By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that the difference between right-wing and left-wing hate is that the former has moved into the heart of the Republican Party, whose leaders seem either not to understand or care about the possible consequences.

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  1. BP Myers

    Made an off-hand tweet yesterday wondering just how the right-wing would blame Obama for the recent mine disaster. Listening to Rush today, I learned they decided to take a different tack entirely.

    He was asserting that left-wing blogs were assailing the mine owner (nee Capitalist) for associating with the Tea Party, for being a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and for questioning global warming. Before the show was over, the mine owner was a hero who stood for all that was right with America.

    I guess as ever, the best defense is a good offense.

  2. Neil Sagan

    great choice of topics

  3. Mary DeChillo

    Thank you Dan, for the Nation piece. The Tea Party movement has been written off as some amorphous, grassroots, leaderless organization whose only interests are lower taxes and smaller government. If it is only a matter of lowering taxes and cutting government, then why all the vitriol? Why such intensity, and claims their “way of life” is disappearing?

    If the Tea Partyers have alternative policies for improving governent, why didn’t we see a policy wonk discussion regarding budgeting and policy at the Tea Party national convention? Instead a host of speakers (e.g. Tom Tancredo) expounded on racist and nativist themes. Why does every Tea Party gathering, including the one outside Congress on the day that the health care bill was being debated (in which members of Congress were spat upon and yelled at with homophobic and racist words), include signs with President Obama as Hitler and a myriad of hateful sayings?

    It is too easy to dismiss those who hold signs with racist language as being part of the “fringe”, not part of the Tea Party movement. Yet they continue to be present at Tea Party rallies and no one in the movement has seen fit to denounce them.

    The Republicans and the Tea Party have a parasitic relationship. Each gives the other cover; both can say they represent people who want to cut taxes and to have smaller government. The Republicans claim they aren’t part of the movement, but over 70% of the Tea Partiers identify as Republican.

    The Republicans in this state need to be reminded that they once had leaders who aptly served the Commonwealth in the moderate New England Republican tradition. Any affiliation with the Tea Party is bound to backfire. At some point Republicans will have to explain just which part of the darkside of the Tea Party they didn’t know about when they signed on to get support.

    David Berstein’s column this week in the Phoenix also discusses the Tea Party movement

  4. BP Myers

    I read Bernstein’s piece and was prepared to challenge him on his characterization of Anthony Napolitano, whom I always thought was certainly a strict Constitutionalist, but not a nutter.

    But after having viewed his interview with Shep Smith regarding the “6,000 man army” the health care bill ostensibly creates, I must admit that he too is just another one of them.

    You can view it here, if you’ve got the stomach.

  5. Rich Kenney

    “Hate” has moved into the heart of the Republican Party? What utter nonsense. There sure are a lot of short memories out there. All those Bush = Hitler, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and others’ comments about Bush had nothing to do with the liberals and Democrats? That wasn’t about hate? That wasn’t about the left? Dan, you are losing your credibility… I would have never called all those lefty nuts the “heart” of the Democratic Party, but you just can’t seem to help yourself when it comes to the Republicans. And why does the left insist on calling tea party activists “tea baggers” when they know it is a sexual term. Is that “hate”? You hear the MSNBC talking heads using the phrase all the time. Do they represent the “heart” of the Democratic Party? If you think this country is divisive, look no further than a mirror to discover one of the sources. It’s not just some conservatives.

  6. Mike Stucka

    It’s actually kind of refreshing to have more-mainstream organizations backing movements that appear to have little regard for the facts.

    This explains why, kinda. That’s been lingering with me for half a year now, and it really made me wonder.

    All -that- said, there’s been wacky outliers since forever, given the definition of outliers. But I guess the question is whether those formerly outlying viewpoints now represent the views of 0.1%, 1%, 10% or nearer to 100%.

    The “birther” issue got rather broad belief among Americans, but I haven’t seen any good data showing how many value some sort of action versus their beliefs. And some of the surveys on related issues out there could have been better drafted by my toddler — they’re that ridiculously bad and leading.

