How the Right Started Acting Like the Left
It goes without saying that the modern left views their political opponents as proto-Nazis. This of course puts them in the enviable position of wearing the white hat regardless of the strength of their arguments. The sheer volume of media attacks on Donald Trump for somehow gleaning from Adolph Hitler is overwhelming. Just recently, Vox carried the subtitle: “Trump isn’t Hitler. But when it comes to the courts, he’s successfully borrowing the Nazi’s playbook.” The association this time is that in the same way Hitler used his arrest for the Munich Beer Hall Putsch to promote himself, so Trump is also using his arrest for election interference to promote his candidacy. Of course, modern Leftists fail to see the parallels between their leaders and Nazis on things like race obsession, healthcare, and environmental policies. Only conservatives are guilty of adopting Nazi beliefs.
Ironically, modern conservatives foolishly seem determined to appropriate this lazy smear for themselves as a defense mechanism and a way to convince their voter base that political progressives are the “true Nazis” and thus win the moral high ground. Before adopting this tactic it is wise to consider where it came from, who benefits from it, and how conservatives traditionally critiqued Nazism.
Though the strategy of connecting one’s opponents to Nazis is more aggressive and common today, the Paris Peace Treaties were hardly dry when it started. In 1950, Frankfurt School psychologist Theodor Adorno published The Authoritarian Personality which suggested things like parental authority, traditional gender roles, family pride, preserving heterosexuality, defending American culture, and Christian beliefs signaled “implicit prefascist tendencies.”1 During the 1952 presidential campaign, Democrats weaponized this association game.
President Harry Truman blamed Republicans for things like opposing civil rights, restricting immigration, and promoting the belief that Soviet subversives had infiltrated the State Department. This “big lie” he said was “deadly to the American tradition of liberty” and the kind of weapon “used by the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Communists.” He warned the National Jewish Welfare Board that Americans should be “vigilant” to oppose “the philosophy of racial superiority developed by the Nazis” from reemerging in the United States “under the guise of anti-communism.” He even linked Republican’s opposition to government-subsidized jobs programs to an unwillingness to “defend ourselves against the aggression of the Nazis and the Fascists” and “do business with Hitler” instead. Ironically, all of this was aimed at Dwight Eisenhower, who defeated actual Nazis, but was now guilty of accepting “the very practices that identified the so-called ‘master race.”2
Today’s American left increasingly destroys more and more cultural artifacts, organizations, and people through this effective strategy. Everything from MAGA Republicans to Moms for Liberty are smeared as Nazis or part of the growing list of supposedly repackaged Nazi beliefs like white supremacy, kinism, Christian nationalism, and Confederate sympathizing. Such has always been the post-WWII Left’s undeveloped understanding. They seem to think that anything with a hint of concern for the preservation of European heritage, tradition, or culture will produce another Hitler and Holocaust. Being “anti-Nazi” now requires one to purge Western societies of their very identities.
American political conservatives have long pointed out the Left’s hypocrisy on this point. James Burnham expressed concern in 1961 that the United Nations exclusively focused on racialism from “Western whites” such as Nazis and Klansmen while ignoring “the anti-white outrages of the black Congolese, the anti-Semitic activities of North African Arabs . . . the Mau Mau terror,” and other examples.3 Currently, the United States Department of Justice is suing SpaceX for employing American citizens instead of asylum seekers and refugees. It is a modern sin to prefer one’s own people if they are white and this is somehow proven by the fact that Hitler preferred white people and committed genocide.
Of course, Anglo-American conservatives have always opposed Nazism but on different grounds. Early post-war conservatives believed Hitler’s problem was not that he loved his country or his people too much but rather that he twisted natural affinities for blood and soil into loyalty to a totalitarian ideology. They saw little difference between Nazism and Bolshevism on this point. Neither fascism nor communism were capable of achieving their ideal world and thus produced rulers committed to fantasies that destroyed the lives of the people they claimed to love. Gerhart Niemeyer asked: “Does it make sense when people, in the name of the good life, initiate wholesale purges, liquidate entire classes of the population, insist on prescribing the detailed structure of a faraway society, maintain an army of spies, and spies against those spies?”4 The obvious answer is “No.” Hitler did not love his own people as much as he did a certain abstract construction of society people’s lives were made to fit into.
