Holocaust Rhetoric Has No Place In Politics

by Hope Racine

When the United States signed a nuclear treaty with Iran, there were few who were more outspoken against the deal than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The Republican drew national ire when he compared the Iran deal to the Holocaust. It's been over a month since Huckabee claimed that Obama and the deal would "take Israelis and march them to the door of the oven," and his comparison is still being echoed by other Republican candidates, which is why the word "Holocaust" has no place in politics.

From the get-go, Donald Trump was against the Iran deal, believing it would lead to further "nuclear proliferation." And on Wednesday, Trump reaffirmed his statement during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, but instead the Iran deal would result in a "nuclear holocaust."

It would be one thing if Holocaust rhetoric was used specifically to describe the Iran deal and emphasize Israel's concern regarding a tangible threat from a country that has open hostilities toward it. Huckabee's comment, though unnecessarily graphic, could be seen as valid in describing his concern. But the comparisons are not confined to just the Iran deal. The rhetoric is used rampantly in political circles, which is why even something as innocuous as Trump's use of the term "nuclear holocaust" leaves me feeling uneasy.

Considering Huckabee's history of Holocaust comments, and the veracity with which he defended his statement, it's not illogical to think he might make similar comments in the future. In 2014, Huckabee compared abortion to the Holocaust while touring Europe, even insinuating that it is worse.

If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers?

In 2008 and 2009, many politicians compared newly elected President Obama to Adolf Hitler, and repeatedly used Nazi allusions to describe his presidency. Rush Limbaugh repeatedly compared Obama's platforms to Nazi policies. To many, the Nazi party is considered synonymous with the Holocaust in many people's minds. Which is why it is concerning that politicians and political pundits reach for such a severe allusion to describe an event or platform that would not result in the death of millions.

To give Trump fair credit, the term "nuclear holocaust" is accurate for describing a wide-spread, disastrous event. The word "holocaust" literally means a destructive event caused by fire, which is a correct way of describing the aftermath of a nuclear attack. But "nuclear holocaust" was a term born out of Cold War propaganda to describe a world-wide apocalyptic event. It came into common vernacular during the 1950s, a time when America and the rest of the world were only beginning to fully comprehend the realities and horrors of the Jewish Holocaust during WWII.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The root of the issue is that while the word has a precise meaning, the cultural definition is something very different. I'm personally not sure it's possible to use the word without invoking the memory of Nazi concentration camps and the loss of Jewish life. But modern politics uses it so cavalierly, as a way to cause alarm and instill panic. It's a fear-mongering term, and using holocaust rhetoric to drive home a point undermines the reality of the situation.

If a word reminds people about the death of approximately 6 million Jews and 5 million other individuals, then it is not an allusion to be used lightly. Huckabee and Trump are clear examples of politicians capitalizing on the loss of human life and using fear to gain support for their platform. Whether a politician is drawing on direct allusions or is referencing the end of the world, neither tactic is effective for creating realistic, informed dialogue. This rhetoric not only devalues the actual event, but it's disingenuous, capitalizing on fear to vilify something politicians don't agree with. And it needs to stop.