Part III – Puppet Masters and Useful Idiots
(This is the third part of a series describing the takeover of the Lewis & Clark County Republican Central Committee by an ultra-conservative, extremist group aligned with the radical elements in and out of the Republican Party.)
No political or religious movement can hope to be successful without the contributions of two largely unseen, but ultimately critical groups – the brains and the brawn: Those who pull the strings and those whose who willingly dance when the strings are pulled. So it was in the twelfth century, so it is today. The Inquisition had the Papacy and Spain had Torquemada. The conservative movement in the United States has the John Birch Society and the unsophisticated political rabble known as the TEA Party. Let the burnings commence…
Most Americans are largely unaware of the John Birch Society. Those of a certain age (“old”) who can remember the politics of the ’50’s and early ’60’s have at least a vague notion of the JBS as a rabid, anti-communist, ultra-conservative group on the outer fringes of the Republican Party. William F Buckley,Jr. was one of the most out-spoken critics of the JBS. His biographer, John B. Judis, wrote that, “Buckley was beginning to worry that with the John Birch Society growing so rapidly, the right-wing upsurge in the country would take an ugly, even Fascist turn rather than leading toward the kind of conservatism National Review had promoted.”
Membership in the JBS in the latter part of the twentieth century leveled off, especially after they tried to label President Eisenhower as a Communist and they destroyed Barry Goldwater’s shot at the White House by supporting him. Even after the organization’s founder died, the group continued to exist and hone not only its message, but also its method of delivery. With the emergence of the TEA Party in 2009, the JBS saw an opening to step back into the body politic as a co-sponsor of the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, ending its decades-long exile from the mainstream conservative movement. They’ve already worn out that welcome, however, and aren’t invited to participate in this year’s conference.
So who is the new John Birch Society? They have been called the Tea Partiers of yester-year in that Birchers want as little government as possible. They also have advocated a shift back to the gold standard in the economy and believe that isolationism is the proper foreign policy position, much in line with the policies promoted by Ron Paul. In fact, many Ron Paul supporters are enthusiastic members of the JBS. The Tea Party movement differs from the John Birch Society primarily in that the John Birch Society was, and is, coordinated in a top-down, strictly managed manner. It is that organization that the JBS has brought to the TEA Party movement. The John Birchers are the guys in suits and ties, speaking with confidence and authority, giving legitimacy and credibility to the unsophisticated, ground-up, loosely organized groups. They use buzz words, like “Constitutionalist” – never really explaining what all they’ve wrapped in that philosophy to entice the low-information conservative voters to embrace their stated purpose without looking too deeply into their real agendas. They’ve moved in quickly to fill a leadership vacuum left by what started as a true grassroots movement, the TEA Party.
Like its original ’50’s edition, the John Birch Society of the twenty-first century is again associated with conspiratorial, racist and anti-Semitic ideologies that played a major role in the decline of the group in the ’70’s. But as a result of the Tea Party upsurge consisting largely of well-meaning, but politically naive citizens, the Birchers have found a more ready audience willing to buy what they are selling. The John Birch Society, knowingly, in order to manipulate a vulnerable segment of the population, promotes these conspiracies as a means of achieving power.
Which brings us to the puppet master of the local crowd. The John Birch Society field director and world-renowned Constitutional expert (Why isn’t there a sarcasm font when you need one?!?!?), Robert Brown. Brown, like the Wizard of Oz, uses obfuscation and illusion to ensnare the minds of his sycophants along with his “acclaimed” series of classes on the Constitution – produced by the — wait for it — the John Birch Society. He also uses a slick Power Point presentation called, “The Power of 500” to mesmerize and recruit new members. Although he attempts to convey a diagnosis of “the root of the problem” facing America, in actuality, it is more like “a far-right version of the on-line game Mad Libs – a fill-in-the-blank conspiracy with culprits left to each person’s imagination.” Recruits are encouraged to read a Birch Society book called, “The Illuminati – Proof of the Conspiracy.”
The Illuminati was a secret society in Bavaria in the late 18th century that advocated subterfuge, secrecy, and conspiracy to infiltrate and co-opt other organizations. They fancied themselves to be “enlightened” but apparently didn’t see the light for long and were destroyed within fifteen years of their origin. The JBS leaders in America in the sixties devoted years to finding evidence that a variety of historical events from Waterloo, The French Revolution, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and an alleged communist plot to hasten the New World Order by infiltrating the Hollywood film industry, were all orchestrated by the Illuminati. Most people never heard of the Illuminati until Dan Brown dusted them off to be the antagonists in his popular novel, Angels and Demons.
