Weimar America

News at Home

Mr. Hochstadt is professor of history at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and author of Sources of the Holocaust (Palgrave, 2004) and Shanghai-Geschichten: Die jüdische Flucht nach China (Berlin: Hentrich und Hentrich, 2007).

Dangerous political movements have threatened the peace and structure of democratic society throughout recent American history. Violent hatred has motivated groups on the left and right extremes, and sometimes these movements have gained considerable local power. I found Maine to be a most tolerant and peaceful place when I lived there for 27 years, but I learned to my surprise how pervasive the influence of the Ku Klux Klan had been in Maine during the 1920s, when it had 150,000 members. The White Citizens Councils were thoroughly integrated into the justice and police system in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. Both organizations were representations of social movements of like-minded, often violent people who perverted our political institutions for racist purposes. These movements threatened American citizens and American institutions, but their dominion was local and temporary. The dangers that such seemingly uncontrollable social forces pose to our lives and liberties should be one of the major lessons in the teaching of American history.

Perhaps I am especially sensitive to similar dangers in the present because of my professional and personal preoccupation with the Holocaust. In Weimar Germany, the Nazi fringe was tolerated, encouraged, and funded by mainstream conservatives, giving respectability to its brand of violent antisemitism and radical anti-government propaganda. When economic disaster struck in 1929, the Nazis’ calls to overthrow the democratic system suddenly jumped from 3% of voters in 1928 to 18% in 1930 to 37% in 1933.

I think similar forces are at work in our country, and they frighten me. They are obscured by the ludicrous claim that the Democrats are today’s Nazis. The very commonness of Obama with a Hitler mustache at conservative events is a new and noteworthy feature of today’s political life, duly reported by all major media. It functions as a visual prop for the much more serious insistence that Obama and the Democrats are planning a health care system which resembles the Nazis’ T-4 program, in which they murdered at least 270,000 handicapped people.

The woman who asked Barney Frank in all seriousness why he was supporting an American T-4 program gave him a You Tube opportunity to show how irrational her beliefs were. But she was serious. Egged on by media voices that are reminiscent of Father Coughlin in the 1930s, but much more ubiquitous, she can also reasonably observe that her political beliefs are encouraged by Republicans in Congress, in governors’ mansions, and in official Party posts. In a philosophy class I just attended, the professor said that large numbers of people generally do not support completely implausible arguments. Historically this only happens when people with power and influence make a concerted effort to propagate a big lie.

It is easy for intellectuals to laugh at the historical nonsense of charges that Obama is both a socialist and a fascist, a Nazi trying to bring Communist health care to the US. The official voice of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, may seem silly when he circulates the claim that Democrats want to deny health care to Republicans. But we should not laugh at the final step, thus far, of the movement unleashed by mainstream conservatives – bringing guns to Obama’s public events. Conservatives say they are merely demonstrating their support for their threatened Constitutional rights. Would Republicans have allowed a known leftist to carry a weapon openly at a Presidential function after 9/11? Under the Patriot Act, and the illegal surveillance which accompanied it, American citizens couldn’t be sure they could joke on the telephone about Bush being dead. Now the über-patriots are saying that our President is a racist who might try to kill your Grandma and simultaneously providing cover for crazies who might try to shoot him.

Our democracy is under attack. Men in high public office and with control over our national airwaves are deliberately stoking a potentially violent movement opposed to our democratic process. They challenge the legitimacy of the last election, they label our elected leaders with the worst political curse words they can think of, they encourage the purchase of weapons at local gun shops and talk of secession in the capitals.

You don’t have to be a Holocaust-obsessed Jewish academic to see what is going on. Or to remember that German mainstream conservatives were so opposed to the liberal reforms pushed by the democratic system Weimar system that they thought they could harness a violent radical and hateful movement to win political advantage. They were stupid. But we would be stupider the second time around.

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Edmond Dantes - 10/27/2009

Please pardon the "no" rather than "know" in my last comment. I work for a living. I do not have the time to proofread comments posted.

