One of the main criticisms of Bernie Sanders from both Republicans and more conservative Democrats is that he’s a self-described “socialist.” Over the past few decades, conservatives loyal to big money interests have done everything they can to make the word socialist a slur, all while conveniently ignoring the fact that socialism is alive and well in America – but only for large corporations.
While their corporate donors collect bailouts and subsidies that make the most blatant examples of welfare fraud look like child’s play, conservative lawmakers and pundits have railed against the dangers of socialism, claiming it would destroy America as we know it. Often the phrase “national socialist” or “nationalist socialism” comes up, which they will then use to connect the idea of socialism to Hitler.
Their logic goes as follows: socialism equals Hitler, therefore socialism also equals genocide, and as a result of this faulty logic, socialism is the greatest evil America has faced since the latest conservative freakout involving gays, Planned Parenthood, guns, Muslims or President Obama invading Texas to take their guns and force the rest of those things on the population.
Bernie Sanders’ views, when you look at what he actually stands for instead of listening to the shrieks from conservatives, really aren’t extreme at all. However, Kevin Williamson from the National Review decided to go with Godwin’s Law while dismissing the Sanders campaign in an article titled “Bernie’s Strange Brew of Nationalism and Socialism.” He also decided to cast the campaign as racist, xenophobic and out of touch with reality – a charge that is often leveled justifiably at candidates in the race for the Republican nomination.
As Matt Yglesias at Vox points out, there were other ways to describe or criticize Bernie Sanders and his politics without going the Nazi route, but Kevin Williamson decided to pretend there weren’t.
One could say that this is a repugnant thing to say about a man who is not only not a Nazi, but in fact an old Jewish guy whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But Williamson is actually well aware that Sanders’s family was murdered in the Holocaust. He even says it makes him “queasy” to call Sanders a Nazi. “But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.”
I think it’s actually pretty easy to characterize Sanders as something other than a Nazi. You can accurately describe him, for instance, as a left-wing liberal and a loyal ally of American labor unions — for high taxes and a generous welfare state, but also skeptical of international trade deals.
But Williamson thinks there is no other way to characterize Sanders’s views than to say he’s a national socialist. (Source)
Invoking Hitler is par for the course for low-brow blogs like World Net Daily or Conservative Tribune that serve as mindless, paranoid fodder for mass consumption by people who believe President Obama is secretly a gay Muslim sent to destroy the country. The sad thing is, I kind of respected Kevin Williamson until now. Despite the fact that he is a conservative writer, he didn’t usually go down the conspiracy rabbit hole or invoke Hitler, which is exceedingly rare these days when it comes to conservative media.
I’ve even used his article “The White Ghetto” in arguments about government assistance programs and the failure of trickle-down economics because it points out that the poorest county in America (Owsley County, KY) is 98.5% white, and has a ridiculous number of people unemployed and on government assistance. What Kevin Williamson failed to point out is that Owsley County is overwhelmingly Republican, but the article didn’t try to pin the blame for the county’s problems on the usual conservative scapegoats that include federal regulations, immigrants, etc.
I’m sure that Mr. Williamson knows the difference when it comes to fascism and socialism; he might even know that there are various kinds of socialism, even though many of his readers may not. Then again, with the complete smear campaign against Bernie Sanders and his supporters that Kevin Williamson decided to undertake, it seems that intellectual honesty or even acknowledging there are different aspects of socialism were the least of his concerns.
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