National Socialists worked to achieve what Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called an “irrational mixture of biology and collectivism” and conservatives critiqued them on both counts.5 They objected to the way Nazis “declassed and denied many privileges” to non-Aryans which forced upon society a new disruptive hierarchy.[. Forrest Davis, “The Right to Nullify,” National Review, April 25, 1956, 11.] They disagreed with the novel way Nazis imagined Jews to be less than people.6 They pointed out how Nazis developed a welfare state which suppressed individual freedom to live, think, and work. This was the opposite of conservatism which sought to preserve traditional arrangements formed by Providence over time through experience.7
This is why many post-war conservatives rejected the Left’s attempts to paint them as Nazis. Kuehnelt-Leddihn said the National Socialists “always belonged to the Left” and the idea that they were “of the ‘right’ [was] one of the most successful hoaxes in history.”8 In The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk echoed this point. Kirk wrote: “The Nazi and Fascist parties were destructive instruments, made possible by the hysteria and loneliness of the masses who enthusiastically supported them; though now and again these ideologies might endeavor to disguise themselves by talk of ‘family’ and ‘tradition,’ this was no better than sham: their nature and object was revolutionary.”9 Conservatism and Nazism were mortal enemies by nature.
One way to show this more clearly is to examine the way National Socialists viewed religion. Nazi leadership believed Christianity competed with their ideology. Hitler mocked Christianity as a Jewish belief. He said: “I will not tolerate it, if a parson meddles in earthly affairs. The organized lie must be broken, so that the state is absolute lord.”10 Heinrich Himmler said, “We shall not rest until we have rooted out Christianity.”11 As a result, the state agents seized most church property, routinely accused ministers of financial misconduct or sexual perversion, eliminated para-Church ministries and information outlets, and arrested thousands of clergy. When jurist Helmuth James von Moltke was condemned to death in 1945 for consulting with clergy on “the practical-ethical demands of Christianity” He said: “Christianity and we National Socialists have one thing in common, and one thing only. We claim the whole man.”12
This aggressive opposition to Christianity resembled what took place during the French Revolution. Russell Kirk applied Edmund Burke’s critique of that event to 20th-century tyrants who religiously prioritized the will of the modern state over people’s natural interests.13 In both Jacobinism and socialism, the state subordinated every social impulse. Unlike Leftists who share their anti-Nazi enthusiasm with communists, Anglo-American conservatives saw their own disagreement represented more in the German State’s religious opponents. Frederick Augustus Voigt wrote: “The people who did most against the Nazis were not the Communists, not even the Socialists, but the active Christians and the conservatives, the Jesuits, the ministers, the Junkers, the colonels, the aristocrats.”14
James Donohoe recounted in his book Hitler’s Conservative Opponents in Bavaria how many Bavarian Christians believed “the ‘new Germany’ had departed from values and traditions of which Germans had once been so proud.” Donohoe writes that “most of those who were actively opposed to Hitler in the years after 1933 were equally opposed to the old-fashioned nineteenth-century liberalism” as well as Bolshevism. They opposed National Socialism the way Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution. That is, by appealing to Christianity, traditional social hierarchy, and private property. They defended the “liberty of the Church” because they believed the Christian religion was true, not because they prized the mere freedom to worship in a religiously neutral, pluralistic society.15
In modern America, these opponents of Hitler would likely be classified by the media as “Christian Nationalists.” Yet their instincts mirror that of older generations of Anglo-American conservatives who rightly detected in Nazism the innovations of modernity and rejected them. This older conservative tradition in America also rejected Progressivism and any ideology people sought “to make the yardstick for all political decisions.” Gehart Niemyer observed that those conservatives who “fought militantly both Nazism and Communism and have seen the destruction wrought by these totalitarian ideologies have acquired a certain primordial fear of all ideological thinking.”16 But wisely, they recognized the political reality that National Socialism had collapsed and was at most, a historical reminiscence.17 New threats demanded their attention which is why they spent little time rehashing their critiques to warn about an enemy already defeated.
