A February 17 Politico article delved into conservatives' growing problems with the "extremist elements" of their movement and their attempts to capture the "energy" of the tea party movement and simultaneously eschew the bigotry and half-baked conspiracism that so often pop up among tea party acolytes. And, as the article points out, they're struggling to strike that balance -- the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference "nixed a panel on Obama's citizenship," but nonetheless welcomed birthers into the fold. They also allowed the super-crazy John Birch Society to cosponsor the event.
But what struck me as interesting was that the article quotes RedState.com editor Erick Erickson on the need to purge "crazy" elements from the movement, noting that the right-wing blogger banned birthers and 9-11 truthers from his website:
The attempt "to clean up our own house," as Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative blog RedState, puts it, is necessary "because traditional press outlets have decided to spotlight these fringe elements that get attracted to the movement, and focus on them as if they're a large part of this tea party movement. And I don't think they are."
Erickson has advised new tea party organizers on how to avoid affiliations with extremists and this month banned birthers - conservatives who believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is, therefore, ineligible to be president - from his blog. (He has long blacklisted truthers, those who believe that the U.S. government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - a conspiracy theory with devotees across the political spectrum.)
"At some point, you have to use the word 'crazy,'" said Erickson.
That more than anything should indicate how deeply the conservative movement has been infected by its fringe -- Erick Erickson is now calling for "crazy" people to be shunned.
That's the same Erick Erickson who called retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f--king child molester," who called two sitting U.S. senators "healthcare suicide bombers," who praised protesters for "tell[ing] Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel" (before furiously backtracking), and attacked President Obama's Nobel Prize as "an affirmative action quota."
And while Erickson might ban birthers and truthers from his website, he has no problem opening it up to people who compare health care reform to the attack on Pearl Harbor, who bid recently deceased politicians "Good. F
ing. Riddance," and who believe that an administration proposal to extend the length of school days translates to "indoctrination."
There are two reasons why Erick Erickson is writing the list of banned extremists rather than having his name written on it. First, as noted above, the conservative movement has actively embraced and courted some of its fringier elements, thus making someone like Erickson seem more mainstream by comparison. Second, Erickson has received some thoroughly undeserved credibility from CNN, which frequently and inexplicably turns to him for false, hyper-partisan political commentary.
But such is the state of the modern conservative movement, in which the guy holding the guest list also wonders when it's time for people to "march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp."