Right-wing media have been smearing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, by comparing his ideology to that of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party. Experts have called the comparison “inaccurate,” “outrageous,” and “a trivialization of history.”
Historians And Civil Rights Activists On Sanders And Nazi Party Comparison: “Outrageous,” “Historically Inaccurate And Ridiculous”
Sanders Identifies As A Democratic Socialist. Sanders has identified himself as a democratic socialist. During a Democratic debate, Sanders explained why he identifies himself this way:
ANDERSON COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?
SANDERS: Well, we're gonna win because first, we're gonna explain what democratic socialism is.
And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent - almost - own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we're not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have - we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.
Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. [BernieSanders.com, 11/19/15; CNN.com, 10/13/15]
PolitiFact: Claim That Sanders' Ideology Is Comparable To Nazism Is “Historically Inaccurate And Ridiculous.” PolitiFact “consulted historians and books” to examine the claim that Sanders shares the same ideology as Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party. The site reported, “While socialists on the left celebrate democracy, [Rice University historian Peter] Caldwell said, the word has a different meaning on the right -- in this instance, he said, excluding people who are not part of the nation, hence rejecting Jews and communists and, in pre-World War II Germany, democracy itself.” PolitiFact ruled the comparison “Pants on Fire” false, concluding that it was “historically inaccurate and ridiculous” and “there was little socialist about the party's platform or Hitler's actions once he acceded to leading Germany in the early 1930s.” [PolitiFact, 10/16/15]
ADL: Comparing Sanders To Nazism “Is Outrageous” And “A Trivialization Of History.” In response to a National Review piece smearing Sanders, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO and national director Jonathan A. Greenblatt debunked comparisons of Sanders' policies with Nazi Party ideology. Greenblatt also noted that Sanders is “the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland whose family was lost in the Holocaust”:
We strongly object to the characterization of U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders as leading “a national-socialist movement.” This is a misreading of both the Senator's politics and certainly of history.
National Socialism was the warped, racist ideology of the German Nazi Party and the Third Reich. It is outrageous and, indeed, a trivialization of history to draw the false comparison between Sen. Sanders' firmly held beliefs with those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, whose racist beliefs led to the gas chambers and the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/27/15]
Right-Wing Media Compare Sanders And His Ideology To Nazism
USA Today Column Portrays Sanders As An Extension Of “The National Socialism Of Adolf Hitler.” Glenn Reynolds, a conservative blogger and member of USA Today's Board of Contributors, wrote in a February 11 column:
The result has been for many smart people, like Joel Kotkin, to write that Millennials are heeding the “siren call of socialism.” And socialism does have a siren call -- essentially, the promise that if you vote for socialists, they'll take stuff away from other people and give it to you. Since many people would rather have free stuff given to them in the name of “fairness” than have to work to get their own stuff, it's never hard to round up votes with that approach. As the saying goes, a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can count on getting Paul's vote.
Still, it's concerning, because the history of the 20th century was basically that of the swath of destruction left across the globe by socialist ideas, from the international socialism of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union to the national socialism of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' Party. [USA Today, 2/11/16]
National Review's Williamson Compares Sanders' Ideology To The Nazis. In a July 20 National Review post, which the ADL criticized, Kevin Williamson compared Sanders' ideology to Nazism:
In the Bernieverse, there's a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.
There are many kinds of Us-and-Them politics, and Bernie Sanders, to be sure, is not a national socialist in the mode of Alfred Rosenberg or Julius Streicher.
Fox News Column: Sanders And Hitler Both “Used The Same Weapon Of Choice In An Attempt To Become The Most Powerful Man In The World.” In a September 19 column for Fox News' Fox Nation, Joe Bilello argued that while “there are no comparisons to be made between Adolf Hitler and Bernie Sanders,” they both employed “class warfare” in hopes of becoming “the most powerful man in the world”:
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France en route to Berlin to liberate Europe from Adolf Hitler's national Socialist workers party. Immediately following the surrender of the German socialists and the axis powers, the United States engaged in a nearly 50-year Cold War against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. While direct conflict between the world's two superpowers may have been nonviolent, over 100,000 Americans lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam fighting to stop the spread of left-wing extremism. And now, merely a few decades later, a self-avowed socialist is surging in the Democrat primary polls.
To be clear, there are no comparisons to be made between Adolf Hitler and Bernie Sanders other than the fact that both men used the same weapon of choice in an attempt to become the most powerful man in the world, and that weapon is class warfare. Hitler used class warfare to gain the support of the German workers by pitting them against the “capitalists,” in particular the “exploitative” Jewish capitalists. Bernie Sanders has and will continue to attempt the same tactics by vilifying successful Americans as a means to rally the “have-nots” behind the cause of “justice.” After all, in order to justify the confiscation of people's wealth you must first demonize them and convince the people that they deserve to be punished.
