Leo Strauss had Donne Trotter’s number. Strauss was the University of Chicago professor who coined the term reductio ad Hitlerum.
As he wrote in his 1953 book Natural Right and History, “we must avoid the fallacy that in the last decades has frequently been used as a substitute for the reductio ad absurdum: the reductio ad Hitlerum. A view is not refuted by the fact that it happens to have been shared by Hitler.”
It’s a rhetorical gambit also known as “playing the Nazi card.” In an interview with Springfield public radio station WUIS, State Sen. Donne Trotter slapped that card down on the table when he complained about Gov. Pat Quinn’s support for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos. African-American and Latino legislators are opposed to another two-year term for Hamos, saying she’s more interested in cutting spending than helping the elderly and the disabled.
“Hitler supported Goebbels too and his propaganda he was pushing forth during his crusade," Trotter said. "So if this is the person, this is the face you want to represent your administration, then we need to get rid of both of them.”
When you compare a rival politician to Adolf Hitler, or any other Nazi, you’ve lost the argument. Anyone who has read anything about the Third Reich knows that there can never be an American Hitler. Hitler united the German people based on a philosophy of their own ethnic superiority. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans were the Master Race, he believed, and the rest of the world was meant to serve them. The fact that an African-American state senator is accusing an Irish governor of acting like a Nazi for defending a Jewish bureaucrat proves that such appeals would never work in our multicultural society.
Trotter personally apologized to the Chicago Jewish Federation and to Hamos, and issued this public apology:
I apologize to Director Hamos.
My comments were inappropriate and wrong.
My focus will remain on the egregious disregard toward some of the most vulnerable people in our state: the mentally ill, the profoundly disabled, the sickest, the old and young.
Our state’s fiscal status should not result in the negligent disregard of our weakest.
Our governor’s mantra is “everybody in, nobody left out,” and now he is condoning leaving the weakest out.
Additionally, I would like to thank Chicago Jewish Federation President Steven B. Nasatir for calling for cooler heads and less rhetoric and for acknowledging that I have a history of speaking out against intolerance, something that I will continue to do.
Trotter has always been one of Springfield’s most colorful characters, with his bow ties and his neatly-trimmed beard. Now, the rest of the state is learning about his eccentricities. First, he was detained for trying to carry a gun onto an airplane -- which ended his bid to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. as 2nd District congressman. And now, he’s played the Nazi card. He’s gotten so bizarre that it might be time to start using Reductio ad Trotterum to discredit an opponent’s argument in the state senate.