Days of Rage -- The Noxious Transformation of the Conservative Movement into a Rabid Fringe
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Editor's Note: The following is the new epilogue from Max Blumenthal's book, Republic Gomorrah, now out in paperback (Basic/Nation Books, 2009).
"He will tell you that he wants a strong authority to take from him the crushing responsibility of thinking for himself. Since the Republic is weak, he is led to break the law out of love for obedience. But is it really strong authority that he wishes? In reality he demands rigorous order for others, and for himself disorder without responsibility." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, "Anti-Semite and Jew"
I am not sure when I first detected the noxious fumes that would envelop the conservative movement in the Obama era. It might have been early on, in April 2009, when I visited a series of gun shows in rural California and Nevada. Perusing tables piled high with high-caliber semi-automatic weapons and chatting with anyone in my vicinity, I heard urgent warnings of mass roundups, concentration camps, and a socialist government in Washington. "These people that are purchasing these guns are people that are worried about what's going on in this country," a gun dealer told me outside a show in Reno. "Good luck Obama," a young gun enthusiast remarked to me. "We outnumber him 100 to 1." At this time, the Tea Party movement had not even registered on the national media's radar.
In September 2009, I led a panel discussion about this book inside an auditorium filled with nearly 100 students and faculty at the University of California-Riverside. Beside me sat Jonathan Walton, an African-American professor of religious studies and prolific writer, and Mark Takano, an erudite, openly gay former Democratic congressional candidate and local community college trustee. In the middle of our discussion, a dozen College Republicans stormed the front of the stage with signs denouncing me as a "left-wing hack" while a hysterical young man leaped from the crowd, blowing kisses mockingly at Takano while heckling Walton as a "racist." Afterward, university police officers insisted on escorting me to my ride after the right-wing heckler attempted to follow me as he shouted threats.
Who was this stalker? Just a concerned citizen worried about taxes? His name was Ryan Sorba and he was an operative of a heavily funded national conservative youth outfit, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Besides founding dozens of Republican youth groups across the country, Sorba has devoted an exceptional amount of energy to his interest in homosexuals. His intellectual output consists of a tract titled The Born Gay Hoax, arguing that homosexuality is at once a curable disease and a bogus trend manufactured by academic leftists. Adding to his credentials, Sorba has a history of run-ins with the law, he explained when I called him about the order.
My encounter with this aggressive right-wing cadre seemed a strange, isolated event. But the hostility turned out to be symptomatic of the intensifying campaign to delegitimize President Obama and his allies in Congress. The Right's days of rage were only beginning.
Through his first year in office, Obama seemed oblivious to the threat of the far right. He campaigned against partisanship, declaring that there were "no red states" and no "conservative America." Apparently, he thought it was merely a contrivance or myth that there were people who rejected science, demonized gays, assailed minority and women's rights -- or that they genuinely believed in what they said. Speaking of changing Washington, Obama seemed to think that the entire history of politics since the rise of Reagan and the Right and their strategies of polarization was not deeply rooted but a superficial problem attributable to certain "divisive" personalities, easily wiped away with gestures toward bipartisanship. His view of the parties was that they were simply mirror images sharing fundamental beliefs but separated by "partisans." The skilled and devoted community organizer could bring them together.