How the Crazies Took Over

Birthers, Limbaugh, Beck fill vacuum as Obama tries to stay above the fray
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2009 3:58 PM CDT
Phillip Fisher of the LaRouche Political Action Committee demonstrates outside a church where Jesse Jackson Jr. was holding a town hall meeting on health care reform August 18, 2009.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – As recently as this spring, the Tea Party movement seemed anemic and wonky. But in the months that followed, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and others whipped the right-wing fringe into such a frenzy that a “separate reality grew like a second head on the American polity,” Philip Weiss writes in a New York magazine deconstruction of the anti-Obama movement. Nobody gets off easy: "I blame the whole birther movement on bad PR by the Obama campaign," says a veteran journalist. "They really bungled it."

Obama ignored the mob, convinced it would drive moderates to him. Republicans, meanwhile “were afraid to speak out against the birthers, because they were the faithful.” The RNC even bought a mailing list from World Net Daily. Now, the fury has grown so loud, it’s actually made Obama look weak. But “building a movement on madness” has its downsides. Obama’s school speech “became a reality trap,” a dull address that didn’t sound like indoctrinization at all. Health care reform, if it works, could do the same.