  7. BP Myers

    @Rich asks: And why does the left insist on calling tea party activists “tea baggers” when they know it is a sexual term. Is that “hate”?

    What does it matter.

    Tea party activists aren’t Republicans.

    Or so they keep reminding us.

  8. Steve Stein

    @Rich – the use of “teabag” came from the original anti-Obama protesters themselves, with rhetoric and signs like this, from the original Tea Party protest in Feb. 2009.

    Yes, it’s been picked up by some commentators to ridicule the protesters, but it originated with the protesters themselves.

  9. Mary DeChillo

    Check out the most recent Pew survey about political identification of Tea Party members. Over 70% of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans. So even if the Republican party isn’t claiming the Tea Party members, the Tea Party members are claiming the Republican identity.

  10. L.K. Collins

    Perception of hate can be very selective.

    Dan, is not immune to the syndrome, as he has proven here and in his article.

    They will fall back on their elitist argument that only he and their fellow enlightened saints know the true world. The rest of you heathen, be damned!

  11. John Swift

    Hmmmm. Is calling someone a tea-bagger hatred? Only if you’re thin-skinned and trying to draw some sort of false equivalence between the current state of the Republican Party which realizes it needs every last vote it can muster, no matter how crazy, as its grave-skewing electoral demographics become more and more pronounced, and some imagined past in which liberals were threatening to overthrow the government, where the liberal news was giving a nightly forum to people who claimed the government was going to confiscate guns and set up re-education camps for political undesirables, and the President was simultaneously leading us to socialism and fascism. Sure, I remember those days.

    Everything is exactly the same on both sides always because conservatives say it’s so, and, as we’re told over and over, they’re the real victims in all of this. I would argue that Dan has it wrong: hate has been one of the pillars of the Republican party since the 1960s, when racist southerners who felt sold-out by Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic party’s civil rights bills so they flocked to the GOP. Try rewriting *that* history.

  12. Rich Kenney

    @John Swift – You know John, I guess you missed the whole point of my post. I am a Republican and a conservative. I don’t “hate” anyone. We have gotten to the point in the national dialogue where disagreement is hate speech. I accused Dan of perpetuating this, because I am disgusted by it. You, as a liberal, are probably as “thin-skinned” as you accuse me of being. You’re not “thin skinned”, you say? Well, neither an I. We could go on and on and on and on, each of us offering up an example of an extreme position, positioning it as mainstream liberal or conservative, and challenging the other to match it, in an endless cycle of futility. What about that do you not get? The act is pointless and destructive.

    I’ve never met Dan Kennedy, but if I did, I bet I would like him. Why do you think I read his blog? His heart is in the right place, in his mind. He is passionate about his beliefs. My beliefs are passionate as well, are different from his, but are no less valid. Let’s stop the whole “hate” nonsense. It’s ridiculous, and gets no one anywhere.

  13. BP Myers

    @Rich Kenney says: We have gotten to the point in the national dialogue where disagreement is hate speech.

    Nah. Disagreement is disagreement, and hate speech is hate speech, and hate speech should be called out and chided and mocked wherever it occurs.

    For example, I don’t just disagree with the tenets of the Westboro Baptist church, but I call what they engage in hate speech.

    Do you agree with me that what they engage in is “hate speech”?

    Or do you not believe that any such thing exists?

  14. Rich Kenney

    @BP; agree on Westboro. Disgusting people. Not a good example of disagreement on policy. They don’t represent my party. You know that. Don’t fall into the trap.

  15. BP Myers

    Thanks, @Rich. Only reason I asked is that *some* do not even believe in the concept of hate speech. And certainly, with their recent victory in the courts, they are part of the “national dialogue” you referred to, whether we like it or not. So I’m not sure what trap you’re referring to.

    And they’re not part of my party, the Republican party, either.

    But most sincere thanks again.

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