Accomplices to the extreme #wingnuttia

Accomplices to the extreme

by digby

Norm Ornstein had a nice historical piece this week on the history of extreme elements becoming mainstream in political parties. His particular focus unsurprisingly, was on the current GOP and how it came to be so nutty. Those of us who have been covering this evolution in real time won't be surprised by his thesis but if it seems as if this just pops up overnight this is a good overview.

I would take issue with one thing however. He doesn't discuss the crucible of a partisan impeachment against the will of the people, much of it driven by the political and media establishment.  Neither does he point to the subsequent shock of the subsequent Supreme Court decision in election 2000 in which the press and the beltway institutions also enabled the right wing to get away with unprecedented undemocratic behavior. These are important moments that signaled a fundamental shift in norms.

He's right that the New Left in the 1960s and the party upheaval in the 1970s created much turmoil within the Democratic Party.  But it was hardly aided and abetted by the establishment, particularly the media, unless you want to say that someone like Walter Cronkite coming out against the war was a sign of extremism.  In fact, the morphing of right wing extremism into mainstream politics has been largely made possible by a media which decided very early on in the 60s revolution to identify with the "Silent Majority" and then allowed itself to be cowed by the relentless right wing propaganda campaign to vacuously portray them as liberal --- which they weren't. It culminated in the shameful performance of the 1990s and the nearly delirious approbation offered to George W. Bush, resulting in an insane war we'll be paying for for a long time.

None of this is to let Democrats off the hook for their irrational fear of hippies, which remains to this day. Neither does it absolve the Republicans for their extremism, which has building unabated for the last 50 years. But you cannot understand all this without looking at the behavior of the bipartisan political establishment and the press. They are accomplices.