Hitler for our Times

So this has been getting a lot of attention — you write a biography of Hitler, and it sounds like Trump. Michiko Kakutani’s review in the New York Times of Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent has been a big hit, with one tweeter calling it “the definition of shade.”


Speaking of famous orange-related shade…..

I admit when I first read the review, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. It sounds like the author hasn’t uncovered any new sources, and once you’ve gotten through a PhD in Hitler studies, in order to take on yet another full length Hitler biography you need the promise of something new. I figured, if I’m in the mood for Hitler, my shelves at home are already groaning.

Similarly, the idea that Hitler, Nazism, and fascism could seem similar to our present moment was hardly new either. It’s been stunning — half frustrating and half gratifying — to see how quickly our political culture has shifted from refusing to acknowledge any potential for fascism, to universal acceptance as old news of its potential immanence.

Even so, I’m intrigued by the new volume. Early on when exploring this history, I read Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler which presented the genre of Hitler biography as a Rorschach test. There is no one Hitler anymore, nobody can ever fully understand him at this distance — or even then. And so every generation invents a new Hitler, a mirror to its own political fears and a way of working through its political pathologies. So maybe it’s time for a new Hitler in print, as we face the rise of a potential fascist in reality.

Trump: A Mussolini without Qualities

David Auerbach at academic blog Crooked Timber has an interesting piece comparing Trump to Mussolini, the original fascist blowhard.


Like Mussolini, Trump shifted movements until finding one amenable to his personal bombast, at which point he generated a cult of personality somewhat divorced from steady ideology. As many scholars of fascism have pointed out, Mussolini’s own efforts to form a unified fascist ideology often failed, and when he eventually codified it in 1932 (with substantial help from Giovanni Gentile), it mostly came down to he pure quality of struggle and conflict. Similarly, the Nazis in the north often deviated from the 25 points of their original Party platform, at least those not involving racial prejudice.

Fascists, historians now generally understand, possess a degree of ideological inconsistency at odds with their claims to totalizing truth. (As in Robert Paxton’s famous “Five Stages of Fascism,” where he notes fascist mimicry and diversity as key sources of reasons why fascism is hard to define.) In this sense, Trump fits the fascist core of discarding ideology in favor of an appeal to a violent emotional core, rather than a rational political program.

However, as Auerbach notes:

Yet Mussolini was a paragon of consistency next to trump, whose agenda only seems guided by raw self-aggrandizement. Mussolini may not have plainly advertised his political program, but he most certainly had one.

Indeed, despite the mutability and definitional difficulty, a core definition of fascism remains: racism, populism, economic nationalism, frequent resort to violence, and an apocalyptic attempt to burn down existing political structures in order to recreate a mythical golden age from the ashes. In this sense, Trump’s movement certainly flirts with all these traits. But Trump himself, Auerbach notes, seems less concerned with the content than in the pure fact of being at its center. You could call him a con man, but con men have an end game: to get wealthy. Trump is already wealthy. What he needs, apparently pathologically, is adulation.

Even calling Trump a con artist seems an injustice, for a con artist has an ulterior motive. Trump has no motive other than to be the conman, not the conned.

As such, he is less a political figure than a figure of degenerate celebrity culture. And as new as that seems, Auerbach finds a link to one of the great novels of interwar Europe — Musil’s Man Without Qualities. Specifically, with an infamous murder whose violent narcissism fascinates the Viennese media.

I doubt many people have picked up this link, because nobody reads this book anymore except grad students. And even most of those don’t finish it (guilty as charged!). To Auerbach, this murderer “suffers the same shiftable tendencies as Trump. There is a hole at the core of his being.” Quoting Musil:

“Did you feel no remorse whatsoever?”
Something flickers in Moosbrugger’s mind—old prison wisdom: Feign remorse. The flicker gives a twist to his mouth and he says: “Of course I did!”
“But at the police station you said: “I feel no remorse at all, only such hate and rage I could explode!’” the judge caught him out.
“That may be so,” Moosbrugger says, recovering himself and his dignity, “it may be that I had no other feelings then.”

It’s the same kind of mentality, the narcissistic quality of being in an eternal present tense, where no facts or memories possess stable meaning beyond the utility of the moment.

It’s a fascinating connection. Even if you’ve never heard of Musil’s unfinished masterpiece, this article is worth a read.

