Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
 
Godwin's Law in politics

If you haven't read it in a forecast yet, you'll read it in an analysis next week: The "Nazis" are back in Germany, with a good likelihood of coming in on third place in the German elections next Sunday. Soon the Germans will wear brown shirts again, grow mustaches, and roll their tanks all over Europe. Really? What sounds like a big story in a newspaper headline in reality is far more harmless. It is more a problem of Godwin's law in politics, where the likelihood of a politician calling another politician or party anywhere to the right of himself a "Nazi" approaches 100% towards election day.

The German elections this weekend are boring. The two parties that govern today together, the center-left SPD and the center-right CDU together will have well more than 50% of the votes. The CDU has about 35%, the SPD 22%, and there is no chance of the SPD overtaking the CDU. 4 smaller parties each have around 10%, with the AfD, which is to the right of the center-right CDU probably getting something like 12% of the vote. So, is that a sign of a growing Nazi resurgence in Germany, or is there a simpler explanation?

The reason why the AfD has more votes than usual is that they are the only party with a strong anti-immigrant position (not counting the regionally limited CSU). The center-right CDU in Germany is well to the left of conservative parties elsewhere, like UK conservatives or US Republicans. Citing Christian values the CDU has welcomed a large number of refugees to Germany, Syrian and other, in previous years. This large influx of immigrants wasn't unopposed. And so it isn't really surprising that 12% of voters end up supporting a party that is anti-immigrant, the AfD being their only option in this case. Compare that to other countries, where anti-immigrant parties and policies are in the majority. The news is 88% of voters voting for pro-immigrant parties, not 12% voting for anti-immigrant parties. What you see is an anti-immigrant protest vote, by people who wouldn't necessarily vote for the AfD if they had any chance at all to actually come to power.

Personally, I have been an immigrant for the last 20 years, and so of course I am pro-immigration. But I do believe that liberals have done a lousy job to explain the advantages of immigration, and to address the various fears of voters regarding immigration, from job competition to crime. I do think that an anti-immigration party has to exist in a democratic society. And we should stop calling people "Nazis" just because they are anti-immigration.

Comments:
"And we should stop calling people "Nazis" just because they are anti-immigration."

To be fair, here in America we have a group that literally calls themselves Nazis. To label people who side with them also Nazis is maybe not so egregious.
 
If it talks like a Nazi and walks like a Nazi... just take a look at what Alexander Gauland (top candidate for the AFD) said a couple of days ago. And he is by far not the only one.

While you're right that we shouldn't put that label on everyone who is anti-immigration there is no reason not to call the AFD a bunch of Nazis.
 
So...here in America, if a citizen takes a stance against illegal immigration, they get labeled a racist and a nazi, and Trump suddenly becomes Hitler - all because we've let internet memes define our ability to talk about stuff? Maybe someday soon we can live in an age where statues of Godwin are placed in front of every courthouse in the land.... Sheesh.

It's sad that when a congressman or senator makes a stop at a local school and reads a book to some school children, that depending on his/her party affiliation, there will be a group behind the scenes who will be more interested in the book title and contents in the hopes of lambasting them for being (insert favorite anti-party label here). Curious George suddenly becomes racist/conservative doctrine, and anything Dr. Suess becomes progressive/liberal agenda.

@Samus

Can you please define what you mean by "side with them"? Because if someone feels a certain way about a particular social issue, that just so happens to align with something that a supposed "nazi" believes, that by association they also should be labeled a "nazi" over a single issue? If not a single issue, where does the cutoff for application of the moniker occur?

I mean, yeah, if they take to the streets and actively demonstrate using "hitler'esque" chants/slogans, then I would be comfortable applying a label to them. However, "anti-immigration" is a stance that many of my Democrat friends hold along with many of my Republican friends. But both couldn't possibly be "nazis", right?
 
@bryksom Yes, there are some right-wing nutters including Holocaust deniers in the AfD. But denying the Holocaust and running the Holocaust are not the same thing. To be correct I would call some of the AfD "Nazi sympathizers". And a large majority of AfD voters wouldn't even agree with the more outrageous stuff the AfD politicians say. They just want their anti-immigrant voice to be heard. Why do you want to deny them their democratic right to that? What other choice do they have?
 
I don't want to deny anyone the right to vote whatever party is s/he fancies on the ballot. But I sure can call AFD what they are. Noone should come after the elections surprised about what they voted into the Bundestag.

Btw, I myself don't vote the "big parties" either. I will vote for Basic Income.
 
I think basic income is a really good idea, especially if you can implement a version which doesn't have a heavy administrative cost like today's welfare systems. Might be still some years before a majority of Germans sees that.
 
