When the story of William F. Buckley, patron saint of conservatism gets told, one part that always gets highlighted is the great casting out of the John Birch Society. The John Birch Society, and its leader Robert Welch, were the Glenn Becks of the 1960's, wacky right-wingers who thought that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist mole. Buckley, famously, worked it so that the Goldwater '64 campaign, and the conservative movement in general, threw the nutters out.
This action, the story goes, kept the conservative movement respectable and mainstream, which lead to Ronnie, Newt and the current state of things. Which brings us to the John Birch Society of today: Glenn Beck and his merry band of teabaggers. Glenn Beck represents that same brand of ultra-nutty conservatism, the paranoid, delusional, and just downright scary strain of right-winger that has been back around from the 1950's on. So who will cast Glenn Beck out of the movement? Who will make conservatism safe for America again?
No one will. Buckley is gone, and he hasn't been replaced. The center of the conservative universe isn't the National Review any more, now all roads lead to Fox News. Where Glenn Beck has set up shop and now rules the ratings. Beck now has a platform to inject his madness straight into the GOP. Have a look at this piece in Salon, documenting how Beck's obsessions become the obsessions of GOP Congressmen and Senators, sometimes in a matter of hours. Beck isn't just an influence, he's setting the agenda for the Republicans in Congress. We also are seeing signs that "Tea Party" activists are now taking aim at the GOP, in an attempt to drive the party even further to right. No one is casting the nutters out of the movement. They are the movement.
This is bad, both for Republican Party and for America. Republicans are never going to get it together with a paranoid delusional calling the shots and America can't move forward if half of the political system is lost to madness.