Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Those 'traditional' Democrats

It is, perhaps, symbolic of just how deeply right-wing extremism has invaded the mainstream discourse -- primarily through the immigration debate -- that now there are people running as anti-immigration Democrats who have backgrounds involving various kinds of far-right extremism.

The most recent of these, via Blog for Arizona, is William "Bill" Johnson, who's running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's 8th congressional district. On the surface, Johnson is just another conservative anti-immigration Democrat, who, as Mike notes, are now being referred to as "traditional Democrats."

These people are "traditional Democrats" only in the sense that, for much of its history, the Democratic Party was in fact the "white man's party" -- home of the Ku Klux Klan and a long line of racial demagogues (see, e.g., the notorious Theodore Bilbo), as well as a clearly racist voting base, not just in the South but in the rural and suburban Midwest as well. It was not until the 1960s and '70s that the bulk of these racists -- politicos and voters alike -- largely migrated to the Republican Party under the aegeis of the "Southern Strategy."

In any event, as Blog for Arizona goes on to detail, Johnson's background -- beyond merely his support for the Minutemen -- is ripe with associations with the far-right militia movement:
Here is where things start to get, well, odd. American Democrats for a Secure Borders is the brainchild of Mr. Russ Dove, the man who does 'U.S. Constitutional Enforcement' polling place patrols looking for illegal aliens trying to vote and runs Truth in Action News. Russ hangs out with such folks as Tom Tancredo, Randy Graf and his just-fired manager Steve Aiken, perennial candidate and avowed racist Joe Sweeney, and Mexican flag burning, public official threatening Roy Warden. Billionaires for Bush even gave Dove a card in their Deck of Block the Vote Heroes: he's the three of diamonds.

Those who concern themselves with the underground politics of the militia movement provide a capsule biography of Mr. Dove:

Unlike Vanderboegh and Wright, who head state organizations of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Russ Dove's role in the MCDC is more circumspect. A member of the militia umbrella group the Third Continental Congress, Dove managed to escape association with that militia's most notorious criminal action-- Bradly Glover's planned attack on the US Army base at Fort Hood in 1997, which eventually sent seven members of the militia group to prison.

Based in Tucson, Dove has long been involved with the Sovereign Citizen Movement in Arizona, calls himself "Russ 'Sovereign' Dove," and styles himself a "biblical constitutionalist." His hatred of government was no doubt stroked by his 1980 felony conviction in California for attempted grand theft (two first degree burglary charges were dismissed).

Dove's current principal role in the MCDC is as a propagandist. He produces video tapes for the Minutemen, filming interviews with many MCDC participants during their border patrol operations and authoring frequent reports on immigration issues on his Web site and 'Truth In Action News' radio show."

Why dwell so thoroughly on the association with Dove? One might think this is just a second-hand association though a single organization and can have no real import for Mr. Johnson's candidacy. But Mr. Russell Dove is listed on Mr. Johnson's FEC filing as Johnson's Custodian of Records with the title 'Acting Manager'. So why is someone so clearly aligned with and active in GOP politics, engaged in race-based voter intimidation, deeply implicated in the racist militia underground, and a convicted felon, the 'Acting Manager' of a Democratic candidate's campaign?

As Mike goes on to say:
We need to call bullshit on this candidate. Bill Johnson isn't a Democratic candidate at all. He's a ploy by extremist racists to inject their hateful invective into the Democratic Primary process to make their xenophobic ranting seem bi-partisan, and thus mainstream. They seek to force the media to frame racial hatred as a force in both party's politics, and not just the shameful underbelly of the GOP. They seek to silence critics in the Democratic Party by rebutting us with the rantings of 'one of our own'.

It's worth noting that Johnson is hardly the first such Democrat to surface this year. That honor belongs to Larry Darby of Alabama, who ran as a Democrat for state Attorney General on a platform of "reawakening white racial awarenessm," with a dose of Holocaust denial tossed in for good measure:
Larry Darby, the founder of the Atheist Law Center, made an abortive bid for the attorney general job as a Libertarian in 2002, but only recently have his views on race and the Holocaust come to light.

... In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Darby said he believes no more than 140,000 Jewish people died in Europe during World War II, and most of them succumbed to typhus.

Historians say about 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis, but Darby said the figure is a false claim of the "Holocaust industry."

Darby said he will speak Saturday near Newark, N.J., at a meeting of National Vanguard, which bills itself as an advocate for the white race. Some of his campaign materials are posted on the group's Internet site.

"It's time to stop pushing down the white man. We've been discriminated against too long," Darby said in the interview.

Indeed, the National Vanguard not only pushed Darby's candidacy, but it gave him room to issue threats against the Southern Poverty Law Center for having exposed his racist activities. (Incidentally, I noted these last year myself when Darby hosted an appearance in Alabama year by David Irving, the noted Holocaust denier.)

Most disturbingly, Darby came awfully close to winning, and it's probably not hard to divine the reasons why. But most appallingly, both the Alabama Democratic Party and the national party did almost nothing to distance itself from Darby.

That of course, leaves Republicans free to point out:
"I think it is noteworthy that the Democratic Party had an atheist candidate and avowed Holocaust denier get so many votes in their primary," said Tim Howe, executive director of the Alabama Republican Party.

I keep hearing Democrats like Marshall Wittmann talk about the need to make the Democratic Party open to "more traditional" voters in order to win votes in rural America. When I hear that, I wonder if this is what they have in mind.

Because if it is, they're dead wrong.

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