The same happens whenever any kind of extremism on the right comes into question — which again reinforces the sense that the mainstream conservative establishment considers the nuts to be one of them. That surely was the message received when they rallied around Chris Broughton, the Arizonan who brought an assault rifle and pistol to an Obama rally in 2009. Broughton, according to reports, is a member of the "We the People" anti-government neo-militia group and a member of the Faith Word Baptist Church, whose pastor has prayed for Obama to die and go to hell.
To be sure, many on the left have overreacted, or cast blame indiscriminately at their favorite targets — like Palin. But the strength of the push-back is a sign of just how impotent Boehner and his fellow establishment Republicans are. The "base" — fed by the money-makers who depend on a hyper-outraged market of conservatives — will brook no criticism. You cannot suggest that a line should be drawn — that some ideas are too crazy, some claims too racist, some rhetoric too inflammatory — without risking their wrath.
If Boehner were to decide tomorrow to cease the winking acceptance of birthers and other lunatics, he would likely find his Speakership challenged by those below him who would be more than willing to cater to the extremists. Any other GOP officeholder who tries to draw a firm line will likely be challenged in the next primary. Any presidential candidate who does so will likely have no chance at winning the nomination. And of course, any prominent conservative who tries will lose his viewers, listeners, or readers.
That means we'll continue to see large numbers of conservatives believing that Obama and other Democrats (and moderate Republicans) are America-hating, totalitarian, domestic enemies. We have been fortunate that the vast majority have restricted their protests to nonviolent means, like screaming from the House gallery. But we need to remember that there are those out there who are capable of much worse.
To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dbernstein.
: Talking Politics
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