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Are Conservatives Any Crazier Today Than 50 Years Ago?

[ 70 ] March 16, 2012 |

Rick Perlstein suggests not in an excellent essay placing today’s wingnuts in context. A choice passage:

Over fifteen years of studying the American right professionally — especially in their communications with each other, in their own memos and media since the 1950s — I have yet to find a truly novel development, a real innovation, in far-right “thought.” Right-wing radio hosts fingering liberal billionaires like George Soros, who use their gigantic fortunes – built by virtue of private enterprise under the Constitution – out to “socialize” the United States? 1954: Here’s a right-wing radio host fingering “gigantic fortunes, built by virtue of private enterprise under the Constitution … being used to ‘socialize’ the United States.” Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, “fed up with elitist judges” arrogantly imposing their “radically un-American views” — including judges on the Supreme Court, whose rulings he’s pledged to defy? 1958: Nine Men Against America: The Supreme Court and its Attack on American Liberties, still on sale at sovereignstates.org.

Only the names of the ogres have changed — although sometimes they haven’t. Dr. Noebel’s latest project is to republish a volume he apparently finds freshly relevant, Dr. Fred Schwarz’s You Can Trust the Communists: To be Communists. Schwarz, an Australian physician who died three years ago, had his heyday in the early 1960s, when he would fill municipal auditoriums preaching his favorite gospel: that the Kremlin dominated its subjects by deploying “the techniques of animal husbandry,” and harbored “plans for a flag of the USSR flying over every American city by 1973.” The new version, updated by Noebel – it comes with raves from grateful Amazon.com reviews, like this: “Just as important as it was 50 years ago”; and this: “Should be required reading for every American,” and “This book made me a conservative” – is titled You Can Still Trust the Communists: To be Communists, Socialists, Statists, and Progressives Too.

This is fundamentally true. The difference between 2012 and 1962 isn’t that conservatives are crazier, it’s that liberals are far weaker and thus it is much harder to fight back. Perlstein also pushes back against the idea developed by people like Jonathan Chait that the demographics suggest a more liberal future, suggesting that this is just another argument liberals have made for a half-century without it ever really happening.

The upshot: We have to prepare for a decades-long fight to the death. That’s the nation’s only hope.

Comments (70)

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  1. John says:

    Conservatives aren’t crazier. The Republican Party is crazier.

    • david mizner says:

      Yeah. Conservatives now dominate the GOP, neoliberals now dominate the Democratic Party, and liberals now dominate Lawyers, Guns, and Money comment threads.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      This. Yes, there were Bircher-types, but there were also Henry Cabot-Lodge-types.

      • Lee says:

        The essential difference between the 1950s and early 1960s and the present is a shift in party dynamics. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the GOP consisted of conservatives and moderates. The Democratic Party consisted of conservatives, the Dixiecrats, and liberals. The conservatives of both parties were constrained by either the moderates and liberals.

        Eventually a shift happened, the conservatives migrated to the GOP and the moderates to the Democratic Party. The cosnervatives no longer had a force restraining them. Meanwhile, liberals and moderates are constricting each other.

        • Manju says:

          The Democratic Party consisted of conservatives, the Dixiecrats

          They were moderates who leaned left.

          I’ll provide the data but since I know I’ll get a lot of pushback on this, allow me to first present my pristine, academic, left-leaning sources.

          I’ve been reading ”Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches,” by Nolan McCarty of Princeton University, Keith Poole of the University of California, San Diego, and Howard Rosenthal of New York University.

          Here’s Paul Krugman’s recommendation (they focus on income inequality)

          ‘Polarized America” is a technical book written for political scientists. But it’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what’s happening to America.

          -Paul Krugman

          These scholars pioneered DW Nominate…the gold standard by which Political Scientists determine ideological positioning. You will find Nate Silver using it.

