The Left was saying this about Reagan in 1980. Coretta Scott King said:

I am scared if Reagan gets into office we will see more of the KKK and a resurgence of the Nazi Party.

Claremont College professor John Roth wrote:

I could not help remembering how economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I—to send the world reeling into catastrophe… It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our post-election state with fear and trembling.

Esquire writer Harry Stein says that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.” Sociologist Alan Wolfe is up in the New Left Review:

The worst nightmares of the American left appear to have come true.

And he doubles down in The Nation:

[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.

And the Bushitler and Trump Nazi references are too numerous to mention. When did the left, any commentator, reporter, politician or celebrity will do, start associating main stream conservatism and conservatives with Nazism and Nazis?

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    Sometime around 1933 I'd wager. Nov 10, 2016 at 18:19
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    This is by no means a phenomena relegated only to the left, though I imagine the left comparing the right to Nazis does go back further (my guess is due to nazism itself being a far right-wing movement). I saw just as many mentions of someone named "Hitlery" as those calling Donald Trump a fascist during the campaign.
    – user5155
    Nov 10, 2016 at 18:44
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    Some of us would describe the Nazis as a far-left movement.
    – Brythan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 19:10
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    @Brythan Just goes to show that if you go far enough in either direction they wind up looking the same.
    – user5155
    Nov 10, 2016 at 19:43
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    the dailymail has this "Former KKK leader David Duke 'We won it for Trump'"; the daily mail is part of the conservative press. Nov 10, 2016 at 20:40

3 Answers 3



Democrats have been implying (or outright saying) that Republican presidential candidates were fascists since Barry Goldwater. Example:

Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater accepted an invitation to visit an American military installation located in Bavaria, Germany. On "CBS Evening News" hosted by Walter Cronkite, correspondent Daniel Schorr said: "It is now clear that Sen. Goldwater's interview with Der Spiegel, with its hard line appealing to right-wing elements in Germany, was only the start of a move to link up with his opposite numbers in Germany." The reaction shot — when the cameras returned to Cronkite — showed the "most trusted man in America" gravely shaking his head.

Or maybe it began when Goldwater accepted the Republican nomination, and Democratic California Gov. Pat Brown said the "stench of fascism is in the air."

It would have been a difficult accusation to make stick against the war hero, Dwight Eisenhower. And Thomas Dewey had his own notable victory against Nazi supporters in the US.

Herbert Hoover and earlier presidents predated the rise of the Nazi party. If someone had called them Nazis, no one would have cared. Even as late as Wendell Wilkie in 1940, it wouldn't have been anywhere near the insult that it is today.


Many believed that Joe McCarthy was trying to court the German-American vote by opposing prosecutions of Nazis. Of course, McCarthy was also accused of voting the Communist Party line in the Senate. McCarthy faced a lot of strong insults because he was often so offensive himself.

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    We should remember that the right was calling the left communist at times too. Richard Nixon ran a particularly dirty campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas in California in 1950, which he arguably didn't need to cause he was killing it in the polls, but his campaign manager didn't care. It may have begun before then, but that campaign certainly paved the road for unfavorable comparisons, the left to communism, the right to Nazism and it may have begun long before then.
    – userLTK
    Mar 22, 2017 at 3:15
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    @userLTK - "which he arguably didn't need to cause he was killing it in the polls" - foreshadowing Watergate, apparently. Jan 8, 2018 at 17:47

The Left was saying this about Reagan in 1980.

The left didn't like Reagan at all. Make no mistake, but only a very few compared him to the Nazi party. I was alive during the 1980 election. It was the first time I voted and the year I had to register for the draft. I remember it well.

The left's primary fears on Reagan was that he might have lacked the necessary education, backed up by some quotes from him like "trees cause pollution" and "Poland wasn't part of the USSR".

There was also fear that Reagan was a war monger and he was tough on the Soviets. People generally see that as a positive today but there was fear at the time that the strong-arm approach wasn't the right approach.

And Reagan was a tax cut, ignore the environment, cut programs republican. Democrats and liberals strongly objected to all 3 of those programs at the time.

There wasn't a strong nazi vibe at all, but there was a fear that Reagan would hurt the poor and cut down too many trees. You need to look for the number of times Reagan was referred to as a Nazi because it was rare. (It's way way way way more common today on both sides).

on the late 70s/1980

The late 70s had seen two oil crises, The overthrow of the US backed Iranian government and the hostage crisis, the Russians taking Afganistan and the on-going cold war and perhaps the biggest concern, the stagflation crisis. I wouldn't call it panic, but on both the international front and the economic front, things were troubling and people were concerned.

One key way where the late 70s and 1980 election are different than today is that today we've seen a few serious economic recessions and while they suck, people understand that we bounce back from them. There's a feeling today of "We'll get by", in the 70s, that confidence wasn't there. The feeling was that a great recession wasn't a question of if, but when. Now we know better how to manipulate and re-stimulate the economy. Today we might fear a nuclear strike by North Korea, in the late 70s we feared Nuclear annihilation. It's not that things were worse in the late 70s into 1980, but the fear carried a bigger hammer and there was less certainty on what could be done to recover. Today we know that recessions generally last a few years and can be recovered from by low interest rates and printing money. There was a feeling in 1980 that the next recession was going to last 25 years. It was a different kind of fear. I say this as someone who saw both the 1970s/80s and am still reasonably coherent today.