ZomBerns contra Clinton

So the Russian government has released their brain-rotting hack, and the BernieBros who had just only barely been declared mostly dead have now shambled back to life. They’re currently groaning their loudest and resisting calls from their prophet himself to quiet their hunger for revenge.


Hillary Clinton’s enemies keep conjuring scandals, but she stays one step ahead.

And so yet another email scandal based refuses to die and stay buried. I can’t help but recall John Quiggin’s book Zombie Economics, in which he described several major economic theories that have been proven false by facts, and yet still stalk the living. We see the same with these pseudo-scandals. They feed the need for media conflict, for the angry minority in every society who merely seeks reasons for their rage. And the real terror of course is that zombies never tire. They persist, they keep moving forward, implacably

But after the garment rending of the DNC’s first hour, it seems the mood in the room is already quieting. Nationally, 90% of Bernie voters have already come around. And even in the hall, many of the ZomBerns seem to be feeling the fatigue of the flesh, and things are slowly calming down. As someone on MSNBC just said, “Maybe it’s just tiring to yell for hours.” And so even the ZomBerns will likely prove, in the end, “all too human.”

Coincidentally, Nietzsche’s All too Human also in parts described the break with a political friend and mentor — Richard Wagner, whom Nietzsche rejected after long admiration when Wagner’s antisemitic Christian nationalism grew too strong. In All too Human, referring to Wagner only as “The Artist,” Nietzsche rejected society’s emphasis on genius figures of singular greatness, claiming instead that true art comes from persistent hard work and struggle. Nietzsche’s final break with his former sage, in Nietzsche Contra Wagner, came as he descended into madness. There he called Wagner a “seducer”, one who led followers into madness.  Perhaps the ZomBerns are now poised to reject their own mentor, refusing his calls for unity and instead concentrating on a kind of cannibalistic consumption of the party they sought to lead.

Let us hope that the ZomBerns do not come to such a mad rejection. If they allow themselves to succumb to their undead hunger for conflict and anger, they will only bury any chance for success for the policy postions they claim to support.

As Nietzsche wrote in Contra Wagner, if I may reverse the order,

“Wagner was merely one of my sicknesses. My greatest experience was recovery.”

Nietzsche and Wagner broke over ideology. Bernie and Clinton largely share the same ideology, and yet the ZomBerns shamble on. Should they move from All too Human to Contra Clinton, it will be a sign of their own growing madness.


“No one is such a liar as the indignant”

Zombiethustra has been thinking a lot today about Beyond Good and Evil. It seems a fitting text for us during a week in which right wing nihilism takes center stage. When Ted Cruz can claim to defend gay rights, when the candidate’s wife can plagiarize text about honesty and hard work, when the candidate himself can invite Russia to invade NATO allies while proclaiming American strength, values have no meaning and we have moved beyond the territory in which we can even place this movement on a moral compass. It resists moral judgment because it holds no values beyond those that can be mobilized for momentary advantage.

You might say that Nietzsche embraced this destruction of values. As the sage who philosophized with a hammer, sounding out idols to smash old values and raise new ones, people see him as one who embraces such moral destruction. Additionally, the posthumous perversion of his doctrines into crude Triumphs of Will often causes him to be associated with the pseudo-morality of pure power.

As Max Whyte wrote in the Journal of Contemporary History, Nietzsche’s appropriation by the Nazis was neither wholly valid nor wholly misappropriated. “The claim,” he wrote, “that the National Socialists simply falsified the ‘true Nietzsche’ has spawned a certain interpretive myopia, a failure to engage with Nietzsche’s concrete, historical role in the ideological apparatus of the Nazi regime.” In other words, anyone interested in Nietzsche’s thought must accept how his words and ideas so easily became perverted into one of the Nazis’ intellectual bastions.

Take Aphorism 29 from Beyond Good and Evil, one in which he extolls the virtues of strength and power as prerequisites for true freedom.

Independence is an issue that concerns very few people: — it is a prerogative of the strong.