          Re, civil rights, from the book referenced above:

          However,there is one issue area that clearly did not fit the standard liberal-conservative pattern — civil rights for African-Americans. For much of the post-WWII era, the voting coalitions on racial issues were noticeably distinct from those on the other issues

          Data on the Dixiecrats true ideological position to follow.

        • Manju says:

          I’ll explain how DW-Nominate works later, but for now, here are the scores for every Dixiecrat who voted against the 1964CRA.

          The more negative = more liberal; more positive = conservative. From Liberal to Conservative:

          -0.365 [D] FULBRIGHT
          -0.343 [D] GORE
          -0.297 [D] BYRD R.
          -0.253 [D] HILL
          -0.188 [D] SPARKMAN
          -0.169 [D] LONG R.
          -0.154 [D] JOHNSTON
          -0.140 [D] WALTERS
          -0.130 [D] SMATHERS
          -0.070 [D] ELLENDER
          -0.066 [D] JORDAN B.
          -0.065 [D] TALMADGE
          -0.027 [D] STENNIS
          -0.003 [D] ERVIN
          0.022 [D] HOLLAND
          0.022 [D] RUSSELL
          0.038 [D] MCCLELLAN
          0.054 [D] EASTLAND
          0.097 [D] ROBERTSON
          0.208 [D] BYRD H.
          0.321 [D] THURMOND

          For reference sake, the most liberal Senator of this class was Morse [D] at -0.914 (Kennedy was at -0.495)

          Most conservative was Simpson [R] at 0.680 (Dirksen was at 0.328)

          • John says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by “leaned left”. Gore, Fulbright, Robert Byrd, and Hill are the only ones who are among the 50 most liberal senators in your list – In overall ranking:

            26. Fulbright
            30. Gore
            38. R. Byrd
            43. Hill
            53. Sparkman
            55. Long
            56. Johnston
            59. Smathers
            61. Ellender
            62. Jordan
            63. Talmadge
            64. Stennis
            65. Ervin
            66. Russell
            67. Holland
            68. McClellan
            69. Eastland
            72. Robertson (Pat Robertson’s dad, btw)
            83. Byrd
            90. Holland

            So even if you accept this ordering (I’m rather dubious of an ordering that puts Kenneth Keating to the right of James Eastland or Jacob Javits to the right of Olin Johnston), the Dixiecrats clearly lean right of center within the relative context of that Senate.

            • Manju says:

              I’m not sure what you mean by “leaned left”.

              That comes from the score itself.

              If the Senator has a negative score that means he’s voting more with the liberals. Positive = part of the conservative coalition. The more he votes with other liberals, the more negative the score.

              Ergo, the Dixiecrats were more liberal than conservative.

              I suppose the fact that there are more negative Senators than positive-numbered ones is reflective of the fact that the is the 88th Congress…the height of the New Deal Coalition, ie the golden age of Liberalism.

              So yeah, if you simply cut the Senate in half and assume a 50-50 split between libs and Cons, then you can create the appearance of the Dixiecrats being right-of-center. But you still can’t make them Conservatives.

              • chris says:

                What makes you think that the zero point is meaningful in the way you’re trying to make it?

                I mean, aside from the fact that drawing *any* bright line on a continuum is often a bad idea, if you were going to draw one, why is zero preferable to any other point, such as the median, or halfway between the extremes? (Both of which, on these numbers, would be significantly less then zero, and move most of your list into the “slightly right of center” category.)

                • Manju says:

                  What makes you think that the zero point is meaningful…why is zero preferable to any other point, such as the median, or halfway between the extremes?

                  A legislator who manages to score zero would be voting 50% of the time with liberal coalitions and 50% with conservative ones. (a gross oversimplification, but their algorithm can’t be explained in a blog comment)

                  So zero has a real meaning. Scores are derived from actual roll-call votes, indeed even obscure procedural ones. These scholars have are mining huge amounts of data and putting them thru an objective formula. Ergo, the admiration they’ve received from mathematical-minded folks like Paul Krugman.

