Why do some conservatives try to claim that Nazis are left wing?

…as answered on Quora….

There are many good answers to this question and many poor answers. The good ones recognize that “left” and “right” are contentious, ambiguous, or context-dependent concepts. The poor ones do not.

I basically agree with David Friedman and, of all people, someone calling herself “Hannah Hitler.” Unless Ms. Hitler is engaging in some bizarre brinksmanship with her moniker, I am confident in asserting that David and Hannah share little in normative politics. Yet they do share a more complex view of the world than those progressives who relentlessly churn out puerile invective against conservatives — as a few of the answerers do.

Interestingly, neither David nor Hannah are conservative — the former I know to be a libertarian and the latter I assume to be a neo-Nazi. I am not a conservative, either, but I am sympathetic enough with conservatives to understand the “Nazis are left wing” charge. I am not a progressive, either, but I am sympathetic enough with progressives to understand the “Nazis are right wing” charge. Both are right, both are wrong. If conservatives or progressives balk at this judgment, they must do so out of some belief in the narrow precision of the terms “left” and “right.” The belief is unwarranted, though, as others have argued. And yet that belief remains dominant in American politics, especially amongst progressives. Which is why progressives are making of themselves fools and laughing stocks and worse right now: by refusing to recognize the intellectual complexity of the political landscape. It is all relentlessly Good vs. Evil these days.

Calling conservatives “brownshirts” — as one answerer has done — is a grand example of invidious imputation. Conservatives in America are light years apart from fascists and Nazis . . . at least to the extent they uphold the Constitution of the United States, a deeply anti-totalitarian document. Progressives, on the other hand, have more in common with brownshirt and blackshirt violence — at least to the extent they balk at supporting the ConstitutionOh, and also to the extent they defend antifa and BAMN and other street thuggery, for that is just flirtation with the very kind of activity they excoriate in others.

This is where everything gets very uncomfortable. Progressives took up the mantle of “liberalism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But they changed liberal preoccupations in the process, I think for the worse. Early Progressives were opponents of the Constitution, quite explicitly: they hated liberal limits to government. And today’s progressives follow suit, even abandoning free speech and other old liberal checks on power in their mad desire to control speech they do not like (“hate speech”) as well as to regulate the democratic process by prohibiting the expenditure of money by groups they do not like. The recent New York Times paean to Justice Kagan’s “weaponizing the First Amendment” comment is a fine example of contemporary progressive cluelessness.

Of course, it is not as if conservatives do not suffer from their own brands of dunderheaded cluelessness. This is the Age of Trump, after all. But so far the hysterical denunciations of Trump as “literally Hitler” haven’t panned out. Trump is nothing like Hitler. He is the Mule. Something unique. I wouldn’t advise trusting him, but making unrealistic comparisons to Nazis, or not owning up to your own (progressive) “shit,” is no way to fight authoritarian impulses within the conservative movement.

The great truth of our time is this: progressives misunderstand conservativism, and conservatives misunderstand themselves. This makes for a wild and confusing political mess. And while I see some hope for philosophical clarity evolving from this chaos, I do not rest much hope on it. Why? Most Americans — most people — can barely think rationally, and those who most loudly boast of their rationality rarely confront their own presuppositions.

So mess it shall likely remain. It is what we can expect of a deeply unphilosophical people.

And left and right will be calling each other “Nazi” until the heavens pour down fire or the depths serve up ice.