Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not See Nazi

I'm usually a big fan of the rule that says that the first person that brings up Hitler or the Nazis in an argument automatically loses. Even so, Diane McWhorter has a nice article in Slate that talks about how if Nazi comparisons are illegitimate, how can we call out arguments and policies that really to mirror the Nazis? She goes on to criticize various aspects of the Bush administration that she's believes really do raise uncomfortable comparisons to the Nazis. Most of these comparisons, while certainly debatable, don't stretch the bounds of plausibility. But then she writes:

And then in 2004, the Republicans threatened to override Senate rules and abolish the filibuster in order to thwart the Democrats' stand against Bush's most extremist nominees for federal judgeships. This "nuclear option" (so named by Trent Lott in acknowledgment of his party's willingness to destroy the Congress in order to save the country) struck me as a functional analog of the Enabling Act of 1933, which consolidated the German government under Chancellor Hitler and effectively dissolved the Reichstag as a parliamentary body.

Maybe it's because I don't like the filibuster, but this is way too much of a stretch. The so-called "nuclear option" would have prevented a minority of Senators from filibustering judicial nominations to prevent them from coming up for a vote by the whole Senate. That's a far cry from the Enabling Act that, as McWhorter points out, "effectively dissolved the Reichstag as a parliamentary body." In fact, the Enabling Act authorized the German Chancellor (Hitler) to enact laws without the necessity of parliamentary approval.

Just because some Nazi comparisons might be valid, not all of them are.


Tweedy Flanigan said...

The reason that Nazi comparisons are off limits is not because they are always inapplicable or always too much of a stretch.

They are off limits because when you compare even the smallest, most inconsequential decision or policy to something similar under Hitler, you're adding a layer of connotation to the argument that's wholly unfair. It's that connotation that's always inapplicable. That's why the Nazi card is, and should remain, a "Go directly to jail - Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200" card.

Philip Klinkner said...

Except when they are not. Seems like Nazi comparisons are pretty apt when David Duke is the issue. The debate is about how Nazi-like someone or something has to be before the comparison can be invoked. For example, comparing a politician with a mustache to Hitler is obviously too much of stretch, but not if that politician calls for suspending all civil liberties.

Tweedy Flanigan said...

Right, right. When David Duke is the issue, connotations are not.

Ms. McWhorter, however, seems to be tackling quite someone else. My point is that if you use the word, it comes with the whole package—that's something that needs to be realized.

Chris D. said...

I think we should abandon use of Nazi comparisons for no other reason than it evinces a continuing Western/European "occidentation" in our sloppy political discourse. Given the rise of the East, we should have a truly Asian "orientation" instead--at least when it comes to leveraging analogies to the last serious nation-state enemies we were able to defeat in war. Here are my suggested starting points for this powerful transformation of American political stereotyping.

-Republican states are Rising Sun red.
-Newt Gingrich's Kamikaze political style
-Rumsfeld committed political Harikari.
-Mark Foley and Ted Haggard were the Hiroshima and Nagasaki of the GOP's 2006 election.
-Dean's 50 state electoral Tsunami overwhelmed Rove's GOTV ninjas.

I think the time is right.

MSS said...

OK, it has been a while since I studied Weimar constitutionalism, but my recollection of the Enabling Act is that it delegated emergency decree powers to the government. Saying it "effectively dissolved the Reichstag" is an even bigger stretch than the comparison McWhorter is making.

The more apt comparison would be what the Nazis and their allies in the Reichstag did to pass the Enabling Act: They unilaterally changed the rules of procedure in order to declare a two-thirds quorum present.

By the way, I do not like the filibuster, either. But whenever the Republicans have a majority of the Senate seats despite the Democrats having a substantial plurality of the votes for Senators, I like it a whole lot more--as a check on the tyranny of a spurious majority.

Freudian Slip said...

And even though "Nazi" is associated with horrible, horrible things, there are also many other things we can learn from that regime as well. Let's not make the same mistakes, shall we?