                  Lets face it. Most of the others on this thread are just pulling shit out of their ass. Liberal = Dirksen, Rosa Parks, Winthrop & Nelson Rockefeller, and Angelina Jolie.

                  Conservative = Stennis, Talmadge, Wallace, Faubus, Nixon, the Taliban, and Milli Vanilli.

                  But Nominate is not arbitrary, and does not allow for judgment calls. The scores have real meaning based on actual behavior from legislators.

            • Manju says:

              I’m rather dubious of an ordering that puts Kenneth Keating to the right of James Eastland or Jacob Javits to the right of Olin Johnston

              Remember, civil rights is carved out (because the voting coalitions for that topic don’t align on the left-right spectrum).

              So Javits is one of the few Republicans with a negative (liberal) score, albeit just moderately so.

              However, on civil rights, his score of off the hook positive. He, Keating, and Case (all R’s) are the 3 most pro-civil rights Senators.

              I hasten to add, this methodology is very helpful when assessing civil rights because it takes procedural votes into consideration. They are crunching a huge amount of data here.

              And everyone should know that civil rights was often opposed in the inner procedural votes like cloture, but “supported” in the final vote.

              For example, Carl Hayden of AZ voted for the 64cra, but against cloture. Gore tried to send teh 65cra back to the judiciary commitee at teh last minute, failed, and voted yes on the final bill. And of course Byrd in ’68…he led the effort to kill the fair housing act, but then voted for the final bill.

              DW Nominate catches these bastards. I was thrilled to see Carl Hayden finally get his comeuppance.

              I’ll get around to posting the 2nd dimensional scores (civil rights).

              Sorry for the wonkfest.

              • John says:

                IIRC, Hayden voted against cloture because he believed, in principle, in opposing all cloture votes.

                • Manju says:

                  Heh. A man of principle.

                • John says:

                  It’s a bad principle, but it doesn’t mean he was anti-civil rights. My memory is also that he was willing to vote for cloture if his vote was absolutely necessary, but that the leadership let him off because they had enough Republican votes after Dirksen decided to support cloture that his vote wasn’t needed.

                  I’m also confused why Hayden comes in for these kinds of attacks when he voted for the bill, but conservatives always defend Goldwater for actually voting against it and against cloture.

                • Manju says:

                  It’s a bad principle, but it doesn’t mean he was anti-civil rights.

                  Nominate just tells us where a politician stands…based on his actual votes. It makes no judgments.

                  I suppose if you think your man is getting screwed by the algorithm, you could add a subjective narrative. But be aware, Hayden’s score isn’t based on his ’64 cloture vote alone…but all his votes within the civil rights dimension throughout his career.

                  I’m also confused why Hayden comes in for these kinds of attacks when he voted for the bill, but conservatives always defend Goldwater for actually voting against it and against cloture.

                  I didn’t know conservatives even attacked Hayden. Do they even know who he is? I thought I was the only one.

                  Link me up to one…I’d be interested in reading a Conservative who knows the nuances of Civil Rights history. All my sources, like these Nominate guys, are Liberal.

                  Anyway, you won’t hear me defending Goldwater…even though I’m Libertarian.

                  Since I vote with you guys, I genuinely wish I could say the same about you all…in regards to your respective civil rights villains.

        • Manju says:

          Methodology:

          From ”Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches,”:

          During most of the period treated in this book, a single liberal-conservative dimension does an excellent job of accounting for how members vote be it on minimum wages or the shopping list of issues represented by the Contract with America or a Clinton State of the Union…However, there is one issue area that clearly did not fit the standard liberal-conservative pattern — civil rights for African-Americans. For much of the post-WWII era, the voting coalitions on racial issues were noticeably distinct from those on the other issues. This can be captured in our spatial model by a second dimension with Southern Democrats at one end and eastern liberal Republicans, such as Jacob Javits of New York, at the other. We find that it is important to allow for these two political dimensions in the middle of the twentieth century.

