Hello, Nazis and Nazism are Bad
Some things in modern life are not hard to figure out. You don’t have to be progressive—and it shouldn’t be partisan—to grasp that Nazis are bad and so is Nazism. Anyone who has a memory or taken a history class knows that millions of Americans fought to defend American principles and democracy itself against the Nazi march across the world. To be more specific, over 16 million Americans fought in WWII, over 400,000 sacrificed their lives and nearly 700,000 were wounded to defend America’s allies and democracy.
In a sane world, it wouldn’t be necessary to assert such obvious, such basic principles and facts. But the current GOP presidential candidate and former White House occupant thought it was acceptable to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Nick Fuentes, a virulent neo-Nazi, white supremacist and Holocaust denier last week, reportedly the plus-one of the antisemitic pariah Kanye West.
You don’t need to rely on the aforementioned labels to know what I mean. Just listen to Fuentes and his enthusiastic, proudly stated words in a recent video: “The Jews had better start being nice to people like us. Because what comes out of this is going to be a lot uglier and a lot worse for them….”
None of Trump’s cozy behavior is a surprise, of course, even if the despicable company he’s keeping portends the increasingly dark, vengeful, conspiratorial path he’ll continue pursuing to curry favor with the extremists that comprise a significant portion of his cultist base. Nor, really, should the refusal of leading Republicans to speak out against him and his new neo-Nazi buddy (“I really like this guy. He gets me,” Trump reportedly said about Fuentes after the dinner.)
For years, the Republicans have made clear their spineless fear of confronting Trump’s worst impulses, even as millions of decent Americans—Democrats and some Republicans—looked on with the hope that this was just a terrible phase they were going through and it didn’t necessarily mean this was their future.
But as the Republicans prepare to take power in the House and the craven Kevin McCarthy seems ready to do anything to appease the more radical elements of his caucus to secure the speaker’s gavel, we can see he’s not about to confront Trump about the need to reject Nazis and Nazism. (He had nothing to say last month when his growing alliance with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene included her social media posting that “Biden is Hitler.”) In the process, this grim march further normalizes the worst among us, wasting the nation’s time when we should be past this kind of sour nonsense and contending with real challenges and working to make life better.
The Nazi appeal has had its moments in America, best (or worst) illustrated by the rally in Madison Square Garden on February 23, 1939 when over 20,000 showed up to test out their Nazi salutes and listen to pro-Hitler, antisemitic attacks and ridiculous speculations from the Nazi German American Bund.
Held two days before George Washington’s birthday, complete with swastikas on either side of a Washington portrait, a featured speaker insisted that “if George Washington were alive today, he would be friends with Adolf Hitler.” Darker diatribes that evening ranted about “Jewish world domination,” the “menace of anti-national, God-hating Jewish-Bolshevism,” the need to “restore true Americans” and the opportunity to join the Nazi-supporting organization “provided you are sincere, of good character, of White Gentile Stock, and an American Citizen imbued with patriotic zeal.” The specter of the Nazi Holocaust and the death of six million Jews was not far away.
Even as we look back at that aberrant, abhorrent moment in America’s emerging commitment to support the allies and beat back Hitler’s sick push across Europe, that antisemitic, white Christian nationalist strain has continued to thrive in the dark underbelly of the body politic. While national figures such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindberg could also be counted among Nazi sympathizers, it has remained generally stigmatized and fringe. Yet as both the memories of the Nazi Holocaust fade and demagogues embrace the latter-day exponents to exploit their base, we risk this hateful mentality becoming increasingly mainstream.
Since the Mar-a-Lago dinner last week, the online MAGA crowd—especially the anonymous keyboard abusers—have responded to criticisms of their Dear Leader with the usual ad hominem attacks and have pushed false equivalencies from the pasts of Presidents Biden and Obama. To be fair, there are legitimate questions to ask about the dangerous views of the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd’s involvement in the 1940s with the Ku Klux Klan.
But let’s not forget how many Republicans have chosen to minimize the Jan. 6 attack, which included insurrectionists wearing shirts emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWNE,” that is, six million were not enough. And as long as Donald Trump continues to normalize this dangerous neo-Nazism, the GOP refuses to push back (and worse, embraces it), and Trump remains at large and able to amplify his message, America will continue to face a menace that promises more trouble ahead.
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