An article written by Kevin D. Williamson on Monday, comparing Bernie Sanders to Nazis, marked a new low for the supposedly “respectable” conservative publication National Review. After causing a stir with his article, Williamson went on Twitter to defend his article by tweeting:
There is no intellectually honest way to get from this to “Bernie Sanders is a Nazi”
I wonder if Williamson realizes people can still read his article. In it he states:
He [Sanders] is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.
How dare us liberals accuse him of calling Sanders a Nazi, just because he used his name and the words “national-socialist” and “Holocaust” in the same sentence. After all, Williamson wasn’t saying Sanders is a Nazi, he was merely implying, that Sanders was so uncomfortably like a Nazi that the parallels made him queasy. Wow, pardon the left for jumping to conclusions, simply because Williamson threw in a gratuitous mention of the Holocaust, that really the silly liberals, should recognize wasn’t actually meant to be germane to his argument.
Later in the article, Williamson finally throws in a “he’s not really a Nazi” disclaimer by assuring the reader that Bernie Sanders is no Julius Streicher (glad that’s cleared up), because he is motivated more by “political hatred” than “racial hatred”, like a different “national socialist”, Hugo Chavez. Well, actually in Williamson’s narrative, Sanders is like an-anti Latin American Hugo Chavez, which seems a bit ironic. However, the important thing Williamson is trying to convey to the reader is that socialism and nationalism are bad, and that because Sanders argues for socialism and a form of economic nationalism, then he too is bad.
Yet, Williamson’s evidence that Sanders is a national socialist, is based primarily on the fact that Sanders promotes fair trade over free trade, and that he wants to repeal the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” ruling. Oh the horror.
While opposition to free trade can include elements of parochialism and as a consequence, politicians can stoke anti-Chinese or anti-Latin American prejudices to rally white economic populist voters, there is nothing inherently racist about opposing trade deals that cede American national sovereignty (and the sovereignty of other nations) to unregulated corporate power.
Interestingly, Williamson is careful in his piece, not to mention the Citizens United ruling by name. Instead, he simply argues:
Criminalizing things is very much on Bernie’s agenda, beginning with the criminalization of political dissent. At every event he swears to introduce a constitutional amendment reversing Supreme Court decisions that affirmed the free-speech protections of people and organizations filming documentaries, organizing Web campaigns, and airing television commercials in the hopes of influencing elections or public attitudes toward public issues. That this would amount to a repeal of the First Amendment does not trouble Bernie at all.
In the context of discussing “National Socialism” and repealing the First Amendment, the rhetorical strategy is seemingly designed to conjure up fears of Bernie Sanders’ rounding up dissenters and shipping them off to concentration camps. But what Sanders is calling for is repealing Citizens United so that extremely wealthy people can’t funnel unlimited money into our elections in the hopes of influencing political candidates. Limiting the ability of the Koch Brothers or George Soros to contribute unlimited amounts of money to run election season commercials isn’t criminalizing dissent in the same way the Nazis did. However, to Williamson maybe its kind of sort of like what the Nazis did.
Far right wing revisionists habitually attempt to conflate Nazism with Socialism, in a desperate effort to recast Nazi Germany as a failed “left wing” state, instead of recognizing it as the right wing Fascist dystopia it was. National Review is attempting to smear Bernie Sanders’ by implying that the Sanders political revolution bears some similarities to the Nazi movement in 1930s-era Germany. Williamson has good reason to be queasy and uncomfortable about what he wrote, not because of Sanders’ brand of socialism, but because the tortured analogy Williamson is trying to make is too ridiculous to print. Well, too ridiculous to print, unless you’re National Review, apparently.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.