Friday, February 05, 2010

Historical Parallels

I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with the Republicans. I have started writing a number of posts on the subject and rejected them. I would love to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Republicans (GUTR), but it is eluding me so far. I’d like to lay bare the essence of their seemingly boundless hatred for so many things. I’d like to find a way to talk to them, not least because a member of my family has been absorbed into the Craziness, and bring them back to an America that I can recognize. Not necessarily agree with, but recognize.

Part of the problem is that the Craziness emerges in so many ways.

I have been suffering from a cold all week, and my judgement probably isn’t the best, but Steven Walt made me post this.

Yesterday I began one of my failed GUTR posts this way:
A few years back, I attended an entertaining series of lectures by Jay West of Middlebury College. The topic was the rise of Naziism in Germany. “How did a highly civilized nation jump the tracks so badly?” he kept asking throughout the week. It wasn’t clear that there was an answer, but we were treated to a wide variety of sources and influences.

So I find myself asking how one of America’s two political parties has jumped the tracks so badly and not finding an answer. But perhaps ruminating over sources and influences will be entertaining.
Walt this morning ruminates on how to discredit Mein Kampf. Walt is much more careful than I am.
Books like Mein Kampf remind us that bizarre, incoherent, and hateful ideas can sometimes win over enough people to sway a nation and ultimately help lead to the deaths of millions. When you actually look at the the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler's infamous tome. And I regret to say that some of them have a significant following.
That would seem to parallel what I’ve been thinking.

I do like me some historical parallels. Of course, we have Godwin’s Law to remind us how overused this one is, most of the time not a parallel at all, but rather name-calling. So I’ll just note the parallels now in my and Walt’s and West’s thinking so I don’t do it later, in my GUTR post.

Update: Huh. Must be something about too much snow. Tim Rutten is even more careful than Walt, mentioning Weimar toward the end of his op-ed. But Jon Taplin lets it all hang out.

1 comment:

MT said...

For a domestic workaround of Godwin, you could always invoke Huey Long. But I think the sloganeering lately is weak tea beside "share the wealth" and "every man a king" for starving Depressioners.