I was going to write about this on Friday but I totally slacked off, so forgive me. The Progressive Book Club has selected Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party By Max Blumenthal as the next book that progressives must read.
On the PBC site is a substantial excerpt of Max’s experience at the RNCC last year (partial excerpt below)
Suddenly, the floor of the 2008 Republican National Convention is in rapture, having just heard vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin taunt Barack Obama as an unqualified elitist, assail the liberal media, and bill herself as “an average hockey mom.” The man at the top of the ticket, John McCain, would speak the following night, but Palin, a charismatic culture warrior, was the spark that ignited the party base.
When the chant finally died down, three country music stars stepped to the stage to perform a patriotic musical mash-up. John Rich and Gretchen Wilson stared deeply into one another’s eyes, singing the national anthem, while Cowboy Troy, an African American singer known as the “king of hick-hop,” stood off to the side, reciting lines from the pledge of allegiance. Gales of spontaneous cheers rose from the crowd when Cowboy Troy proclaimed, “One nation under God.” From my position to the immediate left of the stage, standing next to the Pennsylvania delegation, Cowboy Troy was the only African American I could see among a sea of gray hair and white faces. After the pledge of allegiance, as Rich broke into “Raisin’ McCain,” a honky-tonk campaign anthem that extols McCain “goin’ down in Vietnam town,” a handsome middle-aged black man in a suit brushed by me, heading rapidly toward the arena exit. He was Lynn Swann, the Hall of Fame National Football League wide receiver and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania in 2006.
“Mr. Swann, where are the rest of the black people?” I asked him.
He paused, shrugged his shoulders, and kept walking. Then, before disappearing into the crowd, he turned and blurted out, “We need to do more.”
After covering the religious right for 6 years (without going nuts) Max details the fall of the GOP as a “big tent” party into an exclusive extremist party.
On NPR’s Fresh Air on Friday he spoke about Paul Brown, a Congressman from Georgia,
“who was inspired to become an Evangelical Christian by the guy who use to hold John 3:16 signs at sports games and wore a multicolored wig – who is actually in prison now for kidnapping and stink-bomb attacks – that this image of this character at sports games inspired him to become a born-again Christian.
And he gave special access to two characters, Paul Mahoney and Rob Schenck, who were involved in Operation Rescue during the 1990s, which is the militant wing of the anti-abortion movement, which was at least indirectly connected to several assassinations of abortion providers and attacks on abortion clinics, most recently the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas. . .
…They were planning to anoint the door that Obama would walk through, as he prepared to give his inaugural address, with oil crosses. And the reason that I described this scene and thought that it was important was that it was emblematic of where the movement was going to go, that they were consecrating their planned opposition to the Obama administration at a time when the media and probably the Obama administration believed that they had the good will of even elements that had opposed Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and that this was a new, post-partisan era. And I think that this anointing of the door was symbolic of what was to come. And I think it’s bearing out right now in the health-care debate.”
He went on to address the bizarre voices naming the President as anything from Hitler and Stalin (two leaders who were in opposition to each other) to communist, socialist, fascist (all conflicting philosophies) etc… and notes the irony of using this kind of language against someone who’s advocating “consensus-building”
“I think it’s ironic that they would level this rhetoric … when one of the movement’s great inspirations, R.J. Rushdoony, advocated replacing the U.S. Constitution and secular government with a totalitarian theocracy in which disobedient children, adulterers, witches, abortion doctors, women who receive abortions, etc., would all be executed. Rushdoony’s son-in-law, Gary North, who is a former staffer for Ron Paul, the Republican libertarian, and who is an economist, advised stoning these evildoers to death because stones are less expensive.
The Christian right, during the 1980s, advocated putting people with AIDS, particularly homosexuals, in quarantine, in camps. They’re on the record saying this. And Mike Huckabee, who campaigned for president in 2008, was among those who advised – who advocated quarantining AIDS patients, and he’s refused to recant his advocacy for this sort of policy.