          Consequently, we present results for the two dimensional DWNOMINATE estimations. Just as one-dimensional scores run from –1 to +1, in two dimensions a legislator’s career average two-dimensional scores must lie within a unit circle.

          So there are 2 scores. If the scores above surprise you, consider that civil-rights is carved out (you may still be surprised, but at least that explains how Fulbright can be so close to Kennedy).

          This is very helpful for civil rights b/c ADA or NAACP scores are self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, if a Senator opposes civil rights, those methodologies move his score more into the conservative range.

          Ergo, academics have come up with an objective measurement. Once you’ve digested this, I’ll post some 2nd dimension (civil rights) scores.

          Here are the actual scores, so you can double-check my numbers in case you think I’m full of it. (I downloaded them onto an excel spreadsheet and organized them):

          Raw data: http://voteview.com/SENATE_SORT88.HTM

        • MM says:

          Yep, nothing says radical conservatism like wanting a restraint on the nightmare spending and taxation, more personal responsibility, a return to Constitutional principles and smaller government.

          Yeah, we Tea Part types are whack, huh?

    • Tom Hilton says:

      Exactly.

      The craziest conservatives aren’t any crazier than the craziest conservatives 50 years ago. The problem is that the sanest conservatives are a hell of a lot crazier than the sanest conservatives back then.

      • R Johnston says:

        The sanest conservatives were always insane. It’s just that they used to be the well intentioned and often harmless kind of insane, while now they’re completely incapable of good intentions and see causing harm to others as a fringe benefit of their selfishness.

        • Tom Hilton says:

          The sanest conservatives were always wrong about most things. There’s a huge difference between being wrong and being insane.

          • R Johnston says:

            Being repeatedly wrong about the same thing in the same way, over and over again, in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence, however, is classically the colloquial definition of both insane and conservative.

            • Tom Hilton says:

              If you want to define the word “insane” down to the point of meaninglessness for the purpose of labeling people with whom you disagree, go right ahead.

              Me, I think that approach is neither defensible nor useful.

      • John says:

        It’s not even about conservatives. It’s about Republicans. If you look at Manju’s link, you’ll see that the Republican Senate caucus in 1964 included people like Jacob Javits, Clifford Case, and George Aiken – even Thomas Kuchel from California, point of origin for the modern conservative movement – who would have rejected even being called conservative. You have Nelson Rockefeller, a serious candidate for the Republican nomination in that year, actually calling out right wing loons on the floor of the Republican National Convention. You have prominent moderate to liberal Republican governors like Bill Scranton and George Romney refusing to endorse the Republican nominee because they thought he was a right wing loon. Can anyone imagine anything like this happening today?

    • DrDick says:

      I think this is critical. What has fundamentally happened is that the “moderate Republicans” (social moderates, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives) have been driven out of the part. Unfortunately, far too many of them are now in the Democratic Party.

      • John says:

        It’s not just about social issues – I’d say it’s even more about a rightward turn on economics. There weren’t any supply siders in 1960.

    • Mark says:

      Pfft. Fred Schwarz wasn’t even a right winger. He was an anti communist, so it’s always been tempting for people on the left to take potshots at him, but the guy was never politically affiliated at all. He wasn’t remotely crazy. He was a scholar of Marx, a gifted writer, a powerful debater, and someone who really did make a positive difference to the world.

      Perlstein’s article invokes Schwarz so as to go after Reagan and Buckley, and he’s chosen his particular target for one reason: despite his influence, most people simply don’t know who he is. Since this is the case, they’ll simply take Perlstein’s word for it when he calls Schwarz a wingnut without providing any evidence. But nothing could be further from the truth. He was deliberately and purposefully apolitical throughout his whole career.

      David Noebel, however, who has republished the late Dr Schwarz’s book (changing the title and adding his own chapters), is a bit of a kook. His twisting of Dr Schwarz’s message to serve his own agenda is, however well intended, as potentially harmful to Schwarz’s legacy as is Perlstein’s deliberate slander.

