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The New Lunatic Fringe

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The outburst of right-wing extremism that occurred from the outset of the Obama administration often occupies center stage of today's Republican Party. This unhinged conservative fringe is also an example of how the extremes are merging with the