L. Brooks Patterson, the Republican who serves as Oakland County’s executive, likened fellow Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger to Adolph Hitler Friday after Bolger summarily suspended some committee assignments following a tiff with Democratic leaders. Patterson made the comment during a taping of “Off the Record,” and even highlighted the point by using his black comb to resemble a Hitler mustache.
In a previous column, I made sport of Bolger’s shakeup of Democratic committee assignments, saying he was confusing political theater for all-out political warfare. But Hitler? I’m think an inference to genocide in Capitol politics is a tad over the top.
In recent years, calling one's opponents 'Hitler' or 'Nazis' has been the rise as our politics have become more polarized. It happens on both sides of the aisle, and often, the zealots actually mean it. President Obama is Hitler for pushing gun control! Former president George W. Bush and his staff were Nazis in pursuing enhanced interrogation techniques!
The truth is, Hitler has become such a monster in our collective mind that no person, friend or foe, can really be compared to him – certainly not Bolger. It’s a place in history that Hitler has earned. He did, after all, order the deaths of 6 million Jews.
Aside from a coarsening of the political culture, the real danger with the repeated Hitler-smears is that over time, Hitler, and all he represented, begins to seem less threatening. If everyone in politics is like Hitler, perhaps the idea subconsciously permeates that Hitler wasn’t all that bad. Awareness of the atrocities slowly fade.
Surely, we can agree that Hitler’s victims deserve better than that.