CONSERVATIVE EXTREMISTS….Digby makes a good point in response to a post of mine yesterday:

Every political party has its fringe. In a two party system, the coalition in each is huge and represents a wide range of opinion….White supremacists, Christian Reconstructionists, militias, neo-confederates and anti-immigrant bigots represent the extremist fringe of the Republican party and I would suggest that their activities would be far more repulsive to most middle of the road Americans than some theatrical kids at a protest rally — if they heard about them constantly.

Quite aside from any question of just how liberal or moderate you happen to be personally, this is something that’s puzzled me a bit: why do conservative extremists get so little attention? I’m not sure the answer to it is all that obvious, but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Lefty protesters want to be noticed by the world. They want to upset comfortable middle class suburbanites. That’s the whole point. Neo-confederates and militia members, by contrast, mostly keep to themselves. They bitch and complain and hold rallies and send out email blasts, but mostly to each other, so it’s a subculture that most of us never really hear about.

  • It’s a perverse effect of the fact that most reporters really are urban liberals. The liberal protesters are their kids and their friends’ kids, so they know what they’re doing and it’s easy for them to report about it. Backwoods Klan rallies, on the other hand, might as well be primitive Amazonian tribes by comparison, and require anthropological persistence and undercover cleverness to root out. These things are hard to report.

  • For some reason, conservative extremists are written off as dinosaurs whose day has passed, and therefore not to be feared. Liberal extremists, on the other hand, do seem scary because it seems much more likely that someday they might get what they’re asking for.

As a piece of anecdotal evidence here, my mother once told me that during the early 50s she (and her fellow liberal college students in Southern California) had no idea of how blacks were treated in the South. It simply never got reported. Sure, Jim Crow was common knowledge, but the brutal miscarriages of justice, the wholesale refusal to allow blacks to vote, and the miserable conditions of their daily lives were not. Until the media picked up the story, there was little chance of getting broad support for civil rights reform.

Digby’s main point is that people like me should stop worrying about our own extremists. They’re here, they’ve always been here, and they aren’t going away. Rather, we should be working harder to expose conservative extremists and forcing the Republican party to either embrace them or repudiate them.

OK, I can buy that. Now all we have to do is figure out how.

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