These are dangerous times for the conservative movement in America. After last November’s mid-term election, the far-right has shown that it has the power to shape key elections.
The Tea Party erupted into prominence as a national force, thanks to a remarkably supple partnership between the conservative media (Fox News and AM talk radio), wealthy backers (the Koch brothers and others) and hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file grassroots activists.
At the heart of this renaissance is what Indiana’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels called the “red menace” — this time meaning, not communism, but red ink.
The public is clearly concerned about the Federal debt, and wants to see real budget-cutting solutions that also maintain a high level of basic government services, along with a robust social safety net.
The GOP owns this issue, and is leveraging the Democrats toward significant compromises.
But also fueling the conservative movement is a risky cocktail of conspiracy theorists, full-throated whack-jobs, hucksters and patently unqualified populists who are sucking the oxygen out of the room.
It’s hard to tell whether the GOP has a significant slate of presidential contenders, because so much of the attention is going to Fox News personalities, who keep winking and nudging about being possible candidates.
And that’s hardly the worst of it.
Watching a recent broadcast of Glenn Beck’s Fox program, I found myself a little breathless at the vitriol, the flights of fancy, and the jittery panic he displayed. This may be an act, but I’m not so sure.
I think Fox may really be exploiting an unwell man who has gone seriously lost in the maze of his own elaborately goofy ideas.
In an interview last week, a frankly skeptical Bill O’Reilly asked Beck to back up his fulminations that Islamic extremists are conspiring with “labor unions” and other leftist groups to create “chaos” in America’s streets.
Beck had no facts to offer. (In what appears almost an act of self-parody, Beck has urged his viewers to trust his “gut” that all these bizarre and mutually contradictory conceits are true.
But Beck is only one of the more prominent examples of this phenomenon.
At last week’s CPAC conservative conference — attended by almost all of the serious Republican leadership — some activists accused the right-leaning organization of being infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
This from Politico.
“This is the problem with CPAC. It’s corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood,” [Pam] Geller told the audience at her panel, saying CPAC’s leaders were either “clueless or complicit” to the threat posed by Islamists.