Newt Gingrich, Saul Alinsky and the Religious Right's Conspiracy Narratives
Gingrich's claims echo conspiracy theories from the Tea Parties, Glenn Beck, the John Birch Society, and the 1990s Militia Movement.
To an alarming extent the frame of Obama bringing socialism to America includes allegations that Obama and his allies are part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. Whether this conspiracy tracks back to Marx or Satan is open to debate. Further to the Right are recruiters for White supremacist groups suggesting the conspirators are Jews or Muslims using Obama as a puppet. This is not a healthy dynamic for civil society--and we have seen it before.
This campaign--aimed at rolling back the polices of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration--has always been a loose-knit coalition of large corporate interests, small business owners, economic libertarians, anti-union activists, conservative Christians, and moral traditionalists. They all share an antipathy to collectivism in general. Their opposition to taxes, however, is selective. For example, they tend to support funds for the military and law enforcement, but tend to oppose government programs that weave a social safety net.
Anti-Obama rhetoric circulating in the Tea Party movement suggests Obama is a puppet of liberal elites and socialists. This mimics 1960s claims calling the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a dupe of a communist conspiracy--circulated by groups such as the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, the all-White "Citizens Councils," and the Ku Klux Klan. Billboards and flyers with this message appeared across the South. Postcards were distributed nationwide. This storyline has more than a little racist baggage.
The anti-left red-baiting of Obama echoes the same charges made against President Roosevelt claiming he was a socialist, a fascist, or both. Some authors, such as Elizabeth Dilling, added antisemitic conspiracy theories to the attack on the New Deal. After World War Two this theme re-emerged as militant Red Scare anticommunism which demonized liberals, union and community organizers, peace activists, socialists, gay people, Jews, and people of color. The "McCarthy Period" anticommunist witch hunts stretched from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.
Elizabeth Dilling, 1936, The Roosevelt Red Record and its Background, Chicago: self-published.