Exciting news for anyone with a serious interest in the history of the American far right: Ernie Lazare has undertaken a “major project which will attempt to present a documentary and chronological history of the Birch Society based upon documents which have never been previously publicly available.” This is a work in progress, but it is progressing quickly. Click here for a preview.
Reading Robert Welch, Gary Allen, Cleon Skousen, and other first generation Birchers, you encounter many of the themes that define the hard right today—that the UN is working to destroy American sovereignty; that liberals and moderates are consciously and deliberately destroying the country from within; the toxicity of the Federal Reserve. Its spirit abides in many of Ron Paul’s positions, and for that matter, in the blanket condemnations of taxes and regulations that are standard Republican talking points today.
Between the economic catastrophe, the on-going polarization of American politics and culture, and the specifically racist reaction to the 2008 election, we are entering an epoch in which liberals would do well to educate themselves about the tenets and tactics of Bircherism. Not because it’s back front and center and in the mainstream—it’s not (in fact, the American Conservative Union just rejected the JBS’s offer to co-sponsor the 2012 CPAC event, as they did last year), but because its ideas and its influences still demarcate the furthest verges of the political right, and thus determine where its center lies as well. Fred Koch was one of the original Birchers; his sons David and Charles recently committed to spending some $200 million to defeat Obama next year. Its past may well become our future.