I can imagine Trump at some point next year getting up and saying, “Never before in all our history have these forces [the media and the opposition party] been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”
Actually those are the words of President Franklin Roosevelt in his last major campaign speech before the 1936 election. FDR didn’t refer to the media outlets that opposed him (like the Chicago Tribune) as “the enemy of the people.” Instead, he called them “the Tory press.” And what did he mean by the term “Tory”? Subtle, perhaps, but it meant they were anti-American.
FDR was much less subtle in 1932 when he compared Republicans to the Tories of the American Revolution who “left the country.” Here is FDR’s actual statement:
There are two ways of viewing the government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small businessman. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776. But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party.
So Republicans should leave the country! FDR didn’t even invite them to come back after they had fixed their home country. Imagine if he had put that in a Tweet.
This was merely the beginning of what became the standard playbook for the left, except instead of making the charge of anti-Americanism (the Left is obviously conflicted on this point), they defaulted to fascism and racism instead. By 1945 FDR was saying that a Republican return to power would represent a victory for the forces of fascism we were fighting against overseas. Nothing subtle about that charge.
Or how about this front page headline from the New York Times on October 25, 1948:
PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL
CHICAGO, Oct. 25 — A Republican victory on election day will bring a Fascistic threat to American freedom. . .
I have a long catalogue of these kind of statements. Here’s a short sampler, starting with Barry Goldwater’s nomination in 1964: San Francisco Mayor John Shelley said Republicans “had Mein Kampf as their political bible.” Columnist Drew Pearson, for example, wrote that “the smell of fascism has been in the air at this convention.” The Chicago Defender ran the headline: “GOP Convention, 1964 Recalls Germany, 1933.”
Following Newt Gingrich’s landslide in 1994, Rep. George Miller said, “It’s a glorious day if you’re a fascist.” Rep. Charlie Rangel, on GOP budget cuts under Gingrich: “Hitler wasn’t even talking about doing these things.” (Actually we have to give this one to Rangel for accuracy, since it is correct that Hitler never talked about cutting Medicare.) Rep. Major Owens: “These are people who are practicing genocide with a smile; they’re worse than Hitler.” Worse than Hitler! That must be the equivalent of turning racism and fascism up to eleven! And then of course there’s Vice President Joe Biden in 2012 saying that mild-mannered Mitt Romney wanted to put black people “back in chains.”
I have a huge file of these. (I’m omitting my very large roster of “Reagan is Hitler” quotes.) What I don’t have are any instances—not one—of a Washington Post or New York Times editorial calling out liberals for extreme or “divisive” rhetoric. That’s a one-way ratchet, as we all know. Liberals are free to call Republicans any crazy thing they want, and even to suggest (like FDR) that they are un-American and ought to consider leaving the country, but if a Republican ever talks back, we see liberals get a case of the vapors.
Scott yesterday provided an overview of how Speaker Pelosi embarrassed herself and her party when she went over the line calling Trump a racist on the floor of the House of Representatives, where personal attacks like this are against House rules. You would think Democrats might recall the last time this happened to them, back in 1984 when then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill committed the same blunder. Newt Gingrich had provoked O’Neill with his relentless attacks on the way Democrats were coddling the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. O’Neill blew a fuse and said on the House floor that Gingrich’s tactics were “Un-American. . . It’s the lowest thing I’ve heard in my 32 years here!”
Republican House whip Trent Lott (remember him?) pounced; he interrupted with a parliamentary inquiry. The House parliamentarian sided with the Republicans, informing the House chair (O’Neill’s fellow Massachusetts Democrat Joe Moakley) that O’Neill’s words had to be “taken down.” It was a stunning rebuke to O’Neill, who sat down red faced as nearly the entire Republican caucus gave Gingrich a standing ovation.
I think we can see a theme emerging. Liberals can dish it out, but can’t take it when someone like Trump—or Newt Gingrich before him—talks back. I wish Trump was more artful in the manner of FDR in making his counterattacks, but there is an obvious utility to provoking the left to turning up their Racism Meters to 11. Because they hand you more gifts like this from the “global opinions editor” at the Washington Post:
Also this gem is not to be missed:
Let’s recur once more to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 for an exit line: “But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.” Please remind me again of why Trump is uniquely ripping up our political “norms”?