  2. c u n d gulag says:

    Why is it that I’m not surprised.

    Conservatives are remarkably uncreative people – lack of creativity is one of the defining characteristics of Conservatism.

    And if they haven’t had any “good” new ideas in almost a century, why would we expect them to have had any new “bad” ones?

    And I’m not afraid of a “fight to the death.”

    What I’m afraid of, is that the Democrats, who are what’s left of the political representations of Liberalism and Progressivism, will come to the fight, as usual, with one hand tied behind their backs, and the other one free, to show peaceful intent.

    Conservatives are cowardly bullies, so how about at least waving the rubber sporks in your pocket that you brought to the gun-fight, Democrats?
    Maybe that’ll be enough…

    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh…

  3. Murc says:

    We have to prepare for a decades-long fight to the death.

    I’d argue that we instead have to prepare for an ENDLESS fight to the death.

    Because that’s what politics is. It never, ever ends. The history of every nation on the planet is of never-ending political fights to the death that were not, in fact, ever ended decisively. Oh, you thought we defeated the idea of the Divine Right of Kings a couple hundred years ago? That’s cute. Thing is, the ideas underlying it are still alive and well and always will be.

    Liberalism will never, ever win. Neither will conservatism. There will be victories, but there will never be VICTORY.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Indeed:

      Royalty was like dandelions. No matter how many heads you chopped off, the roots were still there underground, waiting to spring up again.

      It seemed to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had written: “Kings. What a good idea.” Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.

    • Charlie Sweatpants says:

      “Liberalism will never, ever win. Neither will conservatism. There will be victories, but there will never be VICTORY.”

      That’s true, but only in a grand “we’re all here until the Sun explodes” kind of way. People who agree with each other on 98% of things will fight over the 2%. Take a look at local politics sometime, you’ll find tree-hugging lefties at each others throats over all kinds of crap in liberal parts of the country, and in rock solid Republican areas the gun-toting wingnuts do the same. (In this rare case, both sides do actually do it.) However, in terms of many of the things we’re arguing about on a national level today, all caps “VICTORY” isn’t an impossibility, which is why I don’t buy Perlstein’s skepticism about demography dooming much of what today passes for conservatism.

      Modern conservatism is easily traced to the Great Depression and WWII, and Perlstein is a master of it. But those battles are dominated by race and gender, with the Civil Rights Movement and contraception/abortion being the big two. More recently, they’ve been joined by gay rights and marriage equality. The backlash against those is the beating heart of modern “conservatism”, but despite years of electoral victories those issues are all moving in a decidedly liberal direction. Even with the recent war on women garbage, it’s a lot easier to be a woman in 2012 than it was in 1982, and it was easier then than it was in 1952.

      We’ll always find something to fight about, and the Haves will keep doing whatever they can to keep the Have Nots away from power (voter fraud!). I’ve no doubt of that. But the specific battles the Republicans are on about at the moment have a shelf life that isn’t far from passing. Young Republicans mostly favor marriage equality, for example. And while there’s no question that there’s a lot of racism in the country, the fact that conservatives embrace MLK’s notions of color blindness (however disingenuously) means they’ve lost that fight as well. And contraception? Please. That genie is out of the bottle. They can degrade things, they can fight rear guard actions, but they can’t win.

      There are a lot of hideous right wing presidents in our future, but don’t be surprised if one of them is having his diaper changed right now by a bi-racial gay couple. He’ll be cool with things Santorum and Romney hate, but he may also want to invade Canada and create a top marginal tax rate of 0%.

      Moreover, I’ll bet anything that as climate change gets worse, it’ll create and fracture political alliances in ways that seem nuts to us right now. And since I’m apparently quite ramble prone at the end of a long week, I’ll finish by saying that my guess is that the great liberal project of this century is going to be demilitarization, not protecting civil rights gains. A warming planet with less and less easy resources is going to put a lot of stress on us, and the “conservatives” are going to want to stay armed to the teeth to protect what we have. And if lights go out and stomachs grumble to keep the drones flying, that’ll be fine with them. It won’t be their lights, and it won’t be their stomachs.

