Extremism on the Right enters the mainstream

Extremism on the Right enters the mainstream

- in Fitzsimon File

Two staffers of Raleigh’s most well known right-wing think tank are speaking next week to a community group in Waynesville about the differences between conservatives and liberals.

And as fascinating as that may sound, it’s hardly unusual that advocates or pundits would be on the speaking circuit these days, just a month before a hotly contested election.

But it’s not a Rotary Club or a Republican Party meeting that is prompting the think-tankers to make the drive from Raleigh to the mountains.

It is an event billed as TEA Party Lunch sponsored by the Haywood 9-12 Project, a local Tea Party group. The organization’s lunch program this week was a movie purporting to address claims that Obama was a revolutionary Marxist.

The ad for the event and the movie came with a link to a video with a speaker behind a podium that bears a sign about Lenin and radical Islam and Sharia law, all presumably part of Obama’s agenda in the group’s world view.

That’s quite a crowd the Raleigh think-tankers are hanging out with.

A couple of weeks ago, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party sent out a tweet from its official Twitter account that said simply, “Obama admits he is a Muslim.” The tweet included a link to an offensive and absurd YouTube video that edited together a series of Obama’s comments to try to make its pathetic case. That apparently was an important message for the Republican Party to circulate to its followers a few weeks before the election.

The politicians are consorting with the fringe too. State Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby appeared at an Asheville Tea Party event last month. That’s a group that has compared Obama to Hitler and offers resources about the communist takeover of America.

That would seem like an odd place for a N.C. Supreme Court Justice to be spending time, but not in the current political climate where extremism has somehow become accepted as part of the mainstream on the Right.

Maybe Justice Newby and the think tankers have never heard the saying that you are known by the company you keep—or maybe they don’t care. In an ideal world, the hate speech of the far right would be condemned by serious candidates and thoughtful critics and policy advocates, but instead they drive several hours to appear at the hate-speech purveyors’ events.

I was on a panel recently with a conservative pundit and think tank leader and brought up the Mecklenburg County GOP tweet about Obama and suggested that maybe the party was playing to the surprisingly large percentage of the Republican electorate that believes that Obama is a Muslim and ineligible to be president because he is not a citizen. That’s a view held by Donald Trump, who spoke at the N.C. Republican party convention this summer.

The conservative pundit wondered if the tweet was a joke, which it clearly was not as it included a link to the offensive video, and then he claimed that a high percentage of Democratic voters believed that the 9-11 attacks were an inside job.

Putting aside the lack of factual basis of that claim, if the point was to show equivalency somehow—that “everybody does it,” then there would Democratic candidates and progressive advocates appearing at luncheons held by groups that spout the offensive nonsense about 9-11.

Sorry, even the lame they all do it defense doesn’t work here.

Our mainstream political debate is infected now with a dangerous brand of extremist, far right conspiracy theories. And conservative candidates and the groups that claim to be credible sources of information are allowing it to happen by hanging out with folks who spew this nonsense.

The company you keep indeed.