I am glad you know better Professor. I am no admirer of today's conservative movement, but comparing them to the Nazis is just as ludicrous as calling our current president Hitler. I fear that someday words like "Nazi" and "Hitler" will lose their horrific connotations through sheer overuse.

Steve Hochstadt - 10/27/2009

perhaps as my final comment, I wish to second what Edmond Dantes wrote: "Calling any of our recent Presidents "Hitler" or any opposition to their causes the work of "Nazis" insults the millions systematically murdered under the Third Reich." The constant references to Hitler and the Nazis as a way of describing our current political leaders or institutions is not merely silly, but displays appalling ignorance of what Nazis Germany was really like, both to its citizens and its victims.
But the sloppy thinking which characterizes some of the comments here is also apparent in Dantes' comment, when he writes that "Professor Hochstadt should no better." I do know better and I never made such comparisons.

Edmond Dantes - 10/26/2009

There is one point I wish readers to gain from all of this. Calling any of our recent Presidents "Hitler" or any opposition to their causes the work of "Nazis" insults the millions systematically murdered under the Third Reich. Comparing leaders you don't like to Hitler diminishes Hitler's crimes. You do no service to the study of history with such actions! Professor Hochstadt should no better.

lois bates - 10/24/2009

My interest in the holocaust stems from having been raised as a child by Armenians.There was always talk around the household about the Turkish genocide committed against the Armenian population not once but twice in the span of 30 years.
My approach to looking at the holocausts is to look at the role law enforcement played in allowing these acts to occur. In most cases law enforcement participates in the acts
of committing genocide. So I look to create models where all citizens participate in patrolling their communities using the Restorative
Justice model to mediate and heal the victim and offender. Third party forensic investigators are hired when
there is a need to solve a crime.
I do not see genocide taking place in this community.Maybe the Professor or readers can suggest other models where genocide would be untenable.
I agree with Steve when he says we live in dangerous times. If I was jewish or black I might want to consider acquiring dual citizenship
and have a quick exit strategy.
The fact we have death squads funded by tax dollars in the United States
is an active barometer of how serious the problem is.

to view a partial list of crimes committed by FBI agents over 1500 pages long see

to view a partial list of FBI agents arrested for pedophilia see

Dale R Streeter - 10/23/2009

Obviously this thread is going nowhere. Those that agree with the author will defend the President and his policies to the fullest extent and those opposed will do likewise. The author had disengaged himself from the fray and no one will be persuaded to change their views. Why continue?

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 10/22/2009

Back in the Chateau d'If with you, Edmond, they've cleaned your cage!

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 10/22/2009

When I saw your title for this piece, "Weimar America," I thought of course it would refer to the 500,000 DM banknotes, and suggest this is where the policies of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Obey, Frank, Markey, and the rest are surely taking us.

Charley James - 10/22/2009

There are so many fact errors in your response to Dr. Hochstedt's piece it's almost sad:

"(T)he amount of czars President Obama has appointed - 40+ at last count."
- President Bush appointed far more, as has been reported everywhere but Fox.

"(T)he amount of un-critical coverage he receives from the 5 networks is unprecedented."
- Apparently, you were not watching any television news (or reading newspapers, for that matter) during the run-up to the Irar war. Pres. Bush got a complete pass from the entire media with the lone exception of two outstanding national security reporters in McClatchey's Washington bureau. As for so-called "uncritical" coverage of Pres. Obama, I'd suggest you watch MSNBC for a few nights. Almost every night, either Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow are sharply critical of specific Obama policies or tactics.

Since you mentioned Fox, independent media watchdogs with no partisan leanings one way or the other, have documented tens of dozens of lies Fox news shows - not commentary but news - shows have passed off as truths since the inauguration.

"Was the carrier of the weapon(s) arrested for displaying it illegally or at an event where the president was speaking."
- The issue isn't the legality of carrying loaded weapons on the street. The fact is it is not done in civilised societies. When the Framers wrote the 2nd Amendment, they were clearly talking about "well regulated militias" - not some yahoo walking down the street packing heat.

