Far-Right John Birch Society 2010

ABC News, Feb 19, 2010

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: This week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington has a co-sponsor from the far-right fringe of American politics:   The John Birch Society. According to Ian Walters, a spokesman for CPAC, it’s the first time the John Birch Society has sponsored the conference.  That’s not surprising, considering that the Birch Society has long been considered wacky and extreme by conservative leaders. William F. Buckley famously denounced the John Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch in the early 1960s as “idiotic” and “paranoid. “  Buckley’s condemnation effectively banishing the group from the mainstream conservative movement.  Welch had called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist party.”  Buckley argued that such paranoid rantings had no place in the conservative movement or the Republican party.  Two years after Buckley’s death, the John Birch Society is no longer banished; it is listed as one of about 100 co-sponsors of the 2010 CPAC. Why is the Birch Society a co-sponsor? “They’re a conservative organization,” said Lisa Depasquale, the CPAC Director for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC.  ” Beyond that I have no comment.” On its website, the Birch Society describes it mission as to “to warn against and expose the forces that seek to abolish U.S. independence, build a world government, or otherwise undermine our personal liberties and national independence. The John Birch Society endorses the U.S. Constitution as the foundation of our national government, and works toward educating and activating Americans to abide by the original intent of the Founding Fathers. We seek to awaken a sleeping and apathetic people concerning the designs of those who are working to destroy our constitutional Republic.”


Where Have You Gone, Bill Buckley?

By DAVID WELCH, New York TImes, December 3, 2012

IT is a shame that William F. Buckley Jr. passed away in 2008. The conservative movement could use him — or someone like him — right now.

In the 1960s, Buckley, largely through his position at the helm of National Review, displayed political courage and sanity by taking on the John Birch Society, an influential anti-Communist group whose members saw conspiracies everywhere they looked.

Fast forward half a century. The modern-day Birchers are the Tea Party. By loudly espousing extreme rhetoric, yet holding untenable beliefs, they have run virtually unchallenged by the Republican leadership, aided by irresponsible radio talk-show hosts and right-wing pundits. While the Tea Party grew, respected moderate voices in the party were further pushed toward extinction. Republicans need a Buckley to bring us back.

Buckley often took issue with liberal-minded members of his party, like Nelson A. Rockefeller, and he gave some quarter to opponents of civil rights legislation. But he placed great faith in the Republican establishment and its brand of mainstream conservatism, which he called the “politics of reality.”

But his biggest challenge came from the far right, primarily in the form of the John Birch Society. During the 1950s and early ’60s, Birchers demanded that the government rid itself of supposed Communists — including, according its founder, Robert Welch (no relation, thank heaven), Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Buckley’s formula for conservative success rested on “the most right, viable candidate who could win.” He saw the danger the Birchers posed to the party, and in 1962 he wrote a devastating essay in National Review that condemned them for essentially calling on the party to commit political suicide. He dismissed Welch’s outrageous views as “drivel” and “removed from common sense.”

The essay relegated the Birch Society to pariah status. Buckley may have saved the nascent conservative movement from the dustbin of history.

The absence of a Buckley-esque gatekeeper today has allowed extreme, untested candidates to take center stage and then commit predictable gaffes and issue moon-bat pronouncements. Democrats have used those statements to tarnish the Republican Party as anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant extremists. Buckley’s conservative pragmatism has been lost, along with the presidency and seats in Congress.

Republicans must now identify those who can bring adult supervision back to the party. Replacing Buckley — an erudite and prolific force of nature — with one individual is next to impossible. But we don’t need to. We can face the extremists with credible, respected leaders who have offered conservative policies that led to Republican victories.

Dare I say it, or should I just whisper the word? We need “the Establishment.” We need officials like former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, operatives like Karl Rove and Republican Party institutions.

Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush are ideally suited to drive extremists from the party. While some say Mr. Christie’s praise of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy hurt him politically, in fact it cemented his role as party truth-teller. In conjunction with his spirited defense of Sohail Mohammed, a State Superior Court judge who was absurdly attacked for allegedly wanting to impose Shariah law, Mr. Christie should be celebrated by sane people everywhere.

Mr. Bush, who once bravely stated that Ronald Reagan would have a hard time fitting in with today’s Republican Party, likewise has the position and gravitas to weigh in and weed out the Todd Akins and Sharron Angles of the world.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Christie best represent realistic, levelheaded conservatism. Both have crossed the aisle numerous times to the betterment of their states. Yet they enjoy sterling reputations in the party. This occurs when common sense trumps partisanship.

This is not to say that the only way forward is by tying the party to bipartisanship. But it does mean a willingness to fight those who claim the name of the party but not its ethos.

