Rule No. 1 of politics goes like this: Don’t compare anything to Nazi Germany. Just don’t.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, broke that rule over the weekend in an interview with Fox News.
In the interview, Clyburn was pressed on comments he made last week that the US “is on track to repeat what happened in Germany.”
“The facts are very clear,” Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’ve studied history all of my life. I’ve taught history. And I’m telling you, what I see here are parallels to what the history was in this world back in the 1930s in Germany, in Italy.”
Clyburn went on to note that voting for “election deniers” and “lairs” amounts to supporting the same sort of structures that led to the rise of fascist states in Germany and Italy.
Clyburn was also asked another recent comment in which he said that “losing this democracy very well could be the end of the world.”
“Nobody’s saying the world is ending. Democracy will be ended,” added Clyburn of an election where those who denied the 2020 results wind up winning. “The world would continue to exist. The world was here before Hitler, the world was here after Hitler.”
Which is really saying something.
Pressed again on his “end of the world” remark, Clyburn said he “misspoke.”
Before we go any further, it’s worth noting here that comparing anything to the Nazi regime, which led to the systemic murder of more than 6 million Jews, is a mistake. It just is. There is nothing in our current moment that suggests we are anywhere close to that.
That doesn’t mean, however, that democracy is not under real threat. It is. There are people who deny that the 2020 election was free and fair running for top positions in states from Arizona to Michigan to Pennsylvania.
Not all of them will win. But some likely will. And it’s hard to imagine that the same people who denied the fairness of the 2020 election, without any proof, might not do the same if the 2024 election doesn’t go their way.
That represents a serious threat to our way of life. After all, if we can’t accept that our leaders were fairly elected and have faith in the system, it’s very hard to imagine how we can expect anyone to effectively govern.
Which is bad! Very bad! But it’s also worth remembering that democracy held in 2020 – even while it was under active assault from Donald Trump and his minions.
We absolutely should be vigilant about the potential rise of authoritarian politicians who would wipe out things like the rule of law to further their own political ambitions.
But let’s stop making the Nazi Germany comparison. For all of our sakes.