"When President Bush was popularly elected liberals did not roll over and say "OK, you won, do what ever it is you want to do". They fought him tooth and nail."
- Wrong again. Democrats in Congress foolishly passed both tax cut bills, voted unthinking to approve the illegal Iraq invasion, voted without thinking in favor of the (un)Patriot Act.

"I also did not see people gloat that we did not receive the Olympics ... please cite a reference for this gloating."
- The National Review not only gloated in print over Chicago losing the Olympics, it reported its entire newsroom let out a cheer when the news was announced.

At a public meeting of a conservative group that was shown on TV, someone interrupted a speaker to report the "news" and the entire room clapped and cheered.

You so typify why the GOP and the conservative in general is intellectually bankrupt, and why only 20% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans or conservatives - down from 25% only two months ago

Charley James - 10/22/2009

It’s time that America re-read William Shirer’s "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich."

Dr. Hochstadt’s comparison of the Weimar Republic to the US today is, in many respects, revealing – if not in the detail then in the general situation: An economy in ruins, ever-more strident voices from the right stating lies as truths and passing off propaganda as news, millions of people in terrible straits while a very few at the very top live very well.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “While history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme.”

Maarja Krusten - 10/19/2009

Republican and Democratic Presidents have grappled with news coverage and griped about various news outlets for decades. Since some posters have raised the issue of press relations, here is some information on past Presidents.

According to an account in TIME magazine of a May 1, 1963 press conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy, “Mr. President, the practice of managed news is attributed to your Administration . . . Would you give us your definition and tell us why you find it necessary to practice it?" Kennedy responded, “"You are charging us with something. . . and then you are asking me to define what it is you are charging me with. Let me just say we have had very limited success in managing the news, if that is what we have been trying to do.”

TIME added that another observer, veteran journalist Arthur Krock, charged that, "’A news management policy not only exists,’ he writes, ‘but, in the form of direct and deliberate action, has been enforced more cynically and boldly than by any previous Administration in a period when the U.S. was not in a war.’"

Richard Nixon considered anti-trust actions against the broadcast tv networks and looked for other means to affect their coverage. These included letter writing campaigns and even at least passing consideration of buying a tv network.

On the effort to gin up letters, Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, wrote to aide Pat Buchanan that the President wanted "a thorough and efficient Nixon network whose task will be to really raise hell with the people who unfairly take us on, and pour praise on those who take a more productive viewpoint.” Archival material shows that Buchanan reported to Haldeman on plans to set up an operation to get out letters “on a moment's notice to either national publications or to the networks as soon as word came from the White House." (A detailed account of conversations about affecting news coverage on some of the tapes with which I worked is available at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/nixon/120197tapes.htm )

One Nixon-era memo released by the National Archives shows discussion among Nixon’s aides of involving Ross Perot in an effort in 1969 to buy the ABC network. Aides even costed out the effort – “ABC network is worth $400 million,” counsel John Ehrlichman wrote – but nothing came of it.

Presidents and their aides often pay a lot of attention to news coverage. David Gergen, who served various Presidents, including Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, attributes the development of “spin” to attempts to counter traditional media. In an interview in 1999, Gergen said of his experiences during the Reagan administration that “he watched the previous four presidents be judged failures, in part, because they'd lost control of their own message to the network producers in New York. ’Increasingly the media was characterizing [each president] and undermining him in a way that was difficult for anyone to govern,’ he says. ‘I felt that it was important for Reagan to reassert in a much more aggressive way his own message; he'd won the election, and he had the right to set the public agenda as best he could.’ But what started out as an attempt to bring some balance, turned into something for which Gergen says he has ‘great misgivings.’ Spin became the rule; the need for a short-term headline replaced the fight for long-term achievement.”

By the time his book about his WH experiences, _Eyewitness to History_, appeared in 2000, Gergen lamented, "How could we have taught a younger generation of public officials the wrong lessons about governance? Where had we gone wrong? While officials since the beginning of the republic have been cajoling the press, one of my deepest regrets in public life is a feeling that I have contributed to this deterioration. Spin has spun out of control and we need to put it back in its box."