In a recent interview, the bête noir of both the left and the Tea Party right, Mr. Rove, suggested that his organization, American Crossroads, might become active in Republican primaries during the next election cycle. If Crossroads and the old-guard Republican committees sided with sensible candidates early on in the primaries and, if need be, ran ads against extreme members of the party, they could do much to bring some sense back to the Republican landscape.

Our modern-day Buckley’s denouncement of once fringe Tea Party candidates should be forthright. Whether it’s Bush, Christie or a party institution, there must be one clear message: no unserious candidate need apply.

Party leaders should seize this moment as Buckley did decades ago. It wasn’t easy. He lost subscribers and donors. But inveighing Buckley went, weathering the storm to keep his party poised for future victories.

David Welch is a former research director for the Republican National Committee.


Regressive Republicans

The Sick Social Darwinism Driving Modern Republicans by Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog, Posted on Alternet.org, Decem­ber 6, 2011 — What kind of soci­ety, exactly, do mod­ern Repub­li­cans want? I’ve been lis­ten­ing to Repub­li­can can­di­dates in an effort to dis­cern an over­all phi­los­o­phy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal pic­ture of America. They say they want a smaller gov­ern­ment but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more mus­cu­lar home­land secu­rity. Almost all want to widen the government’s pow­ers of search and sur­veil­lance inside the United States – erad­i­cat­ing pos­si­ble ter­ror­ists, expung­ing undoc­u­mented immi­grants, “secur­ing” the nation’s bor­ders. They want stiffer crim­i­nal sen­tences, includ­ing broader appli­ca­tion of the death penalty. Many also want gov­ern­ment to intrude on the most inti­mate aspects of pri­vate life. They call them­selves con­ser­v­a­tives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to con­serve what we now have. They’d rather take the coun­try back­wards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act, Medicare, and Med­ic­aid; before the New Deal, and its pro­vi­sion for Social Secu­rity, unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, the forty-hour work­week, and offi­cial recog­ni­tion of trade unions; even before the Pro­gres­sive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Fed­eral Reserve…Social Dar­win­ism offered a moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the wild inequities and social cru­el­ties of the late nine­teenth cen­tury.Social Dar­win­ism also under­mined all efforts at the time to build a nation of broadly-based pros­per­ity and res­cue our democ­racy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the priv­i­leged and pow­er­ful to con­vince every­one else that gov­ern­ment shouldn’t do much of anything. Not until the twen­ti­eth cen­tury did Amer­ica reject Social Dar­win­ism. We cre­ated the large mid­dle class that became the core of our econ­omy and democ­racy….

The Five Strands of Conservatism: Why the GOP is Unraveling By Drew Westen, Huffington Post, April 16, 2009 …the modern conservative movement…was built on an ideological foundation–and a coalition–that was fundamentally incoherent. It took a charismatic leader to bring it together (Ronald Reagan), a tacit agreement among its coalition partners to give each other what they wanted, and a message machine to start selling the idea that that there was coherence to a conservative “philosophy” that was anything but coherent. Modern conservatism wove together five discrete strands and interest groups that couldn’t coexist. What is remarkable is how well it held together despite the fact that those strands were actually difficult to interweave. The first strand is libertarian conservatism, reflected in leaders from Barry Goldwater to Ron Paul. Libertarian conservatives believe government should be small and weak and kept that way through low taxes…The second strand, with which libertarianism is entirely incompatible, is social conservatism, particularly Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalists of any sort believe that they have privileged knowledge of God’s Will and hence have the right to use whatever methods available–including the instruments of state–to impose that will on others.The third strand of conservatism is old fashioned fiscal conservatism… essentially soft New Dealers, who accept the premises of the New Deal–that we need a safety net…but prefer the safety net and tax codes to be thin…The fourth strand, national security conservatism, is a different breed. National security conservatives tend to be hawkish…The final strand of conservatism is the one Nixon exploited with his Southern Strategy and the Republicans have exploited ever since, whether the issue is voting rights, “welfare queens,” affirmative action, or the fate of “illegals”: prejudice…conservatives don’t have much on their side on this one either, except to the extent that they can block the vote, because demographics are running in the wrong direction for them over the next 50 years. …the right [is] short on ideas, but they’re long on selling ideas, however vapid. Second, Democrats are exactly the opposite: They’re long on ideas but short on the ability to bundle them into coherent, emotionally compelling narratives that make people want to buy them

