Chris Matthews and his panel try to pretend the Republican Party's problems with the Tea Party, right wing hate radio and now Fox News are some sort of new phenomenon for the GOP and the conservatives in the United States. Ironically Chris Matthews shows an old clip of St. Ronnie from 1966 trying to have it both ways with his support from The John Birch Society, which Howard Fineman calls "clever".
Here's a slightly different take on Ronald Reagan back in 1966 than the one given by Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman. (Link to the orignal TNR article is broken.)
The New Republic reproduces a critical article that was originally published in the July 2, 1966 issue:
Reagan is less than expected, about middle height with an air of modest decency, a fine crop of hair, and a homogenized mind. "One of the great problems of economics," he explained, "is unemployment." The crowd cheered. "For every ounce of federal help we get we surrender an ounce of personal freedom." "There's no such thing as left or right any more; it's up or down."
Reagan is anti-labor, anti-Negro, anti-intellectual, anti-planning, anti-20th Century. ... Reagan said in his modest, low-keyed, reasonable way that of course he favored the goal of civil rights; but he opposed the actual bill as unconstitutional (like Goldwater). No, he wouldn't repudiate the John Birch Society, nor reject support from members. Some things are going on at the University of California (Berkeley) he said, "I could not tell you in this audience; they were too shocking." ... The Supreme Court decision for police court reform? Of course he opposed it. "I'm against the idea that the criminal must be protected from society, rather than the other way around!"
The panel goes on to describe what a rough time Republicans are having getting through their primary races because of how extreme the Republican base is now. As Driftglass pointed out today:
Andrew Sullivan noted with great alarm that there is no Conservative Establishment anymore to keep the Christopaths and the Klansmen locked in the basement, and that Fox News is now the GOP.
And Driftglass goes on to explain why Andrew Sullivan should not be surprised by this.
In other words, what Liberals have been saying since the 1960s (from me, here):
From Rod Serling writing in an editorial in the (then very right-wing) Los Angeles Times in 1964, in response to a series of articles by wingnut-apologist Morrie Ryskind: [...]
“[The far right cannot] discount the fact that sitting it their parlor is the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, every racist group in the United States and not a few of some Fascist orders that have scrambled their way up from the sewers to a position of new respectability.”
The Right has been getting away with playing Gingrich chicken -- dressing up what are basically wonkish policy differences in the threads of Revelation and Armageddon -- for far too long now to know how to rule any other way. Read on (warning, nsfw)...
The Republicans have been happy to use their Southern Strategy for ages to win elections and they've been happy to take advantage of right wing hate radio with the advent of Rush Limbaugh and his wanna' be clones that populate the right side of the dial 24/7. Now that Fox News has taken right wing hate radio and televised it, Sullivan acts surprised that the Republicans won't stand up to them.
Sullivan should also not be surprised that a party that's been more then willing to use its fringe base for political advantage might one day be taken over by it. It would appear John McCain is finding out what it means to fail some of their "purity tests" in his primary battle with J.D. Hayworth and it could cost him his Senate seat.