H.W. Brands: Hitler Shares Nothing With Misidentified 'Fascist' Woodrow Wilson

Roundup: Historians' Take

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Pity poor Woodrow Wilson. The man who tried to save the world from tyranny is now being excoriated as a liberal fascist by the likes of Glenn Beck, Jonah Goldberg and other conservatives.

The attacks on Wilson make mildly entertaining parlor polemics, and they serve the partisan purpose of those who would trace a line of descent from Wilson’s alleged fascism to the efforts of fellow Democrat Barack Obama to reform health care and otherwise expand the role of government.

But like most such attempts to transpose labels from one era to another, the tagging of Wilson as a fascist obscures far more than it reveals. And it’s not as though Wilson doesn’t have a lot to answer for already. As a child and a young man growing up in the South during and after the Civil War, he imbibed the racist attitudes of his time and place -- attitudes that inspired his decision to extend the Jim Crow system of segregation from private industry to the federal workforce.

To be sure, the idea wasn’t Wilson’s alone: The impetus came from white Southern Democrats whose support Wilson required to implement policies having nothing to do with race. But he could have resisted the demands for segregation, and he did not....

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