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Inside Story on Town Hall Riots: Right-Wing Shock Troops Do Corporate America’s Dirty Work
Posted on Aug 10, 2009
By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet
The ResistNet site is also peppered with posts touting the birther conspiracy, and other right-wing favorites. After Thursday’s scuffle at the Tampa, Fla., health care town hall, Eric Erikson (cross-posting from RedState) blamed the violence on "SEIU thugs," an emerging right-wing theme reported earlier by Steve Benen.
I tried to contact Grassfire President Steve Elliott to ask him about the conflict between ResistNet‘s "no tolerance" policy and the vitriol I found on his site. I also wanted to find out if there are health-care interests among his donors. Elliott, said Tina, the woman who answered the phone, was traveling, and his spokesman, Ron DeJong, was on vacation. She promised to text Elliott with my contact information, but I never heard back.
Glenn Beck and the 9-12 Project
Which brings us to Glenn Beck. There’s little I can add to what’s been reported (click here for AlterNet‘s Tana Ganeva writing on Beck’s racism), except that when I went to the Web site of Beck’s 9-12 Project, another hub of organizing for disrupters of health-care town hall meetings, I found that the comments section had been shut down.
Square, Site wide
The message left by someone named "Editor" bore no time stamp, only a date: August 6, the date of the infamous Tampa brouhaha at which anti-health-care protesters, according to the St. Petersburg Times, said they had been inspired by Beck and his project.
Each of these organizations have this in common: They’re all promoting a march on Washington for Sept. 12. Others in the mix include TeaPartyExpress.org, and the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which was founded by Howard Kaloogian in the heat of the presidential campaign.
Kaloogian was the chairman of the "Recall Gray Davis Committee," which succeeded in unseating the Democratic governor of California. Our Country Deserves Better ran the "Stop Obama" bus tour during the 2008 presidential election, and was faulted by Fact Check.org for airing misleading anti-Obama advertising.
The Inside-Outside Game
The right wing of the GOP has long played this kind of inside-outside game, from the earliest days of the founding of the religious right by Richard Viguerie, Howard Phillips and the late Paul Weyrich. All were veterans of the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign, and all had experience within the establishment Republican Party.
Viguerie, following a model pioneered by Morris Dees for the 1972 Democratic primary campaign of Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., harnessed the power of direct-mail solicitations to land Ronald Reagan in the White House. Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation, which became a fax-generating spin and policy factory for the Reagan administration.
Phillips took the game outside, organizing on-the-ground misanthropes, and eventually founding his own political party, the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party (now the Constitution Party) to exert pressure on the GOP from the outside.
The strategy firmly established the right’s foothold in the GOP, leading to the party’s takeover. Any remnant of the old establishment of the Republican Party was crushed in 1996, when defeated presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan, now a MSNBC commentator, threatened to walk the delegates he had won in his primary war against Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, out of the Republican National Convention and into the arms of Phillips’ U.S. Taxpayer Party if the GOP platform did not firmly enough oppose abortion. He also insisted the platform incorporate a host of other right-wing demands, such as a condemnation of the United Nations.
The GOP forked over the writing of its platform to Phyllis Schlafly (another veteran of the Goldwater campaign) and Buchanan’s sister, Bay, and the takeover was complete. The right wing became the Republican establishment.
All of the narratives today embraced by the ResistNet, FreedomWorks and the Glenn Beck crowd find their legs in the one-man clearinghouse that is Howard Phillips.
Through his Conservative Caucus, Phillips disseminated the "birther" theory that Obama is not an American citizen, gave right-wing operative Cliff Kincaid an award for researching Obama’s alleged socialist roots, and for years has railed against "socialized medicine"—even arguing that Medicare is unconstitutional and warning darkly of a time when the government might determine who shall live and who shall die.
"[W]hen the supply of medical care is controlled by politicians and bureaucrats," Phillips told a 1997 gathering of his Conservative Caucus Foundation, "and the demand for that care exceeds the supply, then individual human beings created in God’s image become price factors in the eyes of medical gatekeepers—they’re not even medical, they’re bureaucratic gatekeepers—who determine medical decisions not on the basis of medical needs, but on the basis of bureaucratic priorities."
Phillips’ disdain for feminists is palpable, and his language about LGBT people, routinely labeled on his Web site as "perverts," "homos" and "sodomites" is contemptible. He refers to Planned Parenthood as "Murder Incorporated."
I called Phillips for comment on this article, but he was en route to Mexico where he has convened a press conference to protest the nonexistent North American Union, another right-wing conspiracy theory. (Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is an invited speaker.)
Phillips advanced the career of Randall Terry, founder of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. At one point, it seemed that his U.S. Taxpayer’s Party was to Operation Rescue what Sinn Fein is to the Irish Republican Army—the political wing of a movement steeped in violence. (In Terry’s case, the violence was in rhetoric and obstruction designed to incite others to act.)
Conspiracy of Silence
On Aug. 4, Terry, who is seeking to make a comeback with his new organization, Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex, sent out an e-mail blast urging followers to attend health care town halls convened by members of Congress.
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