In one way, this describes Trump’s appeal quite well. As his followers say, they back him because he is above influence, he is so rich as to be powerful, so powerful as to be free of the constraints affecting establishment politicians. The reality of Trump’s strength is of course highly contested — his many bankruptcies, business failures, and trail of broken relationships attest to a record of limitations. Similarly, the political style of “dominance politics” is largely performance. Like as with the Stormtroopers performance of authoritative masculinity, it comes from a place of insecurity rather than strength. As I wrote in chapter 2 of Stormtrooper Families,

A political movement based on masculinity and male camaraderie cannot merely assert these qualities, nor are such traits a simple case of lineage, class, profession, or education. Men instead have to create, demonstrate, and constantly perform their masculine identity. This is true even among men who appear to conform most easily to its stereotypes. Among men who do not, performance and assertion become even higher priorities.

When fascist and neo-fascist politics base themselves on images of strength, freedom from constraint, and the Will to Power, they attempt to mobilize this Nietzschean theory of strength. If only the strong have freedom, breaking the rules demonstrates strength.

But there is a dark side to this attempt at strength — many of the people who attempt it do so because they are perhaps “brave to the point of madness.” Regarding such people, Nietzsche said:

He enters a labyrinth, he multiplies by a thousand the dangers already inherent in the very act of living, not the least of which is the fact that no one with eyes will see how and where he gets lost and lonely and is torn limb from limb by some cave-Minotaur of conscience. And assuming a man like this is destroyed, it is an event so far from human comprehension that people do not feel it or feel for him: — and he cannot go back again! He cannot go back to their pity again!

In other words, Nietzsche said, one requires a strong internal compass to guide oneself through the maze of moral walls one tries to smash their way through. Rejecting the moral compass of others can degenerate into the rejection of any moral compass. And when you go into a maze without a compass, you are easy prey for minotaurs of the mind.

What will Trump do when his minotaur devours him? He cannot go back to pity!


“What? A great man?”

“I always see the actor of his own ideal.”


This week has been full of brain-rotting moments, and yet they keep topping themselves.


Now of course if we examine the rational possibilities, the odds that she actually gave a Nazi Heil — intentionally, subconsciously, or trollingly — are quite low. Openly giving a Nazi gesture would be politically suicidal.


Physiologists should think twice before positioning the drive for self-preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power – and self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of this. (Aphorism 13, Beyond Good and Evil)

Thus spoke Laura Ingram, with an outstretched arm and a will to Trump.

Transgressive politics: A 19th century perspective

The horde shambles into its third night. Last night, Chris Christie clawed his way through a modern day witch trial, a pseudo-legalistic prosecution that would have made Roland Freisler blush.

Said Steven Colbert, “Chris Christie: Promising terrifying show trials before a screaming mob with no representation for the defense!”

Radiohead even made a video for the convention:

Shortly after the screams reached their fever pitch on the television scream, in the skies outside a shockingly severe lightning storm tore through the DC area. As in a work of 19th century literature, the weather exploded in a powerfully violent reflection of the passions within the human hearts below. Damaging winds and lightning strikes seemed to forecast the damage this political psychosis promised to unleash across the country. (Just that night, Christie revealed that Trump was already planning a political purge of the civil service taken directly from the 1933 playbook. Across the world, Erdogan smiled.)

It was a dark night without sleep or rest.

But storms pass, and passions cool. The fundamentals are still strong for neo-fascism’s defeat. So tonight I want to post something more long-term, more reflective of the greater historical forces that cross generations and shape political landscapes over the long term. We’ll stick to the same themes of transgressive politics that have been the subject of the last few days, but let’s  let’s bring in some 19th century history along the way.

Last fall as the primary season shambled toward its horrifying result, conservative stalwart David Brooks made the rounds lamenting that the Republicans are no longer a conservative party in the Burkean sense that has grounded a certain type of conservatism since the turn of the 19th century:

“By traditional definitions,” he writes, “conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible.”

Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in many ways continues today as the foundational document of this type of conservatism. It embraces tradition, respects institutions, lauds gradualism, and distrusts efforts at social change that it believes merely unleash uncontrollable passion and unfortunate side effects.


Death of the Princesse de Lamballe, Leon Maxime-Faivre (1908)

I think most observers of politics from both left and right would agree that the mood dominating the Republican party at present is far removed from such Burkean foundations. This is not a value judgment — you can support or oppose Republican policies and you can support or oppose the Republican mood. They are two separate issues.

To bring in another 19th century political philosopher, John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty that “In politics… it is almost a commonplace, that a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life”

These parties, however, do not stay the same over the generations.