Maarja Krusten - 10/19/2009

One of my fields of specialty as an historian is the 1960s and 1970s (I worked for 14 years as an employee of the U.S. National Archives, listening to the then largely secret Nixon tapes to see what could be released to the public and what required restriction.) I’ve read a lot of the correspondence which ordinary citizens sent to President Nixon, as well as the assessments that Nixon’s aides prepared for him of polling information.

When they look back at Obama administration, historians will have to take as nuanced a view as they should in looking at public opinion during the Johnson administration and the Nixon administration. In examining the Vietnam war, histories of the Johnson and Nixon administrations differentiate between elements which spanned a relatively broad spectrum, even among those who opposed the war. The anti-war side included pacifists; ordinary citizens of moderate temperament and political leanings who came to oppose the Vietnam war; anti-war activists who used heated rhetoric to express their opposition to the war but who accepted the framework of governance and who were not anarchists; Old and New Left activists; and members of groups such as the Yippies, the SDS, and the Weathermen. (These are not entirely discrete groupings, there obviously was some overlap among some of them.)

Although news coverage of present day upheaval focuses on the right, conservatives’ and Republicans’ voices are as diverse as those of Vietnam war opponents were in Nixon’s day. Former Representative Joe Scarborough (host of “Morning Joe”) recently observed, “For the better part of 20 years, a bitterness has infected our politics that has weakened our country. We Republicans spent eight years trying to delegitimize Bill Clinton. Democrats spent the next eight years doing the same to George W. Bush. Now that a Democrat is in the Oval Office again, it is the GOP who is trying to delegitimize a sitting president. . . Fortunately, there are a growing number of Americans who believe we cannot continue going on this way.” He added, “Some of the rhetoric is dangerous. But what we saw from some conservative corners regarding the President's failed Olympics bid was just plain stupid.”

Scarborough’s is an interesting and thoughtful piece. It may reflect his previous experiences in the government – having worked as a fed for 36 years and counting, I know things can look very different inside the government than outside it -- as much as his present role as an armchair analyst.

Recent polls on party identification show Independents at 36.4%, Democrats at 33.9%, and Republicans at 22.0%. (An ABC news poll released tonight shows self identification as Republican at 20%, the lowest in 26 years. The generic matchup for 2010 shows Democrats 51%, Republicans 39%.) I would be interested in more drill down data on this because in looking at this time period, just as they did with the left and center in Nixon’s day, historians looking back at the present will need to differentiate among several different types of right-wing and center-right voters.

As to those most strongly opposed to President Obama, consider the recent survey by Democracy Corps (the Carville Group), which concluded that “These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure – which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush – but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism.”

The Democracy Corps survey’s analysts concluded that “Conservative Republicans fully embrace the 'socialism' attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate framework for describing him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as the kind of overblown partisan rhetoric that obscures the facts and only serves to cheapen the political discourse."

I’m not aware of any polling data which shows how many non-Democrats fit into the category of those who believe the President deliberately is bankrupting the nation in order to erode traditional freedoms. Or how many actually fit into other categories, such as (1) the business wing of the Republican party, which includes traditional fiscal conservatives who typically favor low taxes, balanced budgets, and minimal regulation; (2) the foreign policy-hawk wing of the Republican party; (3) conservatives and libertarians who still lean towards calling themselves Republicans but who may have some of the same populist leanings as the people who supported Ross Perot in 1992; (5) conservative-leaning Independents who express less fear of Obama than those who believe the country is headed towards socialism and who support some of his agenda.

Even with the current polling data, it’s hard to say where people who would have identified as Republicans in Nixon’s day now would find themselves. (As a senior in high school, I worked on Nixon's campaign in 1968.) Surveys I'e seen suggest that a number of Independents are people who once self identified as Republicans. One analyst has described Independents largely as leaning conservative on fiscal issues and leaning progressive on social issues. However, some Republicans who don't believe the party is conservative enough also may self i.d. as Independents. (Some current races are 3-way matchups, with a Democratic, Republican, and Conservative party candidate.)

