I now use the word “Nazi” for the right wing extremists who are currently calling the shots here in our exceptional nation. I know the word has an intemperate, hyperbolic ring to it, but hear me out. Many governments have been oppressive, autocratic, several were/are openly fascist. The Nazi regime stands head and shoulders above all these because of their openly racist criminality (draconian racial laws, death squads, death camps and so on) in the name of an imaginary ideal: to purify the blood of the most exceptional “race” in history. A hallmark of Nazis everywhere is their willingness to see millions die in order to achieve their goals. As that unimpeachable expert on Nazi philosophy and practice, Dr. Josef Goebbels, once remarked during the war: if we win, history will regard us as the world’s greatest benefactors, if we lose we’ll be remembered as its most notorious criminals.
The American Extreme Right is animated by many of the same sentiments that ignited the Nazi revolution. It is based, largely, in racism, organized hatred, a stilted “meritocracy” based on loyalty and anti-democratic obedience to the will of a superior being, an infallible leader. In a pinch they don’t care how many of their “enemies” need to die so that they might prevail, a characteristic their ilk demonstrates daily in this pandemic we’re currently all trying to survive.
In 1954 the Supreme Court belatedly, almost a hundred years after a decision stating that blacks could not be citizens or possess any rights “the white man is bound to respect”, ruled that segregated education is an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of “non-white” Americans. Recall at the time lynching was still practiced in many parts of the country. The National Guard had to be called in when schools were integrated, by a few brave children, to protect these kids from being murdered by screaming crowds of outraged racists.
Almost immediately a small group of wealthy reactionaries formed the extremist John Birch Society in reaction to this indignity. They got up and running, Fred Koch, father of the infamous Koch Brothers among them, in 1958. They were appalled that Negroes were given full rights at the stroke of a pen by the Supreme Court, a court they were convinced had been taken over by Communists. They were against the “mongrelization” of our country that would be caused by equal civil rights for all citizens and the likely “race mixing” that would result. The Birchers were the ultimate anti-communists during a period of anti-communist hysteria. The John Birch Society was a lunatic fringe group, considered nut jobs by most Democrats and Republicans of their time. Now they are basically running the United States of America in the form of the current lockstep Republican party led by Mr. Trump, Mitch McConnell and their plutocrat sponsors.
Of course, I have skipped a few steps. One of the first political campaigns Charles and David Koch undertook was an anti-integration campaign in North Carolina. They used some of their vast wealth to get their candidates on the school board and implemented policies that allowed white parents “school choice.” This school board was able to immediately re-segregate the district’s schools and did considerable damage to the educational opportunity in the poorest, blackest schools before it was voted out. This tells you a lot about the agenda of guys like the Koch boys.
They spent millions nationwide fighting minimum wage laws. They spent tens of millions on influence machines from “think tanks” that informed and later dominated public debate on every issue (think “climate skepticism”) to colleges and universities who took their donations in exchange for promoting their ideology. They funded the campaigns of anti-union politicians. They supported laws restricting voting in state after state, in order to increase their chances of victory for wildly unpopular anti-government policies. They were big funders of the Federalist Society, a national legal fraternity dedicated to creating a cadre of solid, right wing federal judges to rule in favor of industry, deregulation, curtailment of underclass voting rights, protecting the rights of employers, landlords and fetuses and other issues important to protecting the privileges of the wealthy and powerful. Why millions of the powerless go along with this agenda is a perplexing mystery. The chance to vent their anger and hatred, and feel superior to others in comradeship with fellow travelers, seems to explain some of it.
A lifetime ago I enrolled, briefly, in a PhD program in history with a concentration on the Nazi regime. I wanted to understand how an ignorant, violently opinionated sociopath could take over a famously civilized nation and order the murder of, among millions, my entire family. I took it somewhat personally, I admit. I quickly got into a fight with a professor about who supported the Nazis. I’d read about the wealthy reactionaries and aristocrats who, early or late in the Weimar Republic, threw their support behind the regime that would protect them from Marxism, provide some of them with slave labor (Bayer among them) and the rest of them with generous protection of their privileges.
The professor, an American who retained a bit of his German Jewish accent, a somber and well-read historian, told me dismissively that I sounded like Hugh Trevor-Roper, a freewheeling, acerbic British historian who shared my view, apparently, to great controversy . I understood that this was a sophisticated way of calling me an unlearned, wildly opinionated crackpot. I surmise that the professor was offended by Trevor-Roper, as apparently other Jewish historians were . During my semester as a PhD candidate I quickly came to understand the role of politics in the writing of history, and began to read it differently. I had to concede to the outraged professor that perhaps many of the wealthy did not throw their support behind Hitler until he was Fuhrer, which I thought was fair enough.
You don’t need an active conspiracy to have a world of shared goals with like-minded people, if you have overriding interests in common. The segregationist, anti-minimum wage, anti-union, anti-regulation, voting rights suppressing Kochtopus (they control dozens of influential institutions, Charles Koch’s favorite is called The Institute for Humane Studies) has a lot of very wealthy fellow travelers who are not specifically on board with all of their anti-humane, anti-democratic policies.
You have very wealthy people who might be considered socially liberal, someone like Jeff “Democracy Dies in Darkness” Bezos, who are on board with many of the core reactionary beliefs of many of his fellow billionaires, primarily that he has a absolute right to every penny he can put into his portfolio. Unions, hated by the Kochs and their ilk, are forbidden in Bezos operations. Bill Gates, Bezos’s fellow billionaire philanthropist and smartest man in any room, like Michael Bloomberg, share many of the features of the Koch belief system — fighting for monopoly control of their industries, promoting chosen projects they can throw vast sums of money into (for Gates “charter schools” was one) to create a good, philanthropic public name, and when in power, having cops throw random black kids against the wall (Bloomberg) as a way of “fighting crime.”
It’s easy to hate people who wake up every day burning to increase fortunes they already could not spend if they lived to be 1,000 years old. I find it easy, anyway. But when they promote policies that ensure that the poor will stay poor, and die in numbers as large as necessary to preserve the status quo that advantages the super-privileged, and spend millions to convince the credulous that there is something in this grotesque arrangement for them too, well, in my book these fucks, regardless of their well publicized “philanthropy”, are straight up evil. Nazis, if you will.
 Trevor-Roper’s most widely read and financially rewarding book was titled The Last Days of Hitler (1947). It emerged from his assignment as a British intelligence officer in 1945 to discover what happened in the last days of Hitler‘s bunker. From his interviews with a range of witnesses and study of surviving documents he demonstrated that Hitler was dead and had not escaped from Berlin. He also showed that Hitler’s dictatorship was not an efficient unified machine but a hodge-podge of overlapping rivalries.
Echo of history with Mr. Trump’s hodge-podge of overlapping rivalries. Pence and Kushner, for example, vie for control of the “response” to the plague currently killing many Americans.
 The American historian Lucy Dawidowicz in The Holocaust and Historians (1981) delivered what the British historian David Cesarani called an “ad hominem attack”, writing that Trevor-Roper in his writings on Nazi Germany was indifferent to Nazi antisemitism, because she believed that he was a snobbish antisemite, who was apathetic about the murder of six million Jews. Cesarani wrote that Dawidowicz was wrong to accuse Trevor-Roper of antisemitism but argued that there was an element of truth to her critique in that the Shoah was a blind-spot for Trevor-Roper.