Coretta Scott King

"I am scared if Reagan gets into office we will see more of the KKK and a resurgence of the Nazi Party."

Lets be clear. She didn't call Reagan a Nazi exactly, so much as a step towards a possible resurgence of the party.

She began with "I am scared" - which should be regarded as a fair statement, she may well have been scared.

Then she said "see more of the KKK" - That actually happened by 1980.

Klan in Reagan's America

A resurgence of the Klan

It was the early 1980s when the KKK began petitioning to have marches, met with many protests and arguments by the ACLU that they should be allowed.

On her final statement: "and a resurgence of the Nazi Party" If we take out the mid section and she just says: I am scared if Reagan gets into office we will see a resurgence of the Nazi Party" - taking out the KKK Part, is that a fair statement or is it fear mongering and slander? I think it's borderline. When Reagan was governor of California he considered banning handguns and he did send national guard troops into Berkeley during the 60s. There was some room for legitimate fear of an over-controlling president. Coretta Scott King wasn't talking completely out of left field, but I don't think she makes a strong case as to why Reagan would be a step towards a resurgence of the Nazi party, nor does she effectively tie Reagan to the KKK resurgence, even though they happened concurrently.

I'd grade her statement as exaggerated for sure, and playing on the fear of others, but there's still some meat behind it. She wasn't pizza-gating, she said what she said with at least a smidgen of validity and concern. Jimmy Carter as governor broke down barriers between black and white. Everyone knew that Reagan would call the national guard on a black protest in a heartbeat. Coretta, who largely spoke to the black community, had some legitimate reason for concern.

Professor John Roth

"I could not help remembering how economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I—to send the world reeling into catastrophe… It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our post-election state with fear and trembling."

He's drawing parallels to history. You heard the statement "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it". He knows his history and he sees tough economic times and makes a comparison.

Reagan was nothing like Hitler. Reagan ran on silly promises and idealism. "I will cut your taxes" "We'll make America strong" "I will take a hard line on international policy" and while these ideas sound better in today's light, we should remember that at the time, members of his own party called his economic plan "Voodoo economics". George HW Bush said that, but there was no knowledge or certainty on how Reagan's tax cut would go. HW Bush wasn't speaking in a vacuum, many others in the republican party had doubts about Reagan. Many of the Goldwater Republicans saw something in Reagan that they liked, though he wasn't full-Goldwater, he leaned enough in their direction that they liked him. He wasn't like Hitler at all, who was angry and passionate and vocal, Reagan was more soft spoken, trying to display an air of confidence over what some might call the early onset of senility. TO BE CLEAR: I'm NOT talking about whether he was competent, only how he appeared and presented himself while running for office. He was generally firm but soft. A nice guy, but a nice guy with a new and in some ways tougher approach - that's nothing like Hitler.

So, while I appreciate the professors comparison to history and it's accurate as far as he took it, there are errors in his comparison. The economic situation in Germany at the time of Hitler's emergence was far worse than the US in 1979-80, even tough things were bad here and people were scared, it's still a bad comparison. Also, Reagan was not urging the farthest far right. He was further right than people on the left wanted, but he wasn't Hitler like at all. So I think the professors assessment is somewhat rooted in truth but also flawed.

The others and closing thoughts.

Esquire writer Harry Stein says that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think Esquire writer Harry Stein stretched to the moon with that one.

Sociologist Alan Wolfe is up in the New Left Review: “The worst nightmares of the American left appear to have come true.” And he doubles down in The Nation: “[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

OK, I'd like dates and context. It's really not fair to just judge naked quotes, but it does sound like Alan Wolfe is trying to stir up concern with this one.

And, just for fun, here's some more for you, an article by Jonah Goldberg

The problem is, Jonah Goldberg is wrong. The 1980s weren't like 2017. There were some calls for concern but there was no national attention. The nation wasn't hearing "Reagan-Nazi" all the time like we hear "Trump-Nazi" today. Many of us did not like Reagan, make no mistake. The favorite of mine, the one that got cut from the school newspaper and posted on dormitory walls was a cartoon that ran in my college paper that said "A mind is a terrible thing to waste money on" and a picture of Reagan, shortly after he announced cuts to college scholarships. It was a play on "A Mind is a terrible thing to waste" - which if you were alive in the 70s, everyone was familiar with that quote it was practically the most televised commercial on TV for a stretch.

We hated Reagan for his policy, but it was rare that he was called a Nazi, and when it was done it was seen as more of a funny insult than an actual label. That's what's wrong with the internet. You can google and find quotes, but that tells you almost nothing of what the time was actually like. Reagan was very unpopular in some circles, but the Nazi slur as an attempt at a realistic label didn't take off until Bush and the Patriot act, that's where it began to stick. The other answer in this post mentions Goldwater. Goldwater was unpopular and everyone knew LBJ was going to win so the stronger republicans didn't run in 64. I don't know how often or how meaningful it was that people may have called Goldwater a Nazi. I think of Goldwater in 1964 as a bit of a paper candidate. Nobody gave him much thought, but, as I said, he was before my time.