The ABC poll released this evening is available at

Edmond Dantes - 10/19/2009

...that Professor Hochstadt prefers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tTQ34y4Ww0.

Edmond Dantes - 10/19/2009

Professor Hochstadt still believes all these comparisons of President Obama to Hitler is a new trend - something sinister perpetrated by those who don't share his worldview.
Throughout the Iraq War, demonstrators carried swastikas and Hitler portraits of Bush habitually. Nicholson Baker wrote a novel in which characters are contemplating killing Bush. Films were praised imagining the assassination of the president. Michael Moore, courted by the Democratic elite, lamented that bin Laden on 9/11 had hit a blue state — and once compared the killers of Americans in Iraq to Minutemen.
Al Gore routinely used excessive language like "brown shirts." Senators Durbin, Kennedy, and others compared American soldiers to Saddamites, Pol Pot’s killers, and Nazis. Ward Churchill compared the victims in the Twin Tower to “little Eichmanns.” Sen. Robert Byrd likened Pres. George W. Bush’s policies to what transpired in Nazi Germany. Linda Ronstadt, Harold Pinter, Scott Ritter, Ted Rall, and George Soros agreed with Fidel Castro, the Iranians, and North Koreans in comparing Bush to Hitler.
National Chairman Howard Dean himself said publicly, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for,” and, “This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good.”
So, professor, were you as outraged with all the Bush/Hitler comparisons as you are now with the Obama/Hitler analogies? Or did you truly hate Bush enough to find such behavior acceptable... maybe even commendable?

J R Willis - 10/19/2009

"Many more than one black man wore a gun to an Obama appearance: I saw an interview with a white gun-carrier on TV."

Then it must be true.

Dale R Streeter - 10/19/2009

Mr. Hockstadt,
You wrote: "Most of the rest is simply made up, such as the court orders in order to get conservative speakers on college campuses." The court orders I refer to are in response to illegal speech code restrictions imposed on conservative students who wish to invite speakers to their campuses because these views are considered "hateful."
If you are unaware of the many incidents where this has taken place, I can only assume you do not wish to know about them. For examples, recall the incident at UNC recently where Tom Tancredo was shouted down and driven away by students who rejected his right to speak or any of the many examples to be found on The Fire website (http://www.thefire.org). This is a bipartisan organization in favor of free speech for all sides. Think about it. It does you no credit to dismiss as fantasy arguments that challenge you.

By the way, regarding your suggestion that all presidents have their admirers, I don't believe any of the last several presidents have been fawned over as much as "The One." If that doesn't smack of the cult of personality fostered by totalitarian leaders, where even criticism is seen as antisocial, all the way from disloyalty to racism, and where even members of his administration speak openly of their admiration for Mao Tse Tung, (one the greatest murderers in history), I have to wonder what kind of historian you are or claim to be.

Mike A Mainello - 10/19/2009

Mr. Hochstadt,

Many of us have problems with the amount of czars President Obama has appointed - 40+ at last count.

I realize you believe that Mr. Obama does not control the media, but the amount of un-critical coverage he receives from the 5 networks is unprecedented. However, my issue is that he singles out one network that he does not agree with. His actions are childish and not very presidential.

Please cite a reference, that was not overturned, where the wire taps were used to listen to people talk ill about President Bush.

Was the carrier of the weapon(s) arrested for displaying it illegally or at an event where the president was speaking. Again that is what you wrote.

Most conservatives don't agree with his policies. When President Bush was popularly elected liberals did not roll over and say "OK, you won, do what ever it is you want to do".
They fought him tooth and nail.

I also did not see people gloat that we did not receive the Olympics. I saw a lot of questioning on why he went without notice. I ask again, please cite a reference for this gloating. It reminds me of when the liberals were screeching about President Bush or some republican calling them "unpatriotic". I could never find a quote using those words. Now I have read the left say those words many times.

