The Right Coast

August 26, 2005
The Leaders And Their Base
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Representative Maxine Waters, and left-wing San Diego mayoral candidate Donna Frye who introduced Waters at a rally here this afternoon, almost dutifully expressed all the standard leftist anti-Bush anti-Iraq talking points: no WMDs, Bush lied, Downing Street Memos, Valerie Plame, cowboy, blood for oil. Waters' sharpest veer into certifiability was a fairly brief excursion into "Republican Diebold voting machines ripped us off at the ballot box -- Kerry actually won by 5 million votes..."

But it was the crowd of 250 to 300 -- white San Diegans of all ages; left wing Democrats, or sectarians, one and all -- who were plainly, almost yearningly, eager for rhetorical red (as it were) meat. To cheer for the Iraqi "resistance"? To cheer, not just for impeaching Bush, but perhaps for more "direct" action against him? And against Amerikkka's many other demons? Who knows? Waters and Frye told the crowd what they wanted to hear, up to a considerable point. But the speakers deliberately shied off from stoking or even quite acknowledging the crowd's appetite for extremist rhetoric: an appetite perfectly tangible to anyone in the room.

It seemed to me just what you would have expected from a pair of very right wing, but not politically suicidal Republican politicians, addressing what amounted to a crowd of John Birch Society members -- thirty years ago, or whenever the John Birch Society had such heyday as it may have had.

The John Birch Society was always a lunatic fringe, of course. Even in its time, most Republicans had probably barely heard of it, and would have boggled at its nutty opinions -- and its nutty anger. ("Is Dwight Eisenhower a Communist agent...?") Even so, enough taint of the Birch Society, and its kind of looniness, undoubtedly helped send Barry Goldwater not just to defeat, but to electoral ignominy, in 1964.

Is a left wing version of the John Birch Society ethos increasingly impinging on the mentality of today's centre-left "base"? If so, it is bad news for the country. And for the Democratic Party. It may help candidacies like Donna Frye's -- but presumably she still is not going to be the Mayor of San Diego.