U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson has never been a fan of President Donald Trump, but the Georgia Democrat significantly dialed up his criticism on Tuesday with a searing New Year’s Day speech that drew parallels between Trump’s rise and that of Adolf Hitler.
Johnson made his point from the pulpit at Friendship Baptist Church, during a celebration to mark the 156th anniversary of the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation. He urged vigilance against tyranny.
“Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump,” Johnson said.
Both men, Johnson said, were charismatic public speakers, received hard-to-track donations from wealthy industrialists and stirred up their supporters at raucous rallies.
“Hitler was accepting of violence towards the achievement of political objectives,” Johnson said. “Trump encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies, and his messaging about Charlottesville —that there were bad people on both sides —sent a powerful message of approval to the far right racists in America.”
This is far from the first time that Nazi Germany has been used as a metaphor by a Georgia member of Congress. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., a fierce presidential ally, apologized last fall after being reprimanded for comparing opponents of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Brownshirts, the Nazi party’s paramilitary wing.
Johnson’s comments came two days before Thursday’s Democrats takeover of the U.S. House. The Georgia congressman will have a senior position on the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, the powerful panel anticipated to spearhead many investigations into the president.
The general rule in politics has been that he who is the first to bring Hitler into the dialogue loses. But after his Tuesday speech, Johnson defended his use of the historic example.
“I wanted to make the point that our democracy is under severe threat, that freedom is threatened, and that if we are not vigilant we can allow tyranny to set in,” he told one of your Insiders. “I made the point that this threat to democracy is a trend across the world, and we can’t let this happen in our country.”