Leftists fault anyone who falls short of sharing their obsession with smoking out Nazis as somehow harboring pro-Nazi sentiments. It does not matter how often former President Trump denounced neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Klansmen, the media constantly subjected him to renewing his disavowal. These ritualistic purity tests are perhaps what led to the modern political right’s seared conscience on this whole issue. There’s a good example of this from a few years ago at a large gun-rights rally in Richmond. A conservative blogger noticed that the event did not seem to be about gun rights at all. Instead, the goal was disproving the Leftist narrative that Nazis and Klansmen are the only ones who care about gun rights and instead painting then Governor Ralph Northam as the true Nazi and Klansman. This, of course, is the same Ralph Northam who thought it was acceptable to do things like raze monuments and kill children after birth. Yet, the message the crowd emphasized with their signs and slogans was how racist he supposedly was as if that was relevant to his attempted gun grab.
Now political activists on the Right are starting to adopt the Left’s moral framing and priorities. Nate Hochmann, an aide working for the Ron Desantis campaign, was immediately fired from his position after retweeting an exaggerated political video that briefly featured an obscure symbol apparently used by Nazis. Yet, Christina Pushaw, the campaign’s rapid response director, defended congratulating a homosexual father who had twins through surrogacy the same month. Last year, a historian on the Virginia Board of Historic Resources had to resign from Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration for simply supporting monuments to Confederate soldiers. Yet again, this was the same administration that hosted a series of Pride Month events.
The Left’s long “cancel-culture” tradition, now adopted by the Right, is starting to extend to traditional Christians. Just recently Lizzie Marbach, the communications director for Ohio Right to Life, was fired for social media activity culminating in the statement: “There’s no hope for any of us outside of having faith in Jesus Christ alone.” Republican Congressman Max Miller took offense claiming it was “one of the most bigoted tweets” he had ever seen. The exclusivity of Marbach’s rather conventional claim was beyond the pale in our society of pretended tolerance.
These representative examples of the political Right policing themselves are happening during a time when conservative industry leaders seem more concerned with normalizing homosexuality than responding to the Left’s constant attacks on white people. They conceive of America in ways only Progressives used to. In truth, America is more the abstract ideas of freedom and equality than it is a tangible place filled with tangible people. As egalitarian sentiments increase, Right-Wingers follow in the footprints laid down for them by radicals. As a result, gatekeepers in politically Right circles are conditioned into suspecting Nazi sympathies simply because someone values a sense of people and place. This became more clear to me recently as I watched conservative and evangelical Christian outlets try to eviscerate Stephen Wolfe’s book The Case for Christian Nationalism.
Though legitimate critiques exist, most reviews took him to task for alleged fascistic tendencies. Stephen said what many Christian thinkers before him, including Augustine and John Calvin, believed: That “blood relations matter for your ethnicity because your kin have belonged to this people on this land.” It did not matter that Wolfe clarified he rejected “modern racialist principle” and was not making a “white nationalist” argument.18 Paul Matzko in Reason Magazine wrote that “Wolfe has composed a segregationist political theology.” Kevin DeYoung claimed in his review for The Gospel Coalition that Wolfe’s arguments bore “resemblance to certain blood-and-soil nationalisms of the 19th and 20th centuries.” Virgil Walker wrote for G3 Ministries that “Wolfe’s version of nationalism maintains consistency with the kind of German volkism that paved the way for ethnic German nationalism.”
But this was never the problem political conservatives had with Nazism until very recently. In fact, some of their critiques were that National Socialists did not value people and place enough. The Nazis violated sovereign borders, persecuted their own countrymen, and destroyed sacred traditions. Thus, conservatives the “blood and soil” slogan as merely that, a slogan. To whatever extent the conservatives possessed an affinity for their own people, it disagreed with the Nazi instinct to replace natural affections with a love for power and ideology.
What modern political conservatives fail to see is how their willingness to cancel others for violating egalitarian principles shares more in common with the ideologues they claim to oppose than it does their conservative heritage. Authentic conservatives have a much stronger argument against National Socialism but it is not one they need to deploy seeing as how busy they are fighting actual threats. Younger members of the Right are starting to see the failures of late-stage post-war conservatism. The question is whether they will have the opportunity to conserve conservatism by restoring a Christian moral framework that values people and place while rejecting newly adopted ideologies and Leftist, but now bipartisan, tactics.
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