When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called detention centers “concentration camps” was she making a reference to the Nazis or not? I think it’s clear she was, given that she used the phase “never again” and referred to President Trump as a “fascist.” You can’t combine all three of those things and then act shocked when people conclude you meant “Nazis.” And yet, that’s exactly what a majority of AOC’s fans have been doing, i.e. pretending she was referring to “concentration camps” generically. Lots of people defending her cited the use of camps during the Boer War as an example.
Yesterday, Chuck Todd criticized AOC for comparing the centers to Nazi concentration camps. As I noted, he skipped right over the defense that she never said Nazis and just blasted her. So here’s AOC’s response to Todd:
Well, @chucktodd – the fact that you slipped in “Nazi” when I never said that is pretty unfortunate.
Almost as unfortunate as the fact that you spent this whole time w/o discussing DHS freezers, “dog pounds,” missing children, & human rights abuses that uphold use of this term. https://t.co/1eNuW1ZR0f
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 19, 2019
So here’s AOC claiming she never said that. We have it from the horse’s mouth that she didn’t mean Nazis. That was on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning, someone wrote a piece for the Forward praising AOC for comparing the detention centers to Nazi camps during the Holocaust and AOC retweeted it (h/t Jeryl Bier):
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) June 20, 2019
Here’s a sample of the piece AOC is RTing:
As a Latina Jew, with the lived experience and perspective on history I carry, I believe that her use of the term was necessary and appropriate. Today’s American concentration camps are directly descended from the xenophobic forces that made assimilation a desirable option for my mother’s entire generation, and they bear a resemblance to Nazi concentration camps prior to 1941, when the first mass executions occurred…
While none of us can predict the future, these human rights violations could lay the groundwork for the kind of “final solution” approach that played out in Hitler’s camps. Human rights violations don’t go from zero to gas chambers overnight. They happen in a progression, with each step serving to prepare the public for the next.
So, on the one hand, she didn’t say Nazi concentration camps and therefore Chuck Todd is wrong to assume she meant that. On the other hand, she’s promoting an opinion piece that argues she’s right to compare these centers to Nazi concentration camps.
All of the people who were saying yesterday that she didn’t mean to raise the specter of the Nazis can now either double down (‘See, she didn’t mean Nazis’) or decide that she has signaled she did mean that (‘See, it’s just like the Nazis’). And if AOC switches back to “I never said Nazis” ten minutes or ten days from now, that’ll be okay too. None of her fans in the progressive media who were making the ‘she didn’t say Nazis’ argument yesterday, will complain about the contradiction. They’ll mostly pretend not to notice. If the past 24-hours has taught people anything it’s that disagreeing with AOC puts you on the wrong side of an angry online mob.
But I think AOC has created a problem for herself down the road. What is the endgame here? We had these centers throughout the Obama administration and we’ll continue to have them through 2020 and beyond no matter who wins the election. Why? Because there is simply no way to process 3,000 asylum claims per day. And, frankly, if we could process 3,000 a day, the number of people arriving would soon top that. There’s no magnet for immigration like open borders.
AOC has painted herself into a corner. This is a battle in which she can’t win and she can’t compromise. At some point, maybe six months from now, doesn’t her vocal stance begin to look a little hollow? But for right now this is working out great for her. She’s once again shown she’s the real leader of the Democratic Party and everyone from Joe Biden down to the bottom of the ticket has to take a position on her issue.