right wing extremism

Rhetoric on ISIS Shows the Right Wing Is Out of Touch with Reality

It’s not hard to understand that the Right Wing is out of touch, but sometimes it is hard to recognize just how out of touch its leaders really are.

Take, for instance, ISIS, the group of radical militants committing atrocities across Iraq and Syria, recently beheading two American journalists among many others. It’s a scary organization, but to the Right, it’s not as scary as, say, comprehensive immigration reform.

To Pat Buchanan, the threat of immigration and the “decomposition of this country” is significantly greater than that of ISIS. William Gheen of the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) also claimed that undocumented immigrants are a greater threat to America than ISIS since, according to Gheen, “ISIS could cut off the heads of journalists once a month for the next five years and that’s not going to destroy America, but Obama’s pumping of illegal immigrants into the country will.”

Nor is immigration the only domestic issue the Right thinks bears a resemblance to a vicious foreign threat.

Vic Eliason and Mat Staver last week linked same-sex marriage in the U.S. to the beheadings by ISIS. According to Eliason and Staver, gay rights advocates are destroying morality and biblical values and creating an anything-goes society where people do whatever they need to—killing or beheading—to get what they want, just like ISIS.

What’s terrifying about these comments isn’t that they’re extreme, but that these right wing figures aren’t speaking in a vacuum. Their audience continues to represent an important part of the GOP base, and in some cases these speakers have a direct line to Republican politicians.

As progressives, we can’t ignore this extremism just because it seems disconnected from reality. For the far right, that’s never been an obstacle at all.

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Video: PFAW’s Drew Courtney Discusses Right Wing Extremism on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton

Last Monday, Right Wing Watch reported on an upcoming far-right rally, “Operation American Spring,” calling for the ousting of President Obama. Rally organizer Harry Riley predicts that “millions of Americans will participate” in this mission to “bring down the existing leadership.”

On Friday, PFAW Director of Communications Drew Courtney joined Rev. Al Sharpton on Politics Nation to discuss these fringe plans to overthrow President Obama and what it means when the rhetoric of far right activists creeps into the language of GOP elected officials:
 

 

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GOP-Led House Continues to Block Immigration Reform

It has been 140 days of inaction since the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that moves us closer to addressing our broken immigration system. But all of this progress has stalled in the GOP-led House, where they have chosen to align with extremists in their party rather than with business, civic and faith groups across the political spectrum that support reform.

This was made clear earlier this week, when Speaker Boehner confirmed that he has “no intentions of every going to conference” with the Senate on its bipartisan immigration legislation, once again showing where House leadership takes its cues. In a report released earlier this summer, PFAW laid out the clear choices facing Republicans as the pressing need for serious immigration fixes looms over families and our economy. While there is a lack of will to act on the part of House GOP leadership, immigration reform activists around the country are not sitting passively by. We are speaking up, planning actions, and calling out those who continue to stand in the way of common-sense reform.

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PFAW Volunteers Take Fight Against Cuccinelli’s Extremism to the Streets

PFAW made the news this weekend with the debut of our new Spanish language ad in Virginia, part of our partnership with the McAuliffe campaign. But we’re also on the ground, taking the fight against Cuccinelli’s extreme views to the streets. This weekend, we went out to Herndon, Virginia, participating in a training for canvassing and get-out-the-vote activities—the kind of on-the-ground efforts that will make all the difference in this election.

More than 100 volunteers hit the streets to talk to Virginia voters and make sure they know just how extreme, reckless and wrong for Virginia Cuccinelli is. We were proud to be a part of the canvass — and the McAuliffe campaign told us that Herndon was the No. 1 canvassing location for the weekend!

The level of enthusiasm we saw in our activists was very encouraging, but we won’t let ourselves get complacent. We won’t stop until we’re sure that Cuccinelli won’t be bringing his right-wing agenda to the Governor’s office.

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Explaining the Tea Party

It has been a challenge for many Americans – and many people watching from overseas – to understand the Tea Party’s willingness to cause the country so much harm in its zeal to repeal a law designed to extend access to health care and comprehensive health insurance to all Americans.  No doubt many books will be written on the subject, but for now, Dr. Lawrence Rosenthal has offered a concise history and analysis in “The Tea Party, the government shutdown, and Obamacare,” a policy brief published by The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society at Oxford. Rosenthal is the executive director of the Center for Right Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the co-editor of Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party, which was published by the University of California last year.  

In just half a dozen pages, Rosenthal puts into historical and legal perspective the Tea Partiers’ recent rampage.  “Tea Party politicians and activists speak openly of this as a ‘last chance to save America.’ This is the context in which bringing economic ruin to the country can be contemplated.”

He reminds us that the Tea Party first built a head of steam by sending people to disrupt congressional town hall meetings on health care reform “with aggressive tactics that left many Congresspeople intimidated and shaken.” That approach, he says, “was, in effect, extra-parliamentary: it was attempting to prevent a legislative outcome that national elections did not sustain.”

Rosenthal argues that Tea Partiers bring to a reading of the Constitution the same approach that Christian fundamentalists bring to reading the Bible, resisting any interpretation that clashes with what they believe is the inerrant word. And he writes that the Tea Party blends populism with the free-market absolutism of the Koch Brothers, ideological descendants of those who objected to the New Deal.

What makes the Tea Party unique in the march of modern American conservatism is that the passions of the populist right, the uncompromising, expressive side of American conservatism, were brought to bear in the name of the doctrines of the fiscal absolutists. Suddenly, the zeal and the vitriol usually reserved for opposing abortion or the ‘gay agenda’ were being directed against Keynesian stimulus legislation, cap and trade climate legislation, economic regulation, taxation, and, above all, expansion of health insurance coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

Rosenthal traces the Tea Party’s fierce hostility to Obamacare to zero-sum thinking in American conservatism, not only for benefits from government (e.g. Obamacare must hurt people now on Medicare) but for liberty itself. As an example of that thinking he cites Robert Bork’s position that the Civil Rights Act reflected “unsurpassed ugliness” because it treated the black person’s right to be served as superior to the restaurant owner’s right to deny service. (We certainly see this zero-sum approach to liberty reflected in the insistence of Religious Right leaders that LGBT equality and religious liberty are inherently incompatible.)  Rosenthal sees this zero-sum attitude – “the Tea Party’s feeling that Obamacare means that something of theirs is being taken away and given to others” as “the defining element of a Tea Party constitutionalism.”

And it is the principle that translates the virulence, the fierce resistance of the Tea Party, into a legal theory. It is a principle that rationalizes the Tea Party’s willingness to threaten national financial ruin in the form of a government shutdown and a potential debt default if Obamacare, now being implemented as the law of the land, is not stopped.

Note: The Center for Right Wing Studies at the University of California Berkeley is home to People For the American Way’s library of original source materials on the history of the Religious Right, where it is accessible to researchers and journalists.

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