At the beginning of the Sixth Party System, in the mid to late 60s, the Republicans claimed the badge of Party of Order. They opposed the radical faction of the democratic movement that resisted the war in Vietnam, agitated for racial justice, rode the wave of student activism, and generally made its demands in ways much of the rest of the country found loud, aggressive, and obnoxious. The Democratic Convention of 1968 was the perfect flash point here — street violence and convention-floor chaos tabbed the Dems as a party of disorder and led to Nixon’s victory as a supposed agent of authority and order. (It’s more complicated than that of course, but that’s kind of the standard historical memory we have of that era—Nixon’s stance as Party of Law and Order, the avatar of the Silent Majority inaugurated a new era of the Republican coalition that endured for decades. Of course, as Corey Robin pointed out in response to Brooks, that coalition began with its own inherent radicalism.)

Now we see the opposite: Republican political and media figures regularly speak in apocalyptic, violent rhetoric, sometimes blending into actual violence by their followers. In both the House and Senate, they destroy longstanding parliamentary traditions (routine use of the filibuster and refusal to confirm appointment including even the Supreme Court), issue insults in formal settings (“You lie!”), and engage in diplomatic slights that previous generations would have thought unthinkable (undercutting U.S. diplomacy with foreign officials). They have chosen an outsider presidential candidate for the express purpose of smashing the system. None of these are political judgments or accusations on my part — their supporters back them because of these actions, which they see as necessary to destroy a corrupt system.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have chosen a technocratic centrist who aspires to make the existing system work better. Her problems securing her left flank result from a lack of anger and destructive ambition, while conversely she attracts some support from the center right because she seems to reassure that no matter the policy differences, she will still embody continuity of the system itself.

Again, this is not a value judgment from me (although certainly Nietzsche and Zarathustra embraced value judgments). No, this is merely a neutral description of how both parties perceive themselves.

So in the sense Mill meant, this concept is not about moving left and right on a policy spectrum, instead it describes the methods and tones a party uses, its relationship to the political establishment, and its engagement or enmity with the long-term structures of society and politics.

Though the Republicans may frequently proclaim themselves the Party of Order, anyone can see that they in fact sow chaos. They are proud of it. They embrace it. And they will use it to destroy the old order, and create one anew.




Man without measure, woman without words

The RNC horrorfest begins its second day, hoping that yesterday’s festival of doomsaying and Dolchstoss have left its audience suitably terrified. The program is currently running behind schedule due to the delegates chewing each others’ brains over whose votes should be counted and how, though the numbers under discussion are so small as to be meaningless to the ultimate rise of their immanent god-king Trump.

But the big story of the day has been last night’s plagiarism scandal, with Malinda Trump borrowing several significant passages from none other than the current first lady Michelle Obama. Zombiethustra cannot help but consider his thoughts of yesterday, on the phenomenon of Trump, the Measureless Man. Just as Trump stepped on his own toes in interrupting a factually challenged but emotionally effective speech against the hated Hillary, so too did this derision for the rules of writing cause a needless distraction from the message of strength he wanted to send.

As many commenters have pointed out, the problem wasn’t even plagiarism itself. Nobody expects even the candidates themselves to write every word of their speeches – much less a candidate’s wife unexperienced in politics and speaking English as a second language. A normal campaign, faced with such obvious plagiarism, would have thrown a sacrificial intern to the slavering media zombies and allowed the poor youth’s brains to be their feast. Problem solved. This is not that campaign.

As Josh Marshall has noted,

That’s just not how Trump works. When you’re under fire, you attack. When you’re caught, you lie. These are all things that can work in small settings, with small groups of people you can bully and intimidate, with yes-men and compliant media. It can also work before an electorate focused not on policy but on provocation, revenge and dominance. It is not sustainable at this level of national media exposure, with other power players in the mix who are not so easily cowed, bullied or tricked.

Marshall has a good handle on the Trump phenomenon, especially in the proto-fascist mood he refers to as “dominance politics” (he finds the fascist label an unhelpful distraction). And this is certainly a good example of the transgressive nature of Trump’s candidacy — not only the fact of the plagiarism, but the denials detached from reality.

Connor Friedersdorf, certainly no liberal, pointed this out as the flip side of Trump’s “not a normal politician” shtick. Normal politicians must at least grapple with reality; these creatures do not. As campaign manager Paul Manafort claimed the next morning,

There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family. To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.

