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Has the Radical Right Lost Its Mojo?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert Burns     Permalink
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During the Great Depression, a radically conservative Catholic priest, Father  Charles Coughlin, actually had a Chicago radio show for a pulpit. His  message was a blend of old-fashioned populism and race baiting, very  much akin to Hitler's anti-semitism. He founded a political party called  The Social Justice Party, which basically called for the  nationalization of key industries, and financial reform, which was  dominated, he said, by international Jewish wealth.

Coughlin had  a massive radio audience which grew as the country sank deeper into the  Great Depression, in which fully 25% of the labor force was simply out  of work. At his height in the late 30's Coughlin had as many as 45  million regular listeners. The fear among ordinary Americans was  palpable as they saw farms abandoned and factory workers on the  sidewalks of all the major cities in theater newsreels. Americans were  looking for an explanation of what had happened to them and Coughlin and  others gave them one.

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FDR's contention that fear was the  nation's biggest enemy rang far truer then than it does now. All through  the 30's, Coughlin rode on his white horse tilting at Marxism,  International Jewry, The Federal Reserve, leftists, and even Henry Ford,  a notorious anti-Semite. 

It took America's entrance into World  War II to finally silence Coughlin. His bishop finally could no longer  countenance his behavior and consigned him to a small Chicago parish,  which he ministered to until his retirement in 1966. But interest in  what he had to say had waned by 1942, when people got back to work and  the prime national issue was defeating the Nazis and the Japanese. By  the end of the war, Coughlin was a political backwater.


Fast forward 4 generations

In  2007, this country suffered the biggest financial collapse since 1929.  The nation is slowly getting its legs back three years later as  unemployment numbers look like they're finally headed south, but the  parallels between people like Charles Coughlin and the likes of Glenn  Back, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party are too obvious to discount, when one  looks at the political climate since our own crash. Beck is out   denouncing Jews like George Soros, socialists and communists (again!) in  the government and, in a new wrinkle in American life, the browning on  the national complexion.

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Fox News Network has canned Beck, as  both his audience and his polemicism are souring the public (and his  ratings!). Palin's popularity numbers are in near-single digits; the Tea  Party is losing its punch as its newly elected politicians expose the  lunacy of its platform in Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere, as  well as on Capital Hill. This political "attitude adjustment" is being  helped by an economy which is slowly but surely picking up steam.

This  is one instance where, though history is repeating itself, the end  game, the light at the end of the radical right wing tunnel, is clearly  visible.

And it couldn't come too soon.

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Article first published as Has the Radical Right Tsunami Run Its Course? on Technorati. 


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Retired businessman, teacher, merchant seaman, who currently spends his days ruminating on the state of the world while pursuing trout on Oregon rivers and streams.I also am a musician and published writer.

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