Beto O’Rourke has taken some alarming positions during his campaign for the presidency. From declaring that he would send police door to door to seize people’s firearms to suggesting that he will tax churches that don’t toe the line on LGBTQ rights, the candidate from El Paso has pushed the envelope for public policy proposals.
Now he has taken to comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. Beto started this violation of Godwin’s Law last July when he compared one of the president’s famous monster MAGA rallies to the famous Nazi rally in Nuremberg, the one that was immortalized by Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.”
While no brown clad stormtroopers or red swastika flags were in evidence, Beto declared, “What we saw in North Carolina last week was almost an impromptu Nuremberg rally inciting hatred, and, ultimately, I think implicit in that is violence against people based on the color of their skin, based on their religion, based on their difference from the majority of Americans,” according to the Washington Examiner.
The analogy comparing illegal migrant detention centers to Nazi concentration camps has also been a regular feature of Democratic Party rhetoric. O’Rourke’s statement was widely condemned at the time, including from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Hitler and the Nazi Holocaust were uniquely evil and anyone who compares something else to them is engaged in demagoguery.
Fast forward to late October. Beto sat down for an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted that the candidate has said that a recent statement by President Trump about the Kurds has been “inspired” by Nazi racist propaganda, according to the Washington Examiner. Would the candidate care to defend that analogy?
Beto replied, “Find me a better analogy of another leader of a Western democracy describing all people of one religion as inherently defective, or disqualified, or dangerous. That is what the president has done.” He also doubled down on the comparison of Trump rallies to Nazi Party rallies from the 1930s.
O’Rourke was referring to a statement made by the President in which he lauded the ceasefire implemented in Northern Syria. He had suggested that the Turks, who had invaded the region, had a legitimate grievance with some of the Kurds who they regard as terrorists. The president referred to the 20-mile buffer zone that the Turks have carved out as having been “cleaned out,” a phrase that some people suggest is a justification for ethnic cleansing.
While some pundits have suggested that the president’s comments were, at best, insensitive, the Nazi comparison seemed to many to be a little much. Indeed, Beto has run afoul of Godwin’s Law, first set down by Mike Godwin about arguments that would crop up from time to time on the Usenet, a progenitor of social media that existed in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler or Nazism approaches certainty that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends.”
Mike Godwin, a lawyer, and author noticed that the phenomenon would crop up in subjects that had little to do with the Nazi era, such as gun control and abortion. For example, the Nazis confiscated firearms, so anyone favoring such a policy must be a Nazi. So, Beto O’Rourke, who favors house to house searches to deprive private citizens of their firearms, could be accused of being a Nazi according to Godwin’s Law.
Of course, while Beto O’Rourke has been free with Nazi analogies during the current presidential campaign, no one seems to have turned that back around and used such to label some of his views. Beto lacks Hitler’s style, for one thing. One could never imagine Hitler appearing on a platform riding a skateboard.
On the other hand, to invoke Godwin’s excellent meme further, Hitler was all about ethnic identity and so is Beto. Robert Francis O’Rourke is as Irish as the day is long. Yet he likes to be referred to by a Hispanic “nickname” in an attempt to be taken as a Hispanic.
Indeed, both men are failed artists. Beto failed at punk rock. Hitler failed at visual arts,
The point is that O’Rourke should be careful about Nazi comparisons. They could be turned against him.