A comment by a Kansas Democratic National Convention delegate likening Republican justification of voter ID to Hitler’s “Big Lie” strategy rolled through the right-wing blogosphere today, generating outrage from conservatives across the nation.
Contacted at the convention in Charlotte, the delegate, Pat Lehman, said she stands by her comment that Republicans are using a Big Lie technique to sell voter identification, which she called a set of “Jim Crow” laws designed to suppress voting, especially among minorities and the elderly who generally favor Democrats.
“I’m not going to stand by and let them lie about voter suppression,” she said. “I didn’t say they were like Hitler, I said Hitler was the model for the Big Lie.”
“It’s not the first time the right wing’s gotten hysterical about me and it won’t be the last,” she added. “They’re hysterical about everything.”
Kelly Arnold, vice chairman of the state Republican Party, called Lehman’s comments “outrageous, insulting and an embarrassment to all of Kansas.”
He said with no record to run on and no plan going forward, Democrats “will resort to the lowest attacks possible to divert attention away from the fact that Americans are worse off today than they were four years ago.”
A story in today’s Wichita Eagle and on Kansas.com titled “Kansas delegates head to N.C. for Democratic convention” became a cause celebre for conservatives who assailed Lehman, a longtime Democratic Party and labor activist.
Lehman was quoted in the article saying that Republicans are not telling the truth about pushing voter identification laws in states across the country where they hold control, including Kansas.
Republicans say they support voter ID to prevent voter fraud, but Lehman said she believes polling-place fraud is minimal and the real motivation is to limit voting by traditionally Democratic constituencies who are less likely to have the needed ID, especially elderly voters who don’t drive and were more likely to have been born without a birth certificate being prepared.
Of the Republicans’ justification, she said: “It’s like Hitler said, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, and if you tell it often enough and say it in a loud enough voice, some people are going to believe you.”
Joan Wagnon, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party and the state convention delegation, said she’s not received any blowback from Lehman’s comments.
And, while she said she wouldn’t have invoked Hitler, Wagnon said Lehman is essentially correct about Republican untruthfulness.
“I’m sure she (Lehman) was commenting on their lack of veracity,” she said. “The Republicans have not been terribly careful about footnoting their contentions.
“Our job at this convention is to get the facts out,” she said. “One thing that makes the public really angry is for people to play fast and loose with the truth.”
Bob Dool, chairman of the Sedgwick County Republican party, said it is a “gross, gross misrepresentation of the purpose of the (voter ID) law” to suggest that it’s designed to exclude certain classes of people from voting.
“The voter ID law is working smoothly and there’s been plenty of opportunity for people to get the necessary ID,” he said. “It’s really too bad that the rhetoric has gotten so far out of hand this election.”
The Eagle story quoting Lehman was linked to by several national online publications, including Slate and the web editions of the Washington Post and Washington Times. It also was linked to by the Drudge Report, which aggregates web content of interest to conservatives.
The national links generated more than 50,000 hits on the Kansas.com story and a wave of angry comments from conservatives on the local and national sites.
Many blasted Lehman for the Hitler reference, while simultaneously comparing liberals, Democrats and President Obama to Hitler, Nazis, communists and socialists.
“These leftist wackos have taken Goebbels’ lesson to heart with their lock-step repetition of their own Big Lies and then accuse their opponents of their own sins,” read a typical comment from Kansas.com. “It’s brazen enough to resonate with the completely ignorant.”
There was substantial discussion of whether the Big Lie technique should be attributed to Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist.
In fact, Hitler outlined the concept of the Big Lie in his book Mein Kampf, although he raised it as an accusation against Jews.
Goebbels made a similar comment years later, in regard to Winston Churchill.
The chairman of the California delegation left the convention amid controversy over a comment he made comparing Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech at the GOP convention to Goebbels’ propaganda. The delegate apologized for the comment and said he was returning home for dental treatment.
The conservative Weekly Standard speculated a similar fate could await Lehman.
“The top California Democrat who likened Ryan to Goebbels is now reportedly returning to his home state for a ‘pre-scheduled root canal,’” the Weekly Standard wrote. “One wonders if Lehman will now have to leave the Democratic convention for some reason, whatever reason.”
Lehman says she’s not going anywhere and was wholly unapologetic about the outrage her comment generated among conservatives.
“They’re used to getting away with lying and nobody calling them out on it,” Lehman said. “When pigs get caught under the gate, they usually squeal.”