Steve Hochstadt - 10/19/2009

The responses to my article thus far show how far away from reality some critics of Obama are. Dale Streeter mistakes the electoral popularity of Obama for a “cult of the leader”. In fact there is no more attention to President Obama, within or outside of the government, than to any other recent President. The “czars” are nothing new either, and are simply high appointed administrative officials mainly created by previous presidents. Once he gets into “control of the media”, the fantastic quality of the criticism becomes apparent. There is no evidence that the administration has any control of any media; many newscasters are simply in favor of Obama’s policies, but most refrain from overtly partisan commentary. Rather than abolishing labor unions, Obama’s administration is moving to strengthen them, which upsets many conservatives, who appear to believe that labor unions are the enemy. The through-the-looking-glass quality of many conservative attacks on Democrats is apparent here. Most of the rest is simply made up, such as the court orders in order to get conservative speakers on college campuses.

Mike Mainello at least remains closer to reality, but he chooses to misunderstand what I wrote. I did not say that the Patriot Act was illegal, but only that the Bush administration pursued illegal forms of surveillance along with newly legal methods. Many more than one black man wore a gun to an Obama appearance: I saw an interview with a white gun-carrier on TV.

In fact, it’s conservatives, not Obama, who are busy “putting down America”. They attack our government, they wish our President and his policies ill, they gloat when Chicago fails to get the Olympic nod, and they disdain the majority of Americans who voted for Obama and other Democrats.

Mike A Mainello - 10/19/2009

Great points all.

Mike A Mainello - 10/19/2009

First you say " Would Republicans have allowed a known leftist to carry a weapon openly at a Presidential function after 9/11?"

What are you talking about? The secret service would not allow a weapon to be brought into a presidential function. The occasion you are referring to was not a presidential function.

Next you say "Our democracy is under attack. Men in high public office and with control over our national airwaves are deliberately stoking a potentially violent movement opposed to our democratic process"

Well I agree with you, President Obama has control of 5 networks and he keeps throwing out verbal bombs on many of our private industries and institutions while at the same time putting down America across the world. He has even asked citizens to write to the White House telling him where citizens disagree with his policy.

He needs to be more careful or he will embolden our enemies even further.

Edmond Dantes - 10/19/2009

Perhaps Professor Hochstadt should be more concerned about all sides tossing around the Hitler/Nazi analogies and hints towards violence. First of all, neither Bush nor Obama have the ability, intelligence, power, and prerequisite evil to transform America into the Fourth Reich. The recent behavior of Obama’s opponents reveal that conservatives can be just as childish as liberals.

Let’s see how opponents treated Bush (what Hochstadt leaves out):

Former senator John Glenn said of Republican campaign rhetoric, “It’s the old Hitler business.” Julian Bond, as chairman of the NAACP, said of the Bush administration, “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side.” Rep. Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, compared 9/11 to the Reichstag fire.

Presidential assassination? On Bill Maher’s show, Sen. John Kerry joked about killing Bush. (“I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.”) A New York Democrat, Alan Hevesi, spoke to graduating students at Queens College. He said that his fellow New York Democrat, Chuck Schumer, would “put a bullet between the president’s eyes if he could get away with it.” Happy Graduation!

A CBS talk-show host, Craig Kilborn, showed Bush giving a speech, and he put on the screen the words “SNIPERS WANTED.” This was CBS, mind you, not a video made by a sicko in his basement.

Betty Williams is an Irishwoman who won the Nobel Peace Prize. She said, “I have a very hard time with this word ‘non-violence,’ because I don’t believe that I am non-violent. . . . Right now, I would love to kill George Bush.”

"It's going a bit far to compare the Bush of 2003 to the Hitler of 1933," writes Dave Lindorff in "Bush and Hitler: The Strategy of Fear," which appeared in February 2003 Counterpunch.org. "Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was. But comparisons of the Bush administration's fear-mongering tactics to those practiced so successfully and with such terrible results by Hitler and Goebbels . . . are not at all out of line."