I am not saying that Sanders and his supporters envision a society modeled after oppressive, poverty-stricken Third World dictatorships. I'm not saying that if by some demented miracle, Bernie Sanders were to be elected President of the United States, the nation would immediately resemble a former Soviet republic. But one thing we do know is that government, once granted the power, never relinquishes that power. The size and scope of an all-powerful centralized government only grows and grows. [Fox Nation, 9/19/15]
Wash. Times Op-Ed Connects Sanders To “The National Socialist (Nazi) Model In Germany And Italy.” In a January 25 piece attacking Sanders, Cato Institute senior fellow Richard W. Rahn connected Sanders to “the national socialist (Nazi) model in Germany and Italy, which, like the communist version, resulted in tens of millions of deaths”:
Sen. Bernie Sanders proudly proclaims himself a “democratic socialist,” and many in the Democratic Party seem to have no problem with it and, in fact, are embracing him and his ideas. Listening to all of this, one gets the feeling that for a significant portion of the population, history began in the year 2000. Where have been the great socialist success stories? Much of the world's population greatly suffered under various forms of socialism in the 20th century. Not one of the various socialist models proved to be a success.
There was the communist variety of socialism in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Cambodia, which resulted in tens of millions of deaths from starvation and from the gulags. There was the national socialist (Nazi) model in Germany and Italy, which, like the communist version, resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Somewhat more benign, but still coercive, versions of socialism were prevalent in India, many places in Africa and South America, and all resulted in economic stagnation -- because productive effort was separated from reward. The two most socialist countries today are North Korea and Cuba -- both being very poor and repressive. The average Cuban government worker has a monthly wage which is less than what the average American worker makes in an hour. [Washington Times, 1/25/16]
Wash. Times Contributor Connects Sanders To Nazi Ideology. Washington Times contributor Robert Knight wrote a September 2015 piece attacking Sanders and said of millennials, “You'd think they'd be wary of anyone sporting a socialist brand.” He cited Nazis as a reason why:
Like the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers before them, many Millennials are highly educated. You'd think they'd be wary of anyone sporting a socialist brand. With the glaring exception of Bernie Sanders, modern-day progressives go out of their way to avoid the label.
National Socialist Germany, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, the prison camp nation of North Korea and other socialist experiments in mass murder should have been enough to sully the name of socialism forever.
Finally, there's the popular culture. In Hollywood movies, socialism is never associated with the Nazis. Meanwhile, communists are very rarely the villains, despite hot wars in Korea and Vietnam, and decades of the Cold War. “No enemies to the left” is the prevailing Hollywood mindset, matching the ideology of most journalists, who routinely label anything they don't like as “conservative.” This includes everyone from Iran's ayatollahs to Russian crypto-communist “hard-liners.” [Washington Times, 9/13/15]
Breitbart.com Editor John Nolte: "Like Hitler, Bernie Sanders Is An Old White Socialist." [Twitter.com, 4/28/15]
Michael Savage Adapted Holocaust Poem To Attack Sanders. During his February 10 program, conservative radio host Michael Savage adapted Martin Niemöller's Holocaust-era poem “First they came for the socialists...” -- about the complicity of Germans in the rise of Hitler -- to attack Sanders' policies. “First they came for the rich, but you were not rich and you did not stand up for the rich,” Savage said. He then claimed that while President Obama is “pure evil,” he's “nothing compared to what Bernie Sanders would do.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/11/16; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed 2/12/16]
Alex Jones: Sanders Supporters Are Like People Who “Want To Elect Hitler.” Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones compared the senator's supporters to people who backed Adolf Hitler, ranting: “This is the most gang mentality, dumbed-down, it's like, 'We want to elect Hitler, he says he'll invade France and give us free stuff.'” Jones also compared Sanders to someone who delivers “free goodies” in “black uniforms and their shiny boots and their submachine guns” to enslave people. [Right Wing Watch, 2/5/16; Media Matters, 2/11/16]
Townhall.com's Schlichter: “Sanders And His Socialist Pals Want To Deny” That Nazi Ideology “Best Encapsulates What They Are About.” In a November 2015 column, right-wing columnist Kurt Schlichter repeatedly compared Sanders to Hitler:
And let's not forget the fraternal twin brother socialism never talks about, the one Sanders and his socialist pals want to deny but who best encapsulates what they are about - the Nazis. Yes, we all know how socialists spaz out when you point out that the National Socialist Worker's Party was a socialist party, but facts matter. Stormtrooper shirt brown is just another color in the leftist rainbow.
There are some troubling parallels that Sanders and his crew of burnt out Woodstockians and nitwit college teens want to deny. Hitler liked to control free speech. We've seen how Sanders agrees. Hitler left big corporations nominally in private hands but retained unambiguous and unquestioned control over them; Sanders would tell the big corporations what to do directly. Hitler liked to arrange big rallies of like-minded, slack-jawed idiots; so does Sanders. Hitler insinuated the state in every private decision; that's Sanders's dream. Oh, and Hitler hated Jews who resisted their extermination; so do Sanders and his anti-Israeli minions.
To be fair, there are differences. Hitler invaded his neighbors, while Sanders supports letting our neighbors invade us. Hitler's legions wore Hugo Boss-designed clothes; Sanders's legions wear ironic t-shirts or whatever else their moms lay out for them. [Townhall.com, 11/9/15]
Right-Wing Websites Repost False Sanders Smear: “Replace Many Of Hitler's Policies With Something You Hear From Bernie Sanders.” Writing for conservative commentator Steven Crowder's website, Courtney Kirchoff purported to accurately compare many of Hitler's policies with those of Sanders and other progressives to conclude that they're similar. The January 2016 post was reposted on far-right websites including Infowars.com and Free Republic. [LouderwithCrowder.com, 1/28/16; Infowars.com, 1/29/16; FreeRepublic.com, 2/9/16]