Plu­toc­racy, Paral­y­sis, Per­plex­ity by Paul Krug­man, New York Times, May 4, 2012…Today, Wash­ing­ton is marked by a com­bi­na­tion of bit­ter par­ti­san­ship and intel­lec­tual con­fu­sion…The Con­gres­sional schol­ars Thomas Mann and Nor­man Ornstein…say our polit­i­cal dys­func­tion is largely because of the trans­for­ma­tion of the Repub­li­can Party into an extrem­ist force that is “dis­mis­sive of the legit­i­macy of its polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion.” …money buys power, and the increas­ing wealth of a tiny minor­ity has effec­tively bought the alle­giance of one of our two major polit­i­cal par­ties, in the process destroy­ing any prospect for coop­er­a­tion…the Repub­li­can Party is dom­i­nated by doc­trines for­merly on the polit­i­cal fringe…a party that, as Mr. Mann and Mr. Orn­stein note, is “unper­suaded by con­ven­tional under­stand­ing of facts, evi­dence, and science.”…billionaires have always loved the doc­trines in ques­tion, which offer a ratio­nale for poli­cies that serve their inter­ests.…the real struc­tural prob­lem is in our polit­i­cal sys­tem, which has been warped and par­a­lyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minor­ity. And the key to eco­nomic recov­ery lies in find­ing a way to get past that minority’s malign influence.

Apocalypse Now 

How Party of Budget Restraint Shifted to ‘No New Taxes,’ Ever 

Obstruct and Exploit 

The conservative learning curve 

Conservatives’ Reality Problem

The GOP’s Voter Suppression Strategy

6 Right-Wing Zealots and the Crazy Ideas Behind the Most Outrageous Republican Platform Ever

Five Practical Reasons Not To Vote Republican

How the G.O.P. Became the Anti-Urban Party

Inside the Values Voter Summit By Rob Boston, Octo­ber 2012, blog.au.org/church-state

The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America by Robert Reich October 16, 2011 by Robert Reich’s Blog, posted on CommonDreams.org - A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward. We are going to battle once again. Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together…Regressives take the opposite positions.…today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conserve what we have. It’s to take us backwards…The regressive right has slowly consolidated power over the last three decades as income and wealth have concentrated at the top. In the late 1970s the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation’s wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America’s wealth. CEOs of the 1970s were paid 40 times the average worker’s wage; now CEOs receive 300 times the typical workers’ wage. This concentration of income and wealth has generated the political heft to deregulate Wall Street and halve top tax rates. It has bankrolled the so-called Tea Party movement, and captured the House of Representatives and many state governments. Through a sequence of presidential appointments it has also overtaken the Supreme Court…

Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward….regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on whichAmericais built. The result was fundamental reform. Perhaps this is what’s beginning to happen again across America.

The Worst Of Times by Paul Krugman, April 16, 2010, New York Times blog
A question for the history-minded, related to today’s column: has there ever been a time in US political history when one of the two major political parties was so addicted to doublethink, so committed to pretending that it’s advocating the opposite of its actual agenda?
Obviously things like this have happened in world politics — Orwell wasn’t a fantasist, he was drawing on actual experience. But did a major U.S. political party ever sound so Orwellian before? I’d say no — but maybe it has been airbrushed out of our history. Inquiring minds want to know.

GOP must slip its ugly skin by Jeffrey Kolnick, Star­Tri­bune, August 22, 2012

Paul Ryan’s Biggest Influence: 10 Things You Should Know About the Lunatic Ayn Rand by Jan Frel, Alter­Net  August 12, 2012

War Room: The three fundamentalisms of the American right By Michael Lind

40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought

Alan Simpson Slams Fellow Republicans For Unwillingness To Compromise, HuffingtonPost.com, May 27, 2012

Are Republicans Social Darwinists? By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, April 2012

What Are Conservatives Trying to Conserve? by Ira Glasser, Executive Director, ACLU (1978-2001, Retired), HuffingtonPost.com 03/24/2012

What Happened to the Traditionally Conservative Republican Party? By Cliff Schecter, Al Jazeera English, Posted on Alternet.org,  September 30, 2011

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult by Mike Lofgren,  Truthout | News Analysis, September 3, 2011

A grand old cult by Richard Cohen, Washington Post, July 4, 2011  -

In America Today, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower Would Be Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate By Rachel Maddow, AlterNet, January 28, 2011

The Rise of the New Confederacy: How America-Hating Right-Wingers Took Over the GOP By Theo Anderson, In These Times, Alternet.org, December 8, 2011

Understanding the modern conservative movement by Carl T. Bogus , StarTribune.com, November 29, 2011

Far-Right John Birch Society 2010 by Jonathan Karl, ABCNews.com, February 19, 2010

Party of No: How Republicans and the Right Have Tried to Thwart All Social Progress by Arun Gupta, TruthOut.org, posted on May 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Compassionate Conservatism by E.J. Dionne, Jr. Washington Post, published on Truthdig.org, November 17, 2010

How the Right Went Wrong by Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine, March 15, 2007

This is Not Fiscal Conservatism. It’s Just Politics by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, February 24, 2011

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages By Adam Lee, AlterNet, March 19, 2012

The Sad Race for Bottom on the Loony Right By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog, February 27, 2012

A challenge to conservatives By E.J. Dionne Jr.