It’s not fascism, folks. It wasn’t fascism when George W. Bush opened a prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanomo Bay. It wasn’t fascism when Barack Obama forced out the head of General Motors Corp.
It’s not socialism, either. It wasn’t socialism when Bush spent billions to bail out banks and the car companies, or when Obama signed a spending bill with a metric ton of earmarks.
And it’s not communism. It wasn’t communism when Bush expanded Medicare to include a huge new prescription drug benefit, or when Obama started talking about ensuring that everyone has health insurance.
One of the many wonderful things about Internet life is the attention it brings to the forms our debates take. Eighteen years ago, a lawyer named Mike Godwin came up with a law that now bears his name: amp”As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or [Adolf] Hitler approaches one.amp”
It’s a law equally and sadly useful for modern political conversations, which seem to inevitably devolve into charges that one party or the other is just like the Nazis, or the Soviets, or like George Orwell’s imaginings.
Critics of Obama proved the truth of Godwin’s Law long before he had earned his party’s nomination. Disagreement with Bush’s White House energy policy similarly disgorged charges of fascism before it had even been written down.
This tendency to deploy the nuclear bombs of discourse comes from an increasingly polarized body politic. A Pew Research Center survey argues that Americans right now are more politically polarized – when it comes to the president – than at any time in decades.
Eighty-eight percent of Democrats approve of President Obama’s performance in office; the figure for Republicans is 27 percent, a difference of 61 percentage points. That’s the largest spread for a first-year president. President George W. Bush’s number – after a disputed election, no less – was 51 percentage points, and the figure was lower with Presidents Bill Clinton (45), George H.W. Bush (38), Ronald Reagan (46), Jimmy Carter (25), and Richard Nixon (29).
It’s not a neat line, but the spread between a president’s supporters and detractors has been steadily growing for three decades.
In the past, a decent and shared definition and set of facts were the only things necessary to show anyone the error of their ways. Now, of course, people feel not only entitled to their own versions of events, but their own facts and even their own definitions.
It doesn’t make it right, or coherent, or worth listening to, not when the facile and demagogical will label presidents of the United States of America as fascist, or communist, or socialist, as a murderer or terrorist. Perspective, please.
History’s fascists killed millions of people. Communists did away with private enterprise and killed millions of their own. Hitler tried to annihilate an entire race and to engineer a new one. He tried to take over the world.
No credible American leader wants any of those things, and certainly no one ever elected to the White House.
Worse than what these fanatics do to themselves, of course, is what they do to the millions of victims of real tyrants. They mock their memory and their suffering. None of us should stand for that.
-The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk/Hampton Roads