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In History, Politics, Social commentary on September 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

There’s a joke now making the rounds–and Republicans hate it:

What’s the difference between the Nazi Party and the Republican Party?  Answer:  The Nazis had better-looking uniforms.

The gathering of politicos at the Democratic National Convention has led at least three party leaders to draw historical analogies between the goals of the Nazi and Republican parties.

  • John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, compared Republican tactics during the presidential campaign to the “big lie” strategy employed by Nazi propagandists: “They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie.  Joseph Goebbels [Nazi Propaganda Minister]–it’s the ‘Big Lie,’ you keep repeating it.”
  • Pat Lehman, dean of the Kansas Democratic delegation, referred to Adolf Hitler himself when protesting Republican claims that they want voter identification laws to prevent voter fraud: “It’s like Hitler said, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big  lie,” Lehman said. “And if you tell it often enough and say it in a loud enough voice,  some people are going to believe you.”
  • Dick Harpootlian, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, compared Nikki Haley, the state’s Republican governor, to Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun.  Noting that Republicans were holding opposition press briefings in a basement studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Harpootlian said: “She was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun.”

Braun committed suicide with Hitler on April 30, 1945, as the Red Army closed in on their underground Berlin bunker.

Republicans claimed to be outraged and demanded an apology.  Typical of their response was that of Harmeet Dhillon, chair of the San Francisco Republican Party:

“Inappropriate, disrespectful to Holocaust survivors, very disrespectful to Republicans, and is frankly unnecessary in a civilized society.”

This didn’t stop many of their members and/or supporters from displaying altered photos of President Barack Obama sporting a Hitler mustache.  Or from referring to Obama himself as “a second Hitler.”

President Obama as Hitler

Burton at first refused to apologize: “If you’re not telling the truth, you’re lying. Joseph Goebbels’ concept was the  Big Lie. If you tell it enough, people will think it’s the truth.

“That was Goebbels, a big lie, they [Republicans] said they don’t care about facts. They’re going to lie so, I mean, that’s not pejorative to them, they probably wear it as a compliment.”

Joseph Goebbels

Then he changed his mind and issued this statement: “If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie — I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment.”

But Harpootlian wasn’t handing out any apologies.

“Hell no. What am I apologizing for?” he asked CNN. “This is fake. Nikki Haley is feigning this. There is not a sincere bone in her body.

“I wasn’t trying to insinuate that Nikki was a Nazi.  I was saying that she was hanging out in an insular bunker in Charlotte when she won’t give access to the press here in South Carolina … So she has some hurt feelings? I didn’t know she had feelings.”

So: How legitimate are Democrats’ comparisons of 21st century Republicans to 20th century Nazis?

A good place to start is with the man who created Nazism: Adolf Hitler.

In 1924, while serving a nine-month prison term for trying to overthrow the government of Bavaria in 1923, Hitler decided to write a book.  This would be a combination of autobiography and outline of his political thought.

Among the most infamous quotations from the book are those dealing with how to create effective propaganda:

“… In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper state of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily.

“And thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. 

“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

“Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

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