To double down on the Yiddishkeit, it’s called chutzpah. “Transparent absurdity” to Friedersdorf. The problem posed by Trump’s campaign is that every time he violates a rule of politics, it makes him more attractive to his followers, not less. That’s the danger of transgressive candidates and Measureless Men: they are unbound by the normal rules while their opponents must still adhere to them.

But this is the type of encounter with reality that ultimately drags Measureless Men to their graves. Like Hitler’s most famous speech of the internet era, the Man of Genius cannot will away material realities when they come crashing down in the form of either Russian tanks or plagiarized speeches. Things no rational observer can deny, they deny.

Nobody cares about whether a few lines were plagiarized, or at least they would not care if the campaign accepted it as the problem it so obviously is. Strong Men seeking to become authoritarian leaders are quite similar to zombies in that there is only one wound that can stop them. In the zombie case, destroy the brain. In the case of the Strong Man, he is immune to all traditional political weapons — but looking ridiculous will slay him.

As Matt Yglesias wrote at Vox, “Trump’s pitch is that he’ll shatter the bonds of political correctness that are oppressing America. Harping on the fact that this is what Trump is doing” will merely prove useless because his base sees such shattering as a vital part of their strategy to seize power.

However, he notes:

Plagiarism offers a window into a different aspect of Trump, one that isn’t integral to his appeal. Trump is a phony. And a lazy one at that. He refuses to put in the work, and if he becomes president the consequences are likely to be disastrous and unpredictable.

Just ask his wife who stood up on a nationally broadcast primetime telecast to vouch for his integrity and decency, and turns out to have been set up for humiliation because Trump couldn’t be bothered to build the kind of professional presidential campaign that would equip Melania Trump with a decent speech.

The embarrassment comes not from the initial mistake, but rather from the refusal to accept the mistake, to admit to any imperfection, to experience any form of weakness, to reject the concept that the Man could have Measure at the very time that irrefutable video record has proven he does. To Yglesias, it shows Trump as lazy, incompetent, and weak.

James Fallows saw another side: Some rules that Trump repeatedly violates come in the form of frustrations many people have with American politics (with any politics). Many people on both sides resent overly scripted candidates, campaigns that seem to avoid speak to the heart of issues, and personalities that seem inauthentic. These so-called rules of politics can be violated, they are precisely the Measures that a Measureless Man rejects.

However, other rules of politics are not rules in the sense of being traditions, expectations, or manners held by a stuffy elite who uses them to guard its power. As James Fallows said, “These are not the ‘rules’ of politics in some crusty, due-to-be-overthrown sense. They are signs of basic operational competence. … Moves like these don’t represent ‘a fresh approach’ or ‘shaking things up’ or ‘being authentic.’ They represent incompetence.”

If fascism and its related political forms get a lot of mileage from seeming to make the trains run on time. When those trains go off the rails, regimes fall, or fail to even rise.




A Man Without Measure

Among the wonders of our age is the way youtube can dig up forgotten videos and save them from the grave. I’d never seen this David Frost interview with Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth. It must have taken place some time after his 1966 release from Spandau prison, where he served 20 years for his role in the Nazi crimes against humanity.

Much of the interview is typical for the “repentant Nazi” genre: a mix of apologies for the overall sin while avoiding all culpability for specific crimes, claiming a degree of generalized moral culpability while blaming others for the worst excesses, downplaying ideological commitment while highlighting professional service. (In Schirach’s case, his crimes involved the brainwashing of a generation of youths, and either enabling or at least allowing the genocide of Austrian Jews while he was in charge of Vienna during the war.)

The interview therefore is most interesting in its small moments, such as how Hitler ingratiated himself in the early years in aristocratic circles the young Schirach grew up in. Schirach can’t help but be charmed all over again when he recalls Hitler’s jokes, his friendship, all explained in flawless English thanks to his German-American background. He says it all with a twinkle in his eye, as if he expects us to be charmed too.

At around the 15:15 point, Frost asks Schirach to summarize Hitler in one or two sentences. After some demurral concerning the difficulty of such a task, he responds:

“A man without measure. A man with great gifts. A man who in some ways could be considered a genius.”

