The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism
Tossing out the outrageous absurdity that the moderate, mild-mannered Northam is "fighting for" a gang whose motto is "Kill, Rape, Control" should be disqualifying for any politician who makes it. The claim originated in Trump-like Gillespie advertising rooted in Olympian leaps of illogic and distortion. The ads were taken apart by, among others, FactCheck.org, Washington Post editorialists and Post blogger Greg Sargent.
Ah, you might say, campaigns are often dirty. But current forms of right-wing dirty politics reflect a reversion to the old extremism. It has become part and parcel of "normal" politics and justifies kooky pronouncements as expressions of patriotism. Ordinary political acts are painted as diabolical. Dark plots are invented out of whole cloth. They are first circulated on websites that traffic in angry wackiness, and are eventually echoed by elected officials.
Thus did Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., allege last week, as Vice News reported, that the white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville was organized by an "Obama sympathizer." Gosar further suggested it was funded by the far right's favorite Master-of-All-Demonic-Things, billionaire George Soros. Crazy, yes, but also ugly.
If the Birchers saw "The Illuminati," a shadowy 18th-century clique, as lying behind progressive treason, the new far right uses "globalists" as an epithet that is less obscure and more user-friendly.
The old extreme right linked all manner of actions by its opponents to Communism. The new ultra-right regularly ties its foes (as the Trump-Gillespie calumny does) to crimes ascribed to immigrants, or to radical Islam.
An authentic conservative knows that extremism is the antithesis of a philosophy devoted to the preservation of free institutions. The extremists hated Eisenhower because he understood this.
Although our current commander in chief is also a golfer, he otherwise has little in common with our 34th president. Trump is urging the right down a path that leads to nothing but trouble -- for conservatism, but also for our country.
E.J. Dionne's email address is email@example.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.
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