The Birchers have preyed upon paranoid conspiracy theorists (PCTs) who believe the Illuminati cabal still exists, either in its original form or as a paradigm for later cabals. Many PCTs believe “that large Jewish banking families have been orchestrating various political revolutions and machinations throughout Europe and America since the late eighteenth century, with the ultimate aim of bringing about a satanic New World Order.” Current favorite boogeymen and PCT memes are the Bilderberg Group and Agenda 21. Robert Brown and the JBS feed into these whacky ideas by giving them credence. But, in order to be a successful puppet master, one must have puppets.
And that’s why useful idiots are necessary. These are the little people who want to sit at the grown-ups’ table, but haven’t figured out who the real grown-ups are so they tend to follow after whomever pays the teeniest amount of attention to them. Enter the epitome of a useful idiot – Jonathan Barbegello. Jonathan has been a member of the LCCRCC on and off for a few years, although he has been a faithful attendee even when not a voting member. A member of a strange and reclusive family from the Birdseye area, he is much enamored of his knowledge and abilities, not having had much exposure to the real world for comparison. While he’s smart enough to tie his shoes and put his pants on front side forward, he’s severely socially retarded and has a tendency to alienate those around him with his aggressive, anti-social manners. He almost single-handedly caused the demise of the Lewis & Clark County Young Republicans Club a year or so ago and now turns those same skills on the Central Committee.
The puppet master and the other leaders of the coup found in Jonathan an ideal and willing patsy. A little positive recognition and Jello-boy followed his master with the tail-wagging enthusiasm of a large puppy, unaware of, or at least unconcerned with, the devastation left in his wake. Jonathan was willing to be the face of the local conspiracy to cleanse the republican central committee of its moderate members, leaving the real leaders to pursue their takeover plans in anonymity. He reveled in holding secret meetings and plotting the overthrow of the current leadership. Willing to take whatever crumbs are tossed his way, Jonathan has never once suspected that he is being used. He will continue to dance on the end of the puppet master’s strings until he is no longer useful. And then he will be shocked and surprised when he finds himself flopped in a tangle of arms, legs, and unconnected strings.
As of last week, the hostile takeover was accomplished. The right-wing extremists now control the local republican central committee. They have infiltrated the organization and populated it with a cadre of political proselytes; most of them unwitting accomplices in a travesty destined for failure. Already, the body count has begun; the Grand Inquisitor, himself, has found the tables turned and the fevered frenzy of the madding crowd claimed its first victim. Awwww… Word has it that at least four other members, who up until now were considered among the more conservative of the group, have been ostracized for failing to meet the stringent standards of the fascist regime. The Inquisition doth take a toll, doth’n it?
The new leader of the group, a transplant from deep in the heart of Dixie, Doug Tapper, who has publicly advocated for a “litmus test” for members of the Republican Party, is probably still blissfully unaware of the disaster that awaits him. Continuing on the path of cleansing the organization of those who don’t rabidly adhere to the ultra-conservative, evangelical, racist, bigoted ideology of the John Birch Society is self-defeating.
If the purpose of a political organization is to elect candidates that will promote their agenda, they have to appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate. Most people in Lewis & Clark County are – horrors! – liberals. Just a fact. Republicans have a really tough time winning races in this county, and in county-wide elections they mostly
aren’t successful get their butts handed to them. Within the Helena precincts, the average Republican candidate can consider themselves lucky to pull more than 40% of the vote. We aren’t in the heart of Texas, Toto. This is a government town. TEA Party darlings like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul wouldn’t stand a chance here under the best possible scenario. And these yahoos think that shrinking the party is a strategic stroke of genius????
What will happen? Short-term, it’s likely that the Democrats in Lewis & Clark County will be chalking up more victories at the ballot box. Moderate Republicans and Libertarians make up a huge bloc of the non-democrat voters (see 2012 statewide election results), leaving the new, pure Republican party in a pathetically minority position. It’s anybody’s guess how long it will be before these purists figure out the simple math: A minority – [A significant majority of the minority] = Screwed.
While Robert Brown may see himself as a great “Constitutionalist” (albeit fraudulently), he has never been – and never will – be a Republican. His vision is not for the good of the conservative movement or the good of the party. Like the Wizard of OZ, Brown is the man behind the curtain manipulating the Munchkins on their journey along the yellow brick road to irrelevancy. If the flying monkeys don’t get them, they’d better watch out for falling houses. They leave bruises.
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”