So far, so typical for someone so charmed by the Fuerher to whom he surrendered his fate while still a young man. And certainly the “man without measure” formulation recalls the tendency to call such grand dictators “great,” even if such a moniker recalls the terrible side of such greatness. But Schirach has something else in mind with this description, something far more interesting. The full quote runs:

“A man without measure. A man with great gifts. A man who in some ways could be considered a genius. But because he had no sense of measure, he could not succeed.”

This is actually very astute. Hitler succeeded for many years because he never accepted limits to his desires or behaviors. He thought and acted in absolutes. He recognized no limits on his actions, no constraints on his behavior, no norms or institutional mores or other social brakes that could temper his demands or blunt his drive to impose maximal punishment on his enemies.

Now at the risk of immediately going Full Godwin, I’m reminded of tonight’s immanent spectacle of Trump speaking on the first night of his convention. This is a great departure from tradition, in which the candidate appears in the hall in stages, their allies and supporters building the excitement and authority for them to take advantage of when they finally step forward on the final night to accept the nomination and become the party’s leader. This slow build creates a symbolic swell of collective acclimation and broad support behind the nominee, pushing them into the general election as a candidate put forward by a movement, not just as a singular personality. But such a strategy requires a candidate willing to accept the concept that their legitimacy comes from collective support, rather than their own “great gifts” or “genius.”

Trump was never amenable to such a structure. He was always clearly uncomfortable with the idea that he would not be in the spotlight every moment. Indeed, he supposedly flirted with speaking every night, and when finally dissuaded from that idea he decided he still would speak first night to introduce his wife. This itself is a break in tradition – a small one, a minor blip in the larger stream of daily unprecedented smashing of norms that terrifies his enemies and thrills his followers.

This doesn’t make him Hitler. But it does make him a threat. Political figures who refuse to be bound by norms and traditions send dangerous signals about the ways they will rule.

Fortunately, such a trait can be dangerous to themselves as well. Just tonight, Trump’s need for the spotlight stepped on his own toes during the deeply emotional speech of a mother whose son was killed in Banghazi. She spit hot fire and righteous anger at Hillary Clinton, whom she blamed for the death of her son. It was the type of raw emotional blitzkrieg that the Republican base consumes with boundless hunger, immune to refutation by irritating facts that might complicate their rage. For the base, it was perhaps a perfect moment. But viewers of Fox News — the precise audience this speech was meant to enrage and mobilize — didn’t see it in its entirety. Trump spontaneously called in and they obediently surrendered their audio for his stream of consciousness chatter. It was, as Rachel Maddow understatedly claimed, “an unusual decision.”

Those seeking to slay Trumpism are going to have a nervous week. The spectacle of the Convention is designed to showcase the limitless potential and powerful presence of any nominee, and this one in particular seems designed to highlight the depth of rage and anger the Republican base seeks to unleash against the country. But there are limits to limitlessness, as a certain trumped-up Corporal discovered 70 years ago.

Dawn of the Delegate

The beasts are gathering in Cleveland, and already right out the gate the hall has turned feral.

As a historian of fascism, any comments I make comparing Trumpism and fascism must be well considered, cautious, and supported by a high degree of evidence-based analysis. Those historians who have increasingly weighed in on this phenomenon have generally hewn to this line in admirable ways.

Tonight, however, the calls are coming from inside the convention.

That’s former Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey saying that when he tried to raise a point of order, he was shouted down by “brownshirts” surrounding him, preventing the Dump Trump faction’s parliamentary procedure through bullying tactics. They may not actually be fascists, he said, but they have “the mindset of fascists.”

Now my first reaction — and I know something about the brownshirts — was that their favored tactic wasn’t exactly in the realm of political debate. If these guys shoved him out of the hall and punched him in the face, now that’s some brownshirt tactics. But of course, in many ways he’s right that fascists loved faux-legal tactics in which they manipulated parliamentary rules in their favor in order to secure a veneer of legality for their illegal actions. Most famously, they ensured passage of the Enabling Act by preventing Social Democratic and Communist delegates from taking their seats, locking many up in concentration camps. Then they declared that these delegates would not count toward the maximum, pushing their vote total over the two-thirds majority.

I’m not sure Sen. Humphrey was thinking of the Enabling Act when he made his statement. I suspect not. Stay tuned to this space in the coming days and weeks for more of my own thoughts, but in the meantime it’s interesting to see the comparisons being made right off the bat.