Although we have not replicated the thirties (yet) there are many disquieting similarities. Hard times always need the face of an enemy to focus blame upon, and the best face is one that comes from a minority group.
The fascist playbook begins by demonizing your opponent as "the other" or "that one" or "the friend of the terrorist." In Hitler's case it was the Jews (read elite, or cosmopolitans), the Gypsies and the Socialists who were demonized and then victimized by this rhetoric, and ultimately murdered for their otherness. They were accused of "not being one of us," much as Barack Obama is accused by McCain/Palin today.
The Nazis would ask their followers, "What do we really know about them?" suggesting that their political enemies were secretly conspiring to hide their devious plots and destroy the good long suffering put upon Germans. They succeeded by using a rhetoric that made their enemies less than human, the secret agents of a mysterious alien race or religion. It is easy to kill those who are denied their humanity because they are different from us. As easy as shooting wolves from a low flying helicopter.
I have always despised the way the left in this country would toss around the word fascist, degrading it by its promiscuous application to conservatives like Goldwater or Reagan, or even our awful W and the power grabbing Cheney, but I am afraid I cannot help but use that powerful, dangerous word to describe the crowds shouting "Kill him!" at the McCain/Palin campaign rallies.
It is evident that there is an effort at the very top of the Republican ticket to demonize Barack Obama in order to destroy him politically and gain power, a demonization that comes straight from the Hitler/Goebbels playbook. I wonder if they understand that they are encouraging the unbalanced and the sociopathic to act upon their toxic words?
If they don't understand what they are doing they disqualify themselves from ever holding power by their indecent ignorance, and if they do understand how dangerous their words have become they have criminalized their campaign, and deserve more than losing, they deserve the infamy that history will associate with their names.
Yes, it's fun to laugh with Tina Fey at the winks and the gotchas of Palin, but the words that have come from these desperate Republican candidates recently, faced by falling poll numbers, are devoid of humor, it is simply hate speech, and sadly, hate cannot be laughed away on SNL. It is a false notion that you can destroy evil by ridiculing it. Chaplin's "Great Dictator" was filmed at the height of Hitler's power, and it ridiculed the dictator but it did nothing to bring him down.
Orwell's "Animal Farm" did little to destroy Stalinism. The top of this Republican ticket cannot be taken down by jokes. Sorry Jon Stewart, funny just stays funny. It does not put a protective shield around the bodies of those who may become the victims of hate speech.
I hope that the FBI is actively engaged in protecting Obama and his family, and investigating some of the groups that have attached themselves to Palin, a natural demagogue who tosses off her poisonous speech with a beauty pageant smile. I hope for all of us that McCain will pull back from the rhetoric that has now migrated into the kind of speech that Goebbels, the first Carl Rove, would smile at approvingly.
McCain will not be the first American hero who has fallen into the trap of fascist speech as he reached for power; there was Lindbergh before him, a man who recklessly spent his heroic reputation on a set of gaudy undemocratic, racist beliefs, hoping to be America's own dictator. No matter what his defenders say, Lindbergh was a hate spewing fascist during the very years that people were being tossed into concentration camps to die. Am I taking this too far? Perhaps. But better safe than sorry as mother taught us. And none of us are safe with the McCain/Palin rhetoric.
I don't want to hear again from the cable TV pundits that John McCain is too decent to be a racist. The last best hope of his campaign is to appeal to the racism that still lives on in this country. This isn't playing hardball, its hate-ball. He cannot win on the issues, so he must try to take down his opponent by raising doubts about his opponent's humanity and love of country. The majority of the American public will not buy this, but there are lunatics out there who will. If you encourage a malignant suspicion and contempt for the opponent among your followers, a suspicion that crosses the borders of hate, you are no American hero; you are an American disaster in the making.