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May 01 2013

The GOP and Mainstreaming the Crazy

Fringe extremists on both the left and the right tend to be pretty similar, embracing conspiracy theories and irrational ideas with a fervency that is frightening. The left certainly has its share of such people, from anti-vaxxers to environmental extremists who spike trees and animal rights nuts who send bombs to scientists. But on the right, the nuts are more and more being embraced by the mainstream and even winning elected office. John Avlon writes about this phenomenon.

This week in Missouri, state legislators voted to cut funding for the state’s divers license bureau because it had been tasked in 2003 with also overseeing concealed-carry permits. The wife of state Rep. Kenneth Wilson explained – in the words of the Columbia Tribune – that the bureau “was part of a plot to impose United Nations policies in this country. ‘I have been doing some study on U.N. Agenda 21,’ Melissa Wilson… told the committee. ‘With this information going to the federal government, I feel that I will be a target. With Agenda 21, I will be someone who will be put on a watch list.’” She added that Agenda 21 is being pushed through in part because of a mass brainwashing known as the Delphi Technique.

This is shadowy conspiracy theorist stuff, but this theory isn’t just isolated to a few folks in Missouri. Last November, the conservative head of the Georgia state legislature invited his conference to a four-hour briefing on Agenda 21. The invitation read: “How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.’” The presentation was MC’d by a local Tea Party activist who is also a 9/11 Truther, and a Birther…

This sickness is starting to infect the halls of Congress. Friday, Congressman Louie Gohmert couldn’t resist telling WND radio that, “This administration has so many Muslim brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

That remark came just a day after Republicans Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jason Chaffetz of Utah held a hearing “to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General.”

This has been the most obvious trend on the right for some time now. William Buckley famously managed to expel the John Birch Society types from the conservative movement in the 1960s, but that has now been almost entirely reversed. In today’s conservative movement, legislators and opinion leaders seem to be locked in a fierce competition to see who can be the most extreme and outrageous. Sane, intelligent Republicans like Jon Huntsman are the ones who find themselves ousted, not people like Michelle Bachmann, Louis Gohmert and Ted Cruz.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    erichoug

    This is GREAT news! I live in Texas and you actually see quite a bit of this crazy around town. But, here is what I am noticing. A LOT of people are more or less conservative but when you start talking about Agenda 21 and the Muslim Brotherhood and all the rest of the crazy stuff, they start to shy away from voting for these people.

    The crazier the Republicans have to get to appeal to their base, the less they can appeal to moderate voters or even to centrist Republicans and the more marginalized they become. There was a time when they were smart enough to keep the lunatics and Birchers away from the microphone at the convention but that time has passed. Nowadays they get accused of being RINO’s if they don’t sign up for all the woo but they can’t get elected with just the lunatic fringe which is now their core party base.

    HAHAHAHA! Keep it up Republicans, now all we need is another party to voter for and we can get rid of these idiots.

  2. 2
    DaveL

    False Flag: The proposition that the United States is so lacking in enemies and lunatics that the government is forced to intervene to supply the deficiency.

  3. 3
    d.c.wilson

    As much as sites like World Nut Daily and talk radio hosts are (deservedly) mocked, there is a substantial percentage of conservatives for whom these are their main source for news. That’s been trending for two decades now and we’re experiencing the result: A whole generation of republican politicians who not only believe in the crazy, they don’t know how to sweep it under the TV whenever they venture outside the echo chamber.

  4. 4
    abb3w

    So, how did Buckley pull it off back then?

  5. 5
    DaveL

    Erich, I wish I could share your enthusiasm. Having one party in a two-party system go down the rabbit hole is not much better than having single-party rule. I’d much rather have the GOP come back to reality and offer credible policy alternatives than self-immolate like this.

  6. 6
    slc1

    It should be noted that anti-vaxers aren’t confined to the left. There plenty of them on the right (former representative Dan Burton, a nutcase’s nutcase comes to mind).

  7. 7
    raven

    The John Birch society is still around.

    Not sure (or much care) what they are babbling on about these days.

    But one of their causes is UN Agenda 21.

  8. 8
    Kengi

    A recent poll I saw showed there were more Republican anti-vaxxers than Democrat. I suppose it appeals to the “Gubberment is ebil” crowd.

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf

    Believe Vaccines Cause Autism?
    D: 16% R: 26% I:18%

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    The left certainly has its share of such people, from anti-vaxxers to…

    This is a myth. There are anti-vaxers on the left, but not exclusively so nor even predominantly so.
    Anti-Vaccination Has a Slight Rightwing Trend

  10. 10
    erichoug

    @Davel

    I would prefer much the same but they appear hell bent to make things much, much worse before they are willing to make them better.

    Frankly, I appreciate some of their ideas but I really don’t appreciate their ideology. Or actually anyone’s ideology in government. Government has a very real role and that role is to make life better for the citizens and residents of a community, ALL of them.

    Government has no role enforcing ideology, religious or otherwise. You cannot legislate morality, you can only mandate hypocrisy.

  11. 11
    fifthdentist

    Anyone who hasn’t read E.A. Poe’s story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” can get some insight into modern Republicans by doing so.

    http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/eapoe/bl-eapoe-system.htm

  12. 12
    caseloweraz

    @raven:

    One thing the Birchers are babbling about (in their “news” magazine a couple of years ago) is how not just global warming but ocean acidification is a giant hoax.

    The old song about them still has some relevance. Here it is, covered by George44.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snVF_xc38Sk

    I couldn’t find the Chad Mitchell Trio version, but it’s out there somewhere.

  13. 13
    busterggi

    raven @ 7 – yes the Birchers are still around but now the GOP considers them leftists.

  14. 14
    tommykey

    The left certainly has its share of such people, from anti-vaxxers

    To back up what SLC wrote above, from what I have seen, there is also a strain of ant-vaxxerism (us that even a word? LOL!) on the far right.

    One of my FB friends frequently posts about the same two topics on a regular basis, gun rights propaganda and anti-vaxxer propaganda.

    I also recall everyone’s favorite Filipina-American wingnut, Michelle Malkin, decrying vaccinating children against Hepatitis B, since it is most often spread by sexual activity and that is therefore a plot to line the pockets of the vaccine makers.

    Then there’s Michelle Bachman, who mentioned that someone told her that Gardasil causes mental retardation.

  15. 15
    grumpyoldfart

    Sane, intelligent Republicans like Jon Huntsman are the ones who find themselves ousted

    I’ll bet he welcomed the ratbags when he thought they could be controlled to do his bidding.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    daniellavine

    Here’s a long, excellent essay I recently read about Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al working to mainstream fringe right-wing beliefs within the conservative mainstream:

    http://cursor.org/stories/fascismintroduction.php

  18. 18
    daniellavine

    Also useful for explaining to people what fascism actually is and why they should only use the term when it actually applies.

  19. 19
    Kamaka

    I had disagreements with Barry Goldwater, the leading conservative of his time, but he was OK, a reasonable guy.

    How I miss Barry Goldwater. He understood the danger to Conservatives of getting into bed with the Religionists.

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