So I think it’s ironic that a movement that has authoritarian, if not totalitarian, tendencies, along with this paradoxical anti-government strain, would level these accusations at one of their opponents. “
NPR reporter Terry Gross notes that the Southern Poverty Law Center has a new study which indicates this kind of anti-government rhetoric is spilling over into the mainstream. Blumenthal notes the
“Republican Party, over the last 20 years, has been subsumed by extreme elements, mainly by the Christian right, and the Republican Party at the same time has been the most dominant party for the last 30 years. So naturally, you know, the extreme rhetoric of the right-wing fringe is going to become mainstream if the major opposition party to the Democrats, who now control Congress and the White House, are echoing it, and Fox News is providing a megaphone for it.
While I’m not accustom to being alarmist, but I was concerned long before they gunned down Dr. Tiller in his church on a Sunday morning. This kind of rhetoric, some of which is specifically racially charged, some pushes the “he’s not one of us” philosophies, is not only alarming but we’ve seen, as Blumenthal says, an uptick in the advocacy for the overthrow of the government.
I wasn’t as involved as some were in the anti-Iraq movement but I’ve never before heard the left advocate for the overthrow of the government and certainly never the violent overthrow of the government, and I can’t believe that mainstream media, is indeed lending voice to these groups.
This weekend glared the stunning indicator of that, when Media Matters, the non-partisan non-profit group that holds journalists accountable for not being independent, reported that the Washington Post gave the teabagger protests front page when in 2002 peace protesters had more people at the Washington rally and got little to nothing.
In the end the GOP has been hijacked. For a time in Kansas progressives delighted in this because it meant Democratic candidates would win. We saw this with Kris Kobach and Dennis Moore, with Ryun and Boyda, with Sebelius both between Shallenburger and Barnett, we’ve seen it several times at the Legislative level; in the end – where the right wing appears, Democrats that maintain moderate Kansas values win. But I fear we’ve reached a point where its now becoming dangerous.
This morning’s LA Times reports that many GOP officials are as fearful as I am, but more for the security of their party vs. safety.
“Some party insiders now fear that extreme rhetoric and conspiracy theories coming from the angry
reaches of the conservative base are undermining the GOP’s broader credibility and casting it as the party of the paranoid… Some are pressuring the Republican National Committee and other mainstream GOP groups to cut ties with WorldNetDaily.com, which reports some of the allegations…. Critics charge that the RNC has paid WorldNetDaily for access to its mailing list, estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, and that the RNC is therefore subsidizing the website’s anti-Obama writings. RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho did not respond to questions on the matter.”
The end of the book excerpt at the PBC site recalls the last time this kind of movement was seen in American History and the quick kibosh President Eisenhower put on it as a leader of the GOP
“During the 1952 presidential campaign, the Republican nominee and former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe Dwight D. Eisenhower silently observed the attacks on the patriotism of a man he knew was a great American, General George C. Marshall, then serving as secretary of state. His assailant was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, as opportunistic and sloppy as he was vicious. Eisenhower seethed while McCarthy smeared Marshall as “a man steeped in falsehood,” who supposedly harbored at least fifty-seven active Communists within the State Department. Eisenhower loathed everything about McCarthy, regarding him as a dangerous and petty demagogue, but he shrank from attacking him or defending Marshall, fearing that McCarthy’s influence among the Republican Party right-wing base might upset his campaign.
Only later, when McCarthy initiated a witch hunt of a phantom Communist Fifth Column within the top command of the U.S. Army in 1954, did Eisenhower strike back. He did so by sleight of hand. “I will not get into the gutter with this guy,” he told aides. He instructed his staff to leak damaging information about the senator’s ethical breaches and invoked executive privilege to stifle McCarthy’s request for notes on the president’s meetings with army officers. McCarthy’s show trial quickly degenerated into a farce, leading to his rebuke by the army’s attorney Joseph Welch (“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”) and censure by the Senate for “vulgar and insulting” conduct. Eisenhower had guarded his party against the far right, defended its essentially moderate temper, and ensured the preservation of its national appeal.
By the time McCarthy drank himself to death in 1957, what the historian Richard Hofstadter had called “the paranoid style of politics” had spread into new and growing grassroots conservative groups that sought influence within the Republican Party. These groups cohered into the movement that enabled Barry Goldwater to seize the presidential nomination in 1964, would gain genuine power with the administration of President Ronald Reagan, and would reach their apotheosis under President George W. Bush.”
Maybe its time for GOP party leaders to do the same. My only fear is that there are few left who would want to.