Yesterday, Politico's Ben Smith published a story about a RNC fundraising presentation that broadly outlined the RNC's plan to raise funds through appeals based primarily in deranged fearmongering over conspiracy theories about creeping, Obama-driven "socialist" tyranny. (And also, through the sale of of "tchochkes," raising the specter that this fearmongering will soon consume Etsy.)
The revelation, which got wide play, put the RNC on the defensive, with Smith reporting that the organization "reacted with alarm" and immediately sought to put RNC Chair Michael Steele at arm's length from the presentation. Per Smith:
"The document was used for a fundraising presentation Chairman Steele did not attend, nor had he seen the document," RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said in an email. "Fundraising documents are often controversial.
"Obviously, the Chairman disagrees with the language and finds the use of such imagery to be unacceptable. It will not be used by the Republican National Committee - in any capacity - in the future," Heye said.
But as embarrassing as this whole episode has been for the RNC, consider how all the people who provided quotes for a story in Politico two days before -- entitled, "Conservatives target their own fringe" -- must feel:
After months of struggling to harness the energy of newly engaged tea party activists, the conservative establishment -- with critical midterm congressional elections on the horizon -- is taking aim for the first time at the movement's extremist elements.
Here's former American Majority president Ned Ryun:
"I don't believe we should be giving [extremists] a platform or empowering them to do anything based off their conspiracy theories," said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, "because they give the left ammunition to try to define the tea party movement as crazy and fringy."
RedState's Erick Erickson:
The attempt "to clean up our own house," as Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative blog RedState, puts it, is necessary "because traditional press outlets have decided to spotlight these fringe elements that get attracted to the movement, and focus on them as if they're a large part of this tea party movement. And I don't think they are."
And, from a Washington Post editorial quoted in the article, here's former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson:
But the birthers and Birchers, militias and nativists, racists and conspiracy theorists do exist. Some, having waited decades in deserved obscurity, hope to ride a populist movement like remoras. But there are others, new to political engagement, who have found paranoia and anger intoxicating. They watch Glenn Beck rail against the omnipresent threat of Saul Alinsky, read Ayn Rand's elevation of egotism and contempt for the weak, listen to Ron Paul attacking the Federal Reserve cabal, and suddenly their resentments become ordered into a theory. Such theories, in politics, can act like a drug, causing addiction, euphoria and psychedelic departures from reality.
[Pictured above: A euphoric, psychedelic departure from reality.]
Such sentiments are all for the good, and we've seen similar efforts to disentangle the larger conservative establishment from the lunatic, conspiracy-minded fringe -- see David Frum and John Henke, who took on WorldNetDaily over its trafficking in paranoid nonsense. At the time, the RNC had not severed ties with WorldNetDaily, and this fundraising presentation demonstrates that -- far from distancing itself from its fringe -- the conservative establishment is perfectly content co-opting its brand of paranoid nuttery to raise money.
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