      Okay, now I’m going to go outside and enjoy the global warming.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        Jeez,
        Compared to you, I’m a sunny optimist!

        No arguments from me.

        The coming “Water Wars,” will be quite ugly.

        Also too – Not only do we need to find alternatives to fossil fuels pronto, we need to figure out how to desalinate ocean water and transport it inland cheaply.

        I’m glad I’m not any younger. Hopefully, I’ll be gone before the poo-poo hits the ventilator.

  4. GFW says:

    One thing is different. The scope of right wing “think tanks”, aka wingnut welfare & intellectual veneer.

  5. rea says:

    Crazier, no. But somehow more mainstream? Unfortunately, yes.

    • DrDick says:

      Exactly. I remember Republicans, even conservative Republicans, laughing and pointing fingers at the Birchers. Now those views are mainstream and the Bircher Godfathers (Kochs) are major financiers.

      • thebewilderness says:

        That is the difference that I see also. What the majority of conservatives once dismissed they now embrace.

  6. UserGoogol says:

    TheParanoid Style in America Politics is required reading. It isn’t really about conservatism specifically, but it’s certainly about current (and 1962) Republicans.

  7. Njorl says:

    I don’t think comparing 1962 to the present is very useful. When I think of conservatives being crazy, I think that they are acting like they did before the Great Society, before the Civil Rights Movement, before Griswold and Roe. They’re crazy like they were in 1962.

    There was a period from 1964 to 1980 when conservatives, while probably not any less crazy, were at least less noisy. Then again, that’s a short enough period to call it an anomoly, I suppose. I had hoped it was progress whihc was merely interrupted..

    • burritoboy says:

      No, 1964 is really the wrong date. In fact, 1963-1964 is precisely when the revamped crazy came out again in the conservatives in the Goldwater campaign.

      What you’re more likely thinking about is the conservatives under Robert Taft, who seemed not to be crazy because of their aristocratic personas. But that was merely Taft’s personality – the conservatives of that era were equally crazy, they just did it with a better sense of style (think Bill Buckley versus his intellectual progeny) AND that their party still contained people like Henry Cabot Lodge.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The upshot: We have to prepare for a decades-long fight to the death. That’s the nation’s only hope.

    Will we have to get off the internet?

    • mark f says:

      Are you kidding? According to our most fearsome opposing generals, Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt, the internet is the most deadly, most hero-makingest battlefront on Earth.

    • UserGoogol says:

      I genuinely think that “getting off the Internet” is overrated. This is a battle of ideas, and ideas win or lose based on people making persuasive arguments in their defense. The Internet is a handy medium for expressing such arguments. Obviously the literal answer to your actual question is yes, because relying on only the Internet isn’t an optimal communications strategy, but people extremely overglamorize “hitting the pavement.”

  9. Malaclypse says:

    Dr. Fred Schwarz’s You Can Trust the Communists: To be Communists.

    I had a wingnut high school “civics” teacher in the early 1980s, who used as a text that along with None Dare Call It Treason and None Dare Call It Conspiracy as our texts. Good times, good times…

    And now I see that Treason got an update in 1992.

    Let me assure you that the scenario presented in this magnificent masterpiece of research is as relevant to us today as the day it was first published – this despite the “appearance” of Communism’s collapse in the Soviet Union.

    I think this is what has changed: being concerned about Stalinism in the 1960s was not actually insane (although certainly Stermer was). Being concerned about Stalinism in the US, today, is more nuts now that it was then. A lot more nuts. I mean really – the USSR pretended to collapse, so that they can infiltrate the US better? Hell, you have to be HoBo levels of stupid to believe that.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Stormer, not Stermer. I blame Communist infiltration of the intarweb for the error.