@NoGuff

Every viewpoint has some extremists, and if I hold a moderate position for a certain viewpoint I know it is up to me to unambiguously shout down those extremists. If instead my response to those extremists is that they are "good people," or that "they have a point," or to attack the other side in their defense, I cannot be surprised when I am lumped in with them.

I don't think being against illegal immigration makes you automatically racist. But when you have a group declaring the superiority of the white race and the inferiority of the other races, you need to be the first to declare that these are horrible human beings and they do not speak for you.
 
@Tobold

What is your opinion on "democratic" as it pertains to the differences between Germany(or other similar countries) and the United States in regards to representation? What I mean is do you think that by virtue of having more "parties", that Germany is *more* democratic, in that regard, than the United States is with two main parties? The problem I am trying to address here is that just because someone is "against" something, some magical entity seems to shoehorn me into one party or the other here in the US, yet my opinion on an entirely different issue would magically align me with the "other" party.

@Samus

But when you have a group declaring the superiority of the white race and the inferiority of the other races, you need to be the first to declare that these are horrible human beings and they do not speak for you.

How about instead: just simply holding the personal opinion that these are bad people and just stand on the sidewalk instead of being told, as you just did, that I should care enough to join the opposite side and "shout them down"? It just seems that so many people love to argue that life is full of "gray areas" when justifying their lifestyle choices, yet when it comes to social issues they -demand- an adoption of a"black and white" mindset, creating an "us versus them" mentality.
 
What I mean is do you think that by virtue of having more "parties", that Germany is *more* democratic, in that regard, than the United States is with two main parties?

Politics has a very large number of issues to deal with. While people might care about immigration, they certainly also care about their health care, their taxes, the economy in as far as it touches their employment, and a host of other things. A party usually has a position on all of these issues. So you can either vote for the whole bundle or not vote at all. What if you are for universal health care but against gun control in the USA? What party do you vote for?

I don't think more parties is automatically better, and there certainly has to be a threshold preventing your parliament having dozens of parties in order to be able to form a government. But two parties might well be too few. As a Republican voter I would be very much confused why the people I gave majority in both houses, the presidency, and most governorships ends up not being able to get the votes together to get the things done they promised. If the USA would be officially governed by a coalition of a center-right pro-business party and a more extreme tea party (which in reality it already is), it would be a lot clearer what exactly is going on.
 
The problem with the "Nazi" is that for some reason only right wing politicians are labeled after the most extremes of their side. I've never heard anyone claiming that if Bernie Sanders wins, he sets up the Gulag and deports the businessmen there. It seems like this ad hominem hysteria is a lefty position.
 
Well, labeling somebody with mild social-democratic ideas a "communist" is quite common in the USA. There was the whole McCarthy era were everybody with leftist ideas was labeled a "communist" and persecuted. I would say that it tends to be cultural majority of the time that tends to label people with different ideas as extremists.
 
@Tobold

Politics has a very large number of issues to deal with. While people might care about immigration, they certainly also care about their health care, their taxes, the economy in as far as it touches their employment, and a host of other things.

Ok. Out of the list of things you just mentioned:

1. Immigration
2. Health Care
3. Taxes
4. Economy/Employment

Which of those 4 are more "representational" democratically? I can say for certain that 2, 3 and 4 are far more important to me as an American Citizen. While issue number 1 might be something that I am not really concerned about, and is something that I will more than likely ignore my parties position on when I cast my next vote.

Issues 2, 3 and 4 are issues that affect 100% of American citizens. How many percent of Americans are realistically affected by immigration issues? See the point? People LOVE to extol the virtues of "representational democracy" when trying to get their voice heard about an issue, but the moment someone wants to put something to a vote(representational democracy), that same side starts screaming "mob rule" and that the system is rigged against them.
 
"The problem with the "Nazi" is that for some reason only right wing politicians are labeled after the most extremes of their side"

You think that because your choice of news sources leaves you ignorant. When Megyn Kelly was on Fox News, she once claimed no one on Fox News had ever called Obama a Nazi. Needless to say, the Daily Show followed this with a 5 minute long montage of people on Fox News calling Obama a Nazi or Hitler, including on her own show.

You are also being dishonest about the similarities. The Nazi party didn't start out saying "lets kill all the Jews." They started out by ignorantly blaming their problems on immigrants and minorities, a view that is pretty mainstream among Republicans. And conservative bloggers.
 
@Samus: Interesting argument. Too bad it isn't historically accurate. Hitler wrote My Kampf a full decade before he came to power, and there are several places in that book where he talks about using poison gas on the Jews.
 
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