Apologies for going full-Godwin in the title of this essay (for those unaware, “Godwin” is a reference to the increasing probability of a Nazi reference as an Internet discussion continues), but Justice Kennedy’s retirement announcement has turned the Internet into such a seething mass of Godwinism that some commentary seems apt.

A brief exchange I witnessed began with a story about how White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was famously ejected from a restaurant merely for being a Trump staffer, was being assigned Secret Service protection. The point of the discussion was about the loss of civility and the damage it’s doing to both discourse and the functioning of government. Then, Godwin reared his head.

In 1934, it wasn’t clear to a lot of people that Hitler was actually Hitler…

Indeed. I’ve repeatedly heard the argument from the Left that Hitler was only recognized as a monster in retrospect, that there are parallels that should warn us, and so forth. I also caught someone predicting that Trump would set the stage for his ignoring the Constitutional term limit and making himself president-for-life, but one-off nutters do not a trend make. However, the sheer volume of Trump-Hitler comparisons, especially in the wake of Kennedy’s announcement, is large enough to tell us that it’s not a fringe idea.

Given the extreme shallowness of thought that the Left has exhibited these past few years, I’m normally inclined to wave off such histrionics, but another comment about Trump’s Court selections i.e. Gorsuch and the working list of 25 names suggested it was time to ponder this matter.

The analysis is simple.

Would Hitler appoint a strict constructionist (and probably another), likely to stand against any future attempts to wipe out individual liberties, likely to keep the citizenry armed, and likely to reject the sort of big-government power grabs that would be necessary forerunners to the rise of a totalitarian, Nazi-esque regime?

Or would he appoint statists of the sort the Left likes, who don’t see a problem in the growing accrual of government power, and who consider the Constitution a “living document,” to be consulted and interpreted, rather than strictly obeyed?

Would a Hitler-ish Trump set roadblocks in his way, or would he look to bend the court into something pliable and subservient? Would he follow the conservative-Republican playbook of originalists and constructionists, or the Democratic playbook of progressives who dismiss the Constitution as written by old white slave owners?

Might he be the sort to scold or threaten the Court if it dared defy him? Oh, wait, that has happened already. The culprits weren’t Republicans, by the way…

Comparing Trump to Hitler does three things, all very bad.

It diminishes the real horrors of Nazism, the Holocaust, and World War II, at a time when those who were experienced those horrors are becoming fewer and fewer, and thus less of a voice of “I was there, I saw the reality.” It pre-empts honest and legitimate discussion and criticism of the Untethered Orange Id, since going Godwin is pretty much a nuclear option in debate, meant to end things abruptly. And, it prompts those hesitant to walk the Godwin path to shy away from those who do, and possibly even grow a sympathy for him and his administration that will provide cover for things that should be criticized. Case in point – the zero-tolerance policy of separating illegal alien children from their parents, that created such a firestorm. It was wrongheaded and cruel, but the Trump-Hitler response prompted many to defend and excuse the policy.

So, here’s a suggestion for the Godwins among us. Stop it. Stop with the constant Nazi references, in particular regarding the Court. Nothing you say now will affect Trump’s selection one whit. Wait and see who he picks. If he trots out a Goebbels, Heydrich, Himmler, or Eichmann, then by all means scream it from the rooftops. But, if he picks someone from his list, someone who’s an originalist in the Gorsuch vein (which would make me very happy), go ahead and complain without references to the Third Reich. You might find that your complaints might actually be listened to, instead of dismissed as the ravings of an unhinged snowflake.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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