Publicly calling a fellow American a Nazi is generally considered out of bounds in today’s America. It’s as bad as calling someone a nigger, a kyke, a faggot, a cunt or a motherfucker. It’s kind of a credibility destroying deal-breaker here, to call a political opponent a Nazi, no matter how obnoxious, irrational or lawless that political opponent might be.
It’s true that the current president famously compared the FBI and the CIA, U.S. intelligence agencies, to Nazis, but he just says things in anger and nobody gets too excited about his puffery, exaggeration, distortion, lying. He’s a salesman and he’s always selling the one product he has to sell: himself. He’s sui generis, you know, and that’s putting it as elegantly as I can. His evangelical supporters call him a flawed vessel for God’s will, he is definitely that too, I suppose (if you imagine God’s will as those who support Trump do). He routinely gets away with things no past presidential candidate or president ever imagined surviving politically.
But for more responsible public actors, comparing fellow Americans to Nazis is generally out of bounds. After all, the Nazis were directly responsible for the deaths of many millions of people, probably more than 20,000,000  during one of the darkest periods in recent history. The Nazis set up mechanized death camps where they mass-murdered millions on industrial assembly lines. The Nazis were fucking Nazis, the historical gold standard for evil operating under cover of state action. Josef Goebbels said if they won the Nazis would be remembered as history’s greatest benefactors, if they lost– history’s greatest criminals. They lost, kind of, though their fighting spirit fights on in the hearts of those filled with righteous rage for their holy cause.
In limited contexts it’s fine to compare people to Nazis in American politics. In a pinch, to convince Americans to go to war for no reason anyone can comprehend, you can compare Manuel Noriega to Hitler, or Saddam — another “modern-day Hitler” — that’s fine, though it’s generally out of bounds for one American to call another a Nazi. But call a dictator a Nazi, Hitler, then the choice is simple: do you stand up to this Hitler or do you bend your knee like the cowardly Neville Chamberlain?
Beto O’Rourke recently compared the Trump administration to Nazis. He meant they are ruthless, blindly loyal to their unhinged leader, obstructionist, they routinely lie, they incite violence and hatred, they have utter contempt for anything but “winning”, maintaining their grip on power O’Rourke was challenged on the comparison. He had a good response: give me a better comparison.
Personally, I don’t have one. Reading about the Nazi regime, the cult of personality built around the infallible Mr. Hitler, I am reminded over and over of how the Trump administration operates and what it is trying to do, in many cases succeeding in doing. If Trump survives impeachment and is reelected in 2020, American democracy is pretty much over. He will have vindicated the principle that one man, if he is great enough, may flout every law and ethical norm to instill his vision, by force of his will, on the nation he rules. Let’s take a quick stroll through the familiar terrain of his rise and his rule.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was the first U.S. Senator to openly endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy. He stood on stage with Trump, at a time when Trump still was an unthinkably clownish long-shot candidate, and introduced him as the next president of the United States. As a reward for his great loyalty Trump made Sessions, a man too racist to be confirmed to the federal bench, Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official.
Once confirmed, Sessions got busy talking about God, and how he’d crack down on marijuana using the draconian federal laws Nixon wrote, and how Trump answers to a higher power than ordinary politicians and how he must be obeyed, how there was absolutely no racist pattern to voter suppression schemes after the Supreme Court curtailed the Voting Rights Act and so on. He spouted a lot of crap. But when he was called out, in open testimony, under oath, for having been untruthful about his contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition, he listened to ethics advice from the professionals at the Department of Justice and recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Now the story kicks into another gear. Trump was enraged by this “betrayal” by Sessions. Sessions, according to Trump, had not taken a principled stance as required by law and professional ethics, he’d acted like a weakling, instead of being like Roy Cohn, a powerful Pit-bull who’d do whatever was necessary to win, including taking an open, greasy dump on the law (Cohn was eventually, years too late, disbarred for his corruption, but that’s a trifle). Trump humiliated Sessions regularly, mocking him publicly as a wimp, imitating his southern accent, his squeamish fealty to weak-ass “liberal” things like so-called law and ethics.
Then, to be concise in hitting just a few highlights of the way Trump goes about his business, Trump fired FBI director Jim Comey when Comey wouldn’t declare his personal loyalty to Trump and “let the Flynn thing go”. When Deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein, overseeing the probe into Russian interference in the closely contested 2016 election, was forced to appoint a Special Prosecutor, Trump went ballistic, blaming and eventually forcing Sessions to resign, after making repeated attempts to get Sessions to “unrecuse” and limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller wound up writing a whole volume of his report detailing and analyzing Trump’s many efforts to obstruct justice, though Mueller refrained from drawing any prosecutorial conclusions, pursuant to a DOJ directive and for reasons of bending over backwards to appear scrupulously fair.
Mueller’s investigation resulted in numerous indictments and several convictions of close Trump associates and found “sweeping and systematic” Russian election interference on behalf of Trump. The Republican senate recently released a report coming to the same conclusion: Russians had done everything possible to tilt the 2016 presidential election to the candidate who won.
What to do? Find an Attorney General who will act like Roy Cohn, do whatever is necessary to protect the leader/client. The A.G., after all, in Trump’s view, is the president’s most important body guard. He’s in charge of all law enforcement on a federal level. He says what’s a federal crime and what’s pure commie bullshit and a conspiratorial partisan witch hunt against a totally innocent man. Enter the pathetic porcine puppet of this puerile president , a debased lawyer of the Antonin Scalia school, with a God-driven worldview based, perversely, on what he believes Jesus would do — if Jesus was a xenophobic privileged white seventy year-old.
How do you defend a president as apparently corrupt and incapable of not lying as this Donald Trump character? You take his lead, the boss has genius marketing instincts. Trump repeatedly said the Mueller probe was a partisan witch hunt that would totally exonerate him. Barr agreed, made the counter-factual call that the report exonerated Trump of everything. Trump said the vicious partisan “Deep State” traitors who initiated the “politically motivated” investigation (that came to the same conclusions about Russian interference the Republican senate did) to overturn the will of 78,000 strategically perfect voters and their Electors, should be criminally investigated and punished for treason, for being spies! Barr agreed and now Barr’s Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation into the Department of Justice.
During Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” not a word of the liberal Weimar Constitution was ever changed, once Emergency Powers were invoked pursuant to a Patriot Act-style vote in the German parliament. No change to the democratic blueprint was necessary, everything was down to enforcement by Nazi police, the decisions of Nazi judges in Nazi courts. German law enforcement was headed by Hermann Goering for a while, when he wasn’t too whacked out on drugs, then more sober men like Heinrich Himmler stepped into the void. There is never a shortage of supremely ambitious men to step into fateful roles next to the most powerful men in the world.
Barr starting a criminal investigation of his own agency, in what universe does that seem remotely impartial, fair or just? Only one that I can think of off-hand, though one is, of course, reluctant to call even these lawless motherfuckers Nazis.
 World War Two fun facts:
 tip of the yarmulke to Laurence Tribe for that apt, alliterative aspersion.