting, evil as that is.

It's Hitler.

It's Hitler in the early 1930s, stoking the anger of the German people who have lost World War I and are suffering an economic collapse. It's Hitler firing up a people who have been taught for centuries to despise and hate "the other" in their midst.

It's Gingrich in South Carolina.

In the CNN debate that won him the South Carolina primary, he brazenly played to the anger and hatred boiling in the studio audience and thus played to millions of TV viewers across the country who share that anger and hatred.

What do they hate? Blacks and other minorities. And, of course, Obama. Because he is the unthinkable: a black man as president of the United States.

What do they fear? They fear anyone of darker skin. They also have deep fears about the economy. Some of this economic fear is justified in a still fragile recovery, but Gingrich  -  and to even greater extent, Mitt Romney  -  is twisting that fear to align with the tactic Hitler used:  blame "the other".
Hitler talked about "the knife in the back", claiming that Jewish financiers had betrayed Germany into losing World War I. And he ranted about the Jews subsequently manipulating the economy into disaster. That's why, one might conclude, the GOP contenders keep saying that Obama has made the economy worse. In their rantings, they don't just claim he failed to make sufficient improvement. He's MADE it worse.  This charge is simply untrue and can  -  and should be  -  emphatically refuted in the general election campaign.

Gingrich and Romney actually know it's a lie. (They're misguided but not ignorant.) And they also know that to get caught telling outright lies and misrepresenting reality will hurt them with Independent voters, especially when each of them already has, to say the least, something of a credibility gap. So why tell such a very big and obviously refutable lie?

Because a significant number of Republicans are now full of racist hate. That's a sad thing to have to say and  -  in its own way  -  it too is stereotyping. But it is true. Polls taken even after Obama produced his long-form birth certificate showed that a significant percentage of Republicans still aren't convinced he wasn't born in Kenya.  Keep in mind too the constant demand last year by the likes of Donald Trump that Obama produce his college records, the clear implication being that no black could have succeeded in college without some special deals going on. Even before Trump's attack, Gingrich was talking about Obama's "Kenyan colonialism." From top to bottom, the GOP seethes with racism.

Claiming Obama has made the economy worse AND that he is "secretly" conspiring to take us into socialism is exactly the accusatory tactic adopted by Hitler against the Jews. It raises "the other" from being merely despised to being perceived as actively and imminently dangerous.

Add to this the fact that, demographically, America will soon no longer have a white majority. GOP whites see this very clearly. For many of them the "immigration" issue is one of defending white control of this country. For many of them, I do believe, this issue of crumbling white dominance  -  more than any other  -  is driving their passion.

What is despicable and ABSOLUTELY UNPRECEDENTED is the baldness of Gingrich's racist appeals to this passion and fear. Sure, Nixon had his Southern strategy and Reagan talked about "welfare queens", but Gingrich has gone way beyond any major party candidate ever in his words and their reach.

Beware. Should the economy actually collapse on a major scale, should the white GOP working class fans of Gingrich begin to hurt financially even more, all hell could break loose. Gingrich has given them permission to blame someone for all their ills. We may see mobs who make the Tea Party at its worse look like... well, like a real tea party. We may see mobs turn violent, urged on by the likes of Gingrich, just as those GOP House members cheered on the mob that spat on the Democratic House members as they entered the Capitol to vote for the health insurance bill.  We could see an overthrow of our democracy.

Don't tell me it can't happen here. It may be unthinkable to you, but Gingrich has made it quite thinkable to his followers if anything happens to push them more over the edge.

Beyond the blatant appeals to fear and racism, he has attacked our greatest bulwark against violence and chaos: the law. He has threatened that, as president, he would haul judges before some sort of commission to "explain" their decisions. Remember the film "Judgment at Nuremburg", which detailed how Hitler's "Final Solution" could operate because he had destroyed an independent judiciary? If you haven't watched that old classic, do so. The characters are fictional; the history is not. I lived through it, and I remember.

The first to go when a democracy splinters are the judges. Not just in Nazi Germany. Everywhere.

No candidate before Gingrich has, to my knowledge, ever urged on a national platform that judges be hauled before commissions and then promised that, as president, he would do just that. Even at the height of the right's outrage in the 50s and 60s against the Warren court, bumper stickers said "Impeach Earl Warren", a stupid idea but at least a salute to using a lawful procedure.  What Gingrich is saying now goes far beyond those bumper stickers.

And what of Gingrich's use of the word "permanent"'?

In his speech of triumph after winning South Carolina, he said that he would bring changes that his supporters could rest assured would be "permanent."

In all my years as an activist in politics and as an observer,  I have never heard a major candidate  -  or even a minor one  -  saying anything so frightening. Think about it! How does an elected leader make changes "permanent"? It's damn scary! You can't do it by any means I can think of that are consistent with a democracy.

And don't tell me that Gingrich was just being casual and careless in that victory speech. He is often careless in his ideas but he is a master of language. That speech was calm, cool, and deliberate. He said what he meant and meant what he said. It was his big moment to tell a national audience exactly what he wanted it to hear. Remember that he is the author of the political far-right's handbook "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control".

God help us all if Gingrich is a Hitler waiting in the wings, building a base that may stretch beyond any  failure this year, a base ready to act if conditions are ripe. At best, let us hope that he fails in Florida and is thereafter no longer a candidate with a national audience. Sadly, I fear he will continue no matter a loss in Florida, an egomaniac so aggrieved and resentful that he will perhaps sink to even lower levels of rabble-rousing.

An economic collapse, social chaos in America, a Hitler here?

I won't believe it could happen, but I can't ignore that it might.


  1. Not that far off. Just listen to this podcast about how the citizens of Alabama took justice into their own hands in an effort to make life difficult for anyone (Hispanic) that might be an illegal immigrant in their eyes.

  2. I meant that the article was not exaggerating. This batch of hicks are really quite ignorant and scary.

    1. Thanks for the comments and for the clarification that my blog was not exaggerating. I wish it were exaggeration, but what's happening in Florida now seems to prove my point. Gingrich toned it down in the two Florida debates and thereby lost his lead. The far right doesn't want government; it wants blood, figuratively or actually.