Will They Ever Learn?

Albert Einstein famously told us that insanity is “…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In other words, we should learn from our mistakes. One such mistake made far too often in the public arena is comparing people to Adolf Hitler. No matter how valid a point about inappropriate behavior or actions the utterers of such comparisons may have, their point is always – always – lost when they resort to the Hitler comparison.

You’d think people would learn from the many who’ve taken this path and made this mistake over the years.

You’d think.

With the possible exception of celebrities, whose every utterance is now chronicled as if they’re important – really, we care what Jonah Hill said to an annoying guy? – politicians, because their work is so public, are the people most likely to be caught engaging in this kind of insanity. The other thing that makes it more likely that politicians will get caught making Hitler comparisons is, well, you know: a lot of politicians just aren’t very bright.

But you’d think they’d still learn from the very public mistakes of others.

You’d think.

Last week, the Pennsylvania state senate debated the merits of a bill that would bar the state from withholding union dues from the paychecks of unionized state workers. The proponents of such a measure generally are Republicans, because Republicans hate unions because their members tend not to vote for Republicans because Republicans have such contempt for ordinary working people. On this particular issue, Republicans were willing to put aside their frequent position that government should operate more like businesses even though many of the businesses they think government should act more like routinely deduct union dues from their workers’ wages. Why? Because Republicans hate working people more than they love big business.

The Curmudgeon doesn’t mean to oversimplify this issue. It is, as are so many issues, a matter over which reasonable people may differ, and that’s why legislative bodies debate such matters and then vote on them. Sometimes, though, the rhetoric gets heated – a little too heated, and in this case, on an issue in which heat, regardless of the side one takes, seems seriously inappropriate.

But not to Pennsylvania state senator Scott Wagner, a Republican only recently elected to fill a vacancy in the legislature. Wagner opened his mouth to debate the dues-withholding issue and, alas, the only thing he could to put in it was his foot.

And he did it with real gusto.

“The unions are about power and control. And there are two things that I continue to remember about power and control… There was a gentleman by the name of Hitler, he was about power and control. There’s a gentleman by the name of Putin, who’s across the ocean, that’s about power and control,” Wagner declared.

Ah, the Hitler comparison.

Ah, the foot in the mouth.

Because the comparison seems apt to Wagner, one can only assume he believes that unions want to conquer the world, want to exterminate entire races of people they believe to be inferior, and want to rule with an iron fist.

Seems logical, right? Unions, Hitler, to-may-toe, to-mah-toe – pretty much the same thing.

Faced with the reality of what he had done, Wagner lamely retreated from his foolish statement and clarified, for anyone who might have misinterpreted him, that he wasn’t saying unions are killing people.

Thank goodness he cleared that up for us.

(And lest anyone jump to the wrong conclusion: The Curmudgeon is by no means suggesting that this kind of mistake is endemic to Republicans. Stupidity has no political party.)

But the damage was done: the public now understands that Wagner is a fool and a demagogue. One can only hope his constituents in York County, Pennsylvania were paying attention and in this November’s election will correct the mistake they made earlier this year when they chose him to represent them in the state senate.

Or they will be guilty of the same thing as Wagner: doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.