There is a complicated debate over, “Who’s more like Hitler, Democrats or Republicans?” I saw the usually-intelligent Jonah Goldberg give a speech a year or two ago, but when he said he was writing a book about fascism I didn’t take that to mean he’d be entering this absurd conversation.
I’ve just discovered the Amazon page for his upcoming book, Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, which comes complete with an Adolf Hitler smiley face cover. The publisher-provided book description vows that, “Impeccably researched and persuasively argued, LIBERAL FASCISM will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment-and rousing cheers from the Right.” Terrific, and very mature.
I’m looking forward to reading the book, but defining totalitarianism as uniquely left or right never seems to work. Communism is left-wing insofar as it springs from a drive for equality and social justice; fascism is right-wing insofar as it thrives on order, violent xenophobia and militarism. But through difference processes they really both lead to the same place: state-run hell. Neither outcome can satisfy the liberal desire for civil liberties or the conservative need for economic freedom.
There are all sorts of ways around these definitions. One is simply comparing policies of liberal and conservative Americans to the policies of Hitler. I once demonstrated that this doesn’t lead to any strong correlation either way.
Also, some view the political spectrum as a circle instead of a left-to-right line, and the more government, the more you travel along that circle. Others separate issues into social (abortion etc.) and economic (poverty, spending etc.) — social freedom plus free market economics is libertarianism, social restraint plus free market economics is conservatism, social freedom with economic meddling is liberalism and social restraint with economic meddling is populism.
I’m not sure these strategies help Republicans or Democrats come out on top either.
We’ll have to wait and see how Goldberg handles these nuances, but given his apparently strong conclusions it’s doubtful he gives them any serious consideration. Calling liberals fascist does no one any good, and it’s shameful to see one of the nation’s smartest conservative pundits sink to this level to sell books.
Robert VerBruggen blogs at http://robertsrationale.blogspot.com.