Monday, March 01, 2010

Conservatives muzzle their own lunatic fringe base

I found this story through The Washington Monthly, and I just have to marvel at the GOP's pr-spin. From the

After months of struggling to harness the energy of newly engaged tea party activists, the conservative establishment — with critical midterm congressional elections on the horizon — is taking aim for the first time at the movement’s extremist elements.

The move has been cast by some conservatives as a modern version of the marginalization of the far-right, anti-communist John Birch Society during the reorganization of the conservative movement spearheaded by William F. Buckley Jr. in the 1960s and 1970s.

“A similar effort will be required today of conservative political and intellectual leaders,” former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote in his column in The Washington Post. “It will not be easy. Sometimes it takes courage to stand before a large crowd and proclaim that two plus two equals four.”

But for Gerson and other conservatives, this is not just an intellectual exercise. They have a very specific political goal: to deprive Democrats and their allies of a potentially potent weapon to use against the GOP in November.

“I don’t believe we should be giving [extremists] a platform or empowering them to do anything based off their conspiracy theories,” said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, “because they give the left ammunition to try to define the tea party movement as crazy and fringy.”

I don’t believe we should be giving [extremists] a platform or empowering them to do anything based off their conspiracy theories, because they give the left ammunition to try to define the tea party movement as crazy and fringy. Crazy and fringy??? Can you say Jim Bunning?

The problem here is that the Republican Party has seriously made its bed with the "crazy and fringy" elements on the extreme, conservative right. And now the GOP is afraid that the Democrats will call out just how lunatic the conservative right has become. Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly agrees:

If I were a Democratic strategist, I'd likely invest quite a bit of energy in characterizing the modern Republican Party as stark raving mad, and its base as having gone hopelessly insane. There's probably real value in reminding mainstream voters that there are a lot of nutjobs running the GOP's circus, and rewarding the party with more power, control, and influence may not be a good idea.

If a growing number of leaders on the right believe this is a potential p.r. problem for Republicans, and are taking steps to separate the party from the crazies, this would be a positive development for everyone.

Unfortunately, the extremists are the ones trying to keep the nut-jobs out of the GOP house:

The attempt “to clean up our own house,” as Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative blog RedState, puts it, is necessary “because traditional press outlets have decided to spotlight these fringe elements that get attracted to the movement, and focus on them as if they’re a large part of this tea party movement. And I don’t think they are.”


Erickson has advised new tea party organizers on how to avoid affiliations with extremists and this month banned birthers — conservatives who believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is, therefore, ineligible to be president — from his blog. (He has long blacklisted truthers, those who believe that the U.S. government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a conspiracy theory with devotees across the political spectrum.)

“At some point, you have to use the word ‘crazy,’” said Erickson.

Media Matters has plenty of reports detailing some of Erickson's own extremist rhetoric, such as calling retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat-fucking child molester." Erickson also called two Democratic U.S. Senators "healthcare suicide bombers, while praising protesters, marching in Washington, to "tell Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel." And it is not just Erickson that has riled up the right-wing wackos here. Just look at the bile coming from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, or Bill O'Reilly. These are some of the biggest conservative commentators and pundits that have spread hatred to their conservative "fringe" base. This has been going on for years. Now top GOP leaders are worried that the fringe base is becoming too extreme and crazy?

The hypocrisy is just incredible.

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