And let’s not forget about all those wonderful products. The “Kill Bush” t-shirts fashioned after the Kill Bill movies. The faux postage stamps featuring President Bush with a gun against his head. The 3-D game, “The Night of Bush Capturing; A Virtual Jihadi,” where players are sent on a mission to kill President George W. Bush (part of an art show in Chicago last year). The 2006 pseudo-documentary, “Death of a President,” which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush. One could probably find a Hitler/Bush image on just about any kind of merchandise.

Mike A Mainello - 10/19/2009

You said "They challenge the legitimacy of the last election, they label our elected leaders with the worst political curse words they can think of, they encourage the purchase of weapons at local gun shops and talk of secession in the capitals."

First I read a lot and have yet to see where anybody on the conservative spectrum is questioning the last election. Now for the previous 8 years that was one of the liberals standard talking points.

Also, you are worried about one citizen (black I might add) brought a gun to a rally. So what, it was legal or the guy would have been arrested.

Your bio says you are a history professor. Please don't make factually wrong statements like the following: "Under the Patriot Act, and the illegal surveillance which accompanied it, American citizens couldn’t be sure they could joke on the telephone about Bush being dead."

You may not agree with the Patriot Act, but it was not illegal. Even your Illinois based president supports the act. Does his position concern you. One movie was made about assassinating President Bush and the director was not arrested or jailed. However, one Kucinich supporter makes a "Joker" poster and you guys go apoplectic. Please show me where President Bush declared war on a news network.

Lastly your paranoia about the right is unfounded. Most of us will continue to fight for freedom and smaller government. The Tea Party protests have been generally peaceful unless the left initiates violence - see St Louis - against something they disagree. Ironically most of the left protesters are paid to attend while the right attends at their expense.

In DC somewhere between 75,000 and 500,000 people marched using their own funds to protest many policy changes. No property damage was incurred and most of the trash picked up. Yes a few signs were inappropriate; however, for the most part civil decorum reigned.

Dale R Streeter - 10/19/2009

Like many well-intentioned but myopic historians, Prof. Hochstadt can't see the forest for the trees. I'm surprised that a historian of the holocaust fails to recognize the signs of totalitarianism (fascist, nazi, communist) when it stares him in the face. Its not the right wing fringe that ought to frighten him but the complacency of the the country in acquiescing to the takeover of our democracy by "useful idiots."
Consider the classic signs of fascist takeover and ask yourself if they look familiar.
1. Cult of the leader (fuerer princip). Doesn't the sight of young children being told to sing the praises of the "great leader" frighten you?
2. Call to action. Obamas entire campaign and administrative policies are centered around change for change's sake. They are ill thought out and threaten our basic institutions, yet no one seems to be the least upset about it. He installs "czars" (commissars, gauleiters) to ensure conformity (gleichshaltung). Not frightening enough for you?
3. Corporatism. By buying off all of the large corporations, even to the extent of having controlling interest by the government, industry and the commercial and banking sector of the economy are in no position to oppose his policies or even stand aside.
4. Control of the media. Almost every American newspaper and media outlet was a shill for Obama during the campaign; and even now the attacks on Fox news is progressing. Describing it as "not a real news outlet, like CNN" is ludicrous on the face of it, whether you admire or distain Fox reporting, what's unAmerican about challenging the administration and its policies. I'm sure it will not be long before some Obama supporters will want to revoke Fox New's broadcasting license because of the "lies" it promotes.
5. The creation of a totalitarian state. Well, we're not there yet, but we're surely on the road. The entire health care fiasco is only the most obvious example. State control of one of the most necessary and important elements in the lives of every citizen including punishment for none compliance. We're well on the way to the abolition of labor unions for a government approved one and education is so subservient to Obama that it requiers court orders for conservatives to even speak on college campuses and then they are subjected to torrents of abuse for being "haters" and "against diversity." The disparagement of popular protesters by calling them disloyal and then belittling the their concerns with sexual scorn (teabaggers) is another telling sign.
It's all there for anyone with eyes to see.