[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Newt Gingrich let slip just what the relationship between that "totally natural grassroots" uprising of "ordinary Americans" -- aka the Tea Party movement -- and the Republican Party really is:
Gingrich: I meet with Tea Party folks everywhere I go. I'll be in New Orleans on Thursday and we'll meet with them, I'll be in Palm Springs on Wednesday, and we'll meet with them. And everywhere I go, what Tea Party leaders tell me is that they understand that in the end their job is to help defeat Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and ultimately in '12, to help defeat President Obama.Of course, this somehow rubs up against the Tea Partiers' current claims that they have a bunch of Democrats in their midst too. Yeah. Right. (Gingrich, later in the day, went on Fox and suggested seriously that Harry Reid should be more respectful of those serious-minded Tea Partiers. He neglected to explain why any politician would want to entreat with people whose job is his defeat.)
But Gingrich unintentionally illustrated a material fact: That the Tea Party is fundamentally a way for conservatives to reclaim the reins of power while the brand-damaged Republican Party undergoes a right-wing makeover.
Robert Parry at The Consortium recently wrote an acutely insightful piece on this titled, "A Method to Republican 'Madness'":
Washington’s conventional wisdom for explaining the intensity of Republican obstructionism toward President Barack Obama breaks down one of two ways: either it’s a philosophical disagreement over the role of government or a desperate need to stay in line with a radicalized right-wing base.Eric Boehlert raised this point last week, asking all too adroitly: "What if Fox News actually wants mob violence?"
But there is another way to view the GOP political strategy, as neither principled nor reactive to the rantings of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Partiers. It is that the Republicans are following a playbook that has evolved over more than four decades, to regain power by sabotaging Democratic presidents.
In this analysis, the Republicans believe they can reclaim the lucrative levers of national authority by making the country as ungovernable as possible while a Democrat is in the White House, essentially holding governance hostage until they are restored to power. Then, the Democrats are expected to behave as a docile opposition “for the good of the country” (and usually do).
The “destroy Obama” game plan tracks most closely with Newt Gingrich’s strategy for undermining Bill Clinton 16 years ago. But today’s strategy also traces back to Richard Nixon’s sabotage of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and Ronald Reagan’s October Surprise gambit against President Jimmy Carter’s Iran hostage negotiations in 1980.
This is why Fox -- and all the other conservative mouthpieces and organs -- have turned a blind eye to the fact that they are now openly promoting the extremist right-wing ideology of the Patriot movement, embodied, as Boehlert details in his latest column, in Glenn Beck's flagrant use of Patriot conspiracy theories and talking points:
Not only have the number of radical-right extremist groups exploded in the wake of President Obama's election (more than 500 today, as compared to just 200 during the 1990s), but these militia members now have a proud sponsor in the person of Fox News' Glenn Beck, who has done more than any other person to amplify and mainstream the movement's hateful and foreboding anti-government message. Beck continues to give a voice, and national platform, to the same deranged, hard-core militia haters and self-style "patriots" who hounded the new, young Democratic president in the early 1990s in the wake of Waco.Not only that, they'll soon be able to get the updated version of The Turner Diaries from their local booksellers -- only this time, it will be called Glenn Beck's The Overton Window:
On TV and the radio, Beck rarely bothers to mention the militia movement by name. Instead, he's simply co-opted their rhetoric as his own. He's acted as a crucial transmitter, warning about Obama fronting his own private "army," and urging followers to "start food storage."
... The truth is that the daylight separating the radical, anti-government militia movement from self-styled mainstream conservatives is growing dimmer by the day. Like the fact-free Obama birthers, the militia remains a radical subset that today's right wing refuses to part ways with. That sad fact was highlighted when scores of far-right media voices initially downplayed the Hutaree arrests last week, or even defended the militia members and -- disturbingly reminiscent of Waco -- cast the FBI and the federal government as the over-reaching bad guys.
... Folks, we're witnessing a militia rerun. Except this time, thanks to the likes of Beck and Fox News, the unwanted repeat is being broadcast nationwide.
Actually, today's hysterical warnings are probably even more extreme than the last time a Democrat sat in the Oval Office. What's disturbing is that instead of having to trade copies of The Turner Diaries, relying on grassroots fax networks, or traveling to gun shows to hear that kind of incendiary insurrectionist rhetoric (i.e. the president must be stopped!), haters can just turn on the highest-rated cable news channel.
Bunch reported that Beck told the gathering the story depicts the rise of a citizen’s organization called the Founders Keepers, “a group of people that just won’t give up.” What follows, Beck said, is “a battle and a civil war, and life is upside-down planetwide."Of course, this hardly news to C&L readers, though there's no doubt Beck has been picking up the pace.
What's noteworthy is that all this is being actively enabled by movement conservatives and their operatives within their Republican Party subsidiary. As Parry observes:
Despite the growing specter of political violence, the Republicans appear set in their determination to foment as much disruption as possible between now and the November elections, and thus reap expected gains, with hopes that they can win back the House and Senate and then further neutralize Obama.
While some Washington pundits see the Republicans as captives of the extremism on the Right – unable to dismount a dangerous tiger – the counter-analysis would be that the GOP and the Tea Party/militia crowd are just two parts of the same political movement, one inside the system and the other outside, but both working toward the same goal, a restoration of Republican/Right control of government.
In their view, only then would political comity and governmental normalcy be restored, because the Democrats always seem eager to get along and do what’s necessary to make government work.