There is No “Mainstream” Conservatism - Jacobin

The line between the far right and “mainstream” conservatism is rapidly crumbling. But the two were never very far apart

"If you go by most of what you see in the media, you would think politics is governed by some strange version of Newtonian physics. “Both sides” are perennially to blame, and if there’s ever dangerous excesses on one end of the political spectrum, then they must of course be evened out by the existence of equally dangerous excesses on the other end.

It’s why, after George Soros was mailed a bomb, Chuck Schumer felt the need to announce that “despicable acts of violence and harassment are being carried out by radicals across the political spectrum.” And why the New York Times, after more explosives were sent to individuals hated by the Trump-loving Right, decided the explosives were adding “to [a] climate of overheated partisan rancor.”

Yet we’re now at a moment when it’s indisputable that only one of these “sides” has actually become a vehicle for dangerous, violent extremism.

I’m speaking about the quickly fading line between the far Right and “mainstream” conservatism. This isn’t really a new phenomenon. The dividing line between US conservatism and fringe bigots of various kinds has always been pretty flimsy; the old, “respectable” conservatism represented by William F. Buckley and pined for by today’s centrist pundits was also a deeply racist one. It’s not a mystery why the Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan for president twice...."

But just consider some of the events of the past few weeks. The “theory” that the bombs sent by Trump superfan Cesar Sayoc were a “false flag” orchestrated by the Left quickly moved from far right internet message boards to being broadcast by “mainstream” conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Michael Savage, various Fox News guests, and even a Republican lawmaker, Matt Gaetz. Gaetz, along with “mainstream” conservatives like Newt Gingrich, also floated the idea that the thousands of Central American migrants traveling to Mexico and the US-Mexican border were being funded by some mysterious agent of chaos. One of these conservatives was pundit and prolific conspiracy theorist Erick Erickson, who for some reason was invited this past Sunday onto Meet the Press where he play-acted as a sober moderate and lectured conservatives to drop the crazy talk.

It called to mind the recent episode in which conservative legal thinker Ed Whelan invented an alternative “explanation” for Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford that involved a Kavanaugh doppelgänger, defaming an innocent man in the process. It also calls to mind that, even now, a majority of Republicans believe Obama was born in Kenya.

This is far from the only recent instance of crossover between the far and “mainstream” Right. British far-right figure Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. “Tommy Robinson”) was invited by Republican congressman Paul Gosar to speak to the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of right-wing House Republicans founded by Steve King. This is only a few months after Gosar traveled to London and spoke in support of Yaxley-Lennon at a protest peopled with other far-right figures, where he called Muslim men a “scourge.” The Arizona GOP said nothing.

Read full story at Jacobin

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