    • Malaclypse says:

      And holy shit the reviews on the update are nuts:

      Unfortunately, Stormer’s updates are lacking, incomplete, or wrong on many issues. For example…The John Birch Society (JBS) is no longer primarily an anti-communist organization.

      I’m trying to imagine a worldview where the Birchers are insufficiently anti-communist, and I can’t pull it off without Godwinning.

      • Lee says:

        Being fair to the reviewer, it looks more like the reviewer is saying that JBS is no longer primarily anti-Communist in that they moved on to other issues rather than not being sufficiently anti-Communist. This might be a charitable interpretation.

        • Other issues include Pastel Gradualism (PDF link):

          I have never believed the flimsy tale that the weird FRNs are less easy to counterfeit. It is time that you both, plus everyone else involved with the shafting of Americans via the Currency Coloring Game, openly admit that the underlying agenda(s) — is/are treasonous. Directly behind the dishonest manipulation of our currency is… Pastel Gradualism. Gradually people are eased in accepting colored currency like the rest of the world uses. Who authorized the unwanted changes, and the gradualism of currency conversion? I want to know! Tens of millions of Americans want to know, as well. Fabian Socialism. Creeping Progressivism. Now Pastel Gradualism.

      • DrDick says:

        I am not sure that you can adequately describe the right wing of the modern Republican Party without Godwinning.

        • chris says:

          Certainly you can’t put the paranoid style in its world-historical context without Godwinning, since fascism and Nazism are two of the most prominent historical examples of the same phenomenon.

  10. Katya says:

    One difference is the role of the internet, which allows crazy people to link up with other crazy people, reinforce their craziness, and organize to impose their craziness much more effectively.

    • Lee says:

      The internet might make organizing a bit easier but that data out on whether its essential or not. The Far Right was able to do a lot of organizing and networking, including taking over the GOP, without the benefit of the Internet during the 1950s and 1960s. The internet allows for faster commmunications but what could be done with the internet could also be done through telephones, news letters, and other slow forms of communication.

  11. Dave says:

    some names haven’t changes. soros was on nixon’s enemies list.

  12. [...] * Rick Perlstein argues the problem isn’t that conservatives are crazier than they were fifty years ago; the problem is they’re exactly as crazy as they were fifty years ago. Via LGM. [...]

  13. Strabo says:

    Good lord. Still laboring under the long-discredited myth that nazism is a right-wing phenomenon, eh? You people need to expand your reading lists. The nazis and the Fascists were always socialist left-wing parties, and a cursory glance at their platforms would confirm that for you. The intertubes can be an enlightening thing. Y’all should try it sometime, as it might prevent you from looking black-hole stupid.

  14. Mark says:

    Pfft. Fred Schwarz wasn’t even a right winger. He was an anti communist, so it’s always been tempting for people on the left to take potshots at him, but the guy was never politically affiliated at all. He wasn’t remotely crazy. He was a scholar of Marx, a gifted writer, a powerful debater, and someone who really did make a positive difference to the world.

    Perlstein’s article invokes Schwarz so as to go after Reagan and Buckley, and he’s chosen his particular target for one reason: despite his influence, most people simply don’t know who he is. Since this is the case, they’ll simply take Perlstein’s word for it when he calls Schwarz a wingnut without providing any evidence. But nothing could be further from the truth. He was deliberately and purposefully apolitical throughout his whole career.

    David Noebel, however, who has republished the late Dr Schwarz’s book (changing the title and adding his own chapters), is a bit of a kook. His twisting of Dr Schwarz’s message to serve his own agenda is, however well intended, as potentially harmful to Schwarz’s legacy as is Perlstein’s deliberate slander.

  15. [...] Loomis, writing at the progressive hate-blog Lawyers, Guns and Money, links to a crappy Rolling Stone essay by Rick Perlstein, “Why [...]

  16. [...] an essay ironically titled, “Are Conservatives Any Crazier Today Than 50 Years Ago?,” Loomis called for a “decades-long fight to the death” against conservatives as America’s “only [...]

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