I'm also not sure what the entire point of this question is. People will say things and criticize others. It's better to try to understand the larger trends, not just a handful of quotes that opportunists have dug up. I see no point is "Why do liberals say this about conservatives", when many liberals have never gone down that path. It's just more generalizing. The equivalent question in reverse would be "Why do conservatives think Obama was born in Kenya"

The answer - to both questions is, many of them don't.

Finally, Trump shouldn't be called a Nazi and it's done far too often in today's world. (Not as often as Obama was called a Kenyan, a Socialist, a Muslim or a Terrorist), but still, too often and many on both sides have taken to making the worst possible assumptions and statements of the party they don't like.

Trump, however, didn't help his case by refusing to call out the Nazi party after their disgusting behavior in Charlottesville, but instead calling out the "alt-left". If I was to offer some advice to Mr. Trump. When an organized march chants "Death to Jews" and do so marching past a synagogue, all in defense of a civil war statue, the sitting president would be wise to tell those people that, while they have a right to march, their message is wrong. By not doing that, (and sorry @grovkin if this bothers you), but president Trump unquestionably brought some of the name calling on himself when he made that decision to indirectly stick up for the far alt-right.

The main point of my answer, however, is that some vocal supporters of both parties have taken to the lowest common demonstrator and make the worst possible comparisons and name calling they can think of, and what's crazy today, people seem to often believing it.

I was alive when Reagan (and Nixon) were elected president and it was different then. I read the quotes that the poster of this question posted and they should be read in context and they are different than the nonsense that gets hurled around today. The name calling has gotten much much worse, and people seem to be much more willing to believe the worst too. This seems to be be driven in part by the ease of social media. in the 80s, mad-rants didn't get news-paper time. Today the crazier stuff does get airtime. People might call that opinion, and maybe, but it's my observation. I think it's a mistake to only talk about one party's name calling without addressing both parties, and I think it's a mistake to make assumptions about the past based on a few cherry-picked quotes taken out of context. History, that is to say, what really happened, deserves better than assumptions made on cherry picked quotes. It deserves a more honest look.

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    @grovkin I didn't call Trump a Nazi. I said people call him a nazi too often (which maybe implies that it's OK to call him that rarely but that's not what I meant and that's misunderstanding the figure of speech, however, I'll change the wording because I see that it's open for misinterpretation the way I wrote it.
    – userLTK
    Feb 8, 2018 at 11:13
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    @grovkin To be fair, it is entirely possible to be hypocritical about hatred. Even the Nazis had "honorary" Aryans. Trump so far seems to be strongly pro-Israel, though, so that might be a better point.
    – JAB
    Feb 8, 2018 at 19:21
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    Depends on if the term is being used specifically for those who adhere to the traditional National Socialist philosophy or as a more general fascist/statist term, I suppose.
    – JAB
    Feb 8, 2018 at 20:28
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    @JAB Nice answer, and I think you're right. Nazi is specific towards Hitler's anti Jewish approach where as Fascist is that approach towards any group. The problem with that distinction, while accurate, is that it's rarely made by people who throw the insults around. The people who call politicians Nazis, if corrected, and if they were told, don't you mean Fascists, because he's partial to Israel and has a Jewish daughter?, I think the point would be lost on them. The subject this question addresses, I think the Israel point doesn't apply, but it would apply in different questions.
    – userLTK
    Feb 8, 2018 at 20:55
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    @grovkin Mr. Trump was the one who catered to the group that chanted death to Jews because he's afraid of offending the Alt-right. I simply pointed out that he made it easier for people to call him a Nazi. The blame, as I said, goes mostly on people wrongly making uneducated insults, but the blame, partly, goes on the president not doing the right thing. It's the president's job to tell a group they are wrong when they chant death to Jews and when one of their members drives a car like a terrorist into the opposing group, killing one and injuring several.
    – userLTK
    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:08

In the book The Authoritarian Personality written by German Marxist Theodor W. Adorno an ideologist of the Frankfurt School and an author of Critical Theory, he introduced the concept of Authoritarian personality. He invented the F (for fascism) scale. Adorno associated his own fascism definition with typical conservative traits.

Frankfurt School was very influential in the hippie and counterculture movements and gave birth to New Left, which basically is what formed modern liberalism.

If you want to dig little deeper you may point to another Marxist Wilhelm Reich an author of "the sexual revolution" term. In the book The Mass Psychology of Fascism he proposed fascism to be symptom of sexual repression present in the conservative culture. He argued that the fascism was chosen over communism in Germany, because of repressive family, a harmful religion and authoritarian educational system. He famously accused the family to be the first cell of the fascist society.

Reich's book became very popular during 1968 student revolt, one of the slogans was "Read Reich and act accordingly!". In Germany students were throwing the books at the police.

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