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Demint The Historian

Ed Kilgore is managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and a frequent contributor to a variety of political journals.

It’s probably a mistake to devote more thought to analyzing remarks by Jim DeMint than the senator put into uttering them. But since both Chris Orr and Jon Chait (and many others) have drawn attention to the wacky South Carolinian’s bizarre comment about America’s resemblance to pre-World-War-II Germany, I’d offer an alternative interpretation.

Sure, maybe DeMint was comparing our country to Nazi Germany, and indirectly, Barack Obama to Hitler; this is, after all, one of the favorite analogies of anti-abortion absolutists (who never seem to note that the birth-rate-obsessed Nazis were violently opposed to abortions, at least among Aryans). But since DeMint referred to Germany becoming “a social democracy” before World War II, maybe he was talking about Weimar Germany, and was echoing, consciously or unconsciously, the popular right-wing nostrum that the “chaos” of that regime’s “decadent parliamentary democracy” made the advent of the Third Reich inevitable if not actually salutary. That would comport with DeMint’s iron conviction that “social democracies” produce “tyranny” by seducing people into dependence on government and then encouraging them to loot their wealthy and virtuous neighbors. And it would also fit in nicely with DeMint’s Jesse-Helms-style enthusiasm for right-wing coups in Latin America. After all, what’s a little fascism—of the illiberal kind, at least—compared to the horror of progressive taxes or universal health care.

--Ed Kilgore