In the latest in a spate of nutty posts linking an Obama-era Ninth Circuit court decision to Nazism, former CNN host Soledad O’Brien tweeted that America is on the brink of a Nazi takeover:
O’Brien isn’t alone with this sort of rhetoric. NPR anchor Maria Hinojosa compared the Trump policy to Nazi policy; so did Melania Trump’s former immigration lawyer; General Michael Hayden tweeted out a picture of Auschwitz; Jimmy Kimmel compared Trump’s policy to Sophie’s Choice.
To all these people I say: read a damn book once in awhile.
The policy of separating children from illegal immigrant parents who are detained criminally is the law. It was ruled upon by the Ninth Circuit in 2016, and overturned an Obama-era policy of keeping children with their parents in custody. And to argue that this law is in any way akin to Nazi policy isn’t just stupid, it’s disgusting. The Nazis weren’t particularly concerned with temporarily separating children from parents in order to supposedly protect children from the abuses of detainment (this was the Ninth Circuit’s rationale). Nor was the Nazi policy to keep children with parents in order to alleviate their suffering (the Trump administration’s newly-stated executive policy). The Nazi policy was to murder children and parents.
Furthermore, comparing Trump policy to Nazi policy turns ICE agents into Nazis – an argument which, despite the best lies of certain New Yorker employees, is not true. If separation policy is Nazi policy, ICE agents have a duty to forcibly resist their orders. They don’t, because it’s not Nazi policy. Not every bad policy is Nazi policy; not every bad policy can be fixed with the stroke of an executive pen.
But Nazi has become a stand-in for “thing I don’t like.” And that means that everything you don’t like becomes “Nazi policy.” The great stupidity of this perspective was exposed over the last 24 hours when Republicans proposed a legislative fix for the separation issue – and Democrats rejected it. It’s difficult to maintain that this is Nazi policy, but simultaneously argue that it’s more important for Chuck Schumer to score political points than to fix it.
Yet that’s just what many Leftists are arguing: that their opponents are Nazis, but that they have no moral duty beyond shouting “Nazi!” That’s because they don’t believe their opponents are Nazis. They just think they win political battles by shouting about Nazis. All of which leads to more reactionary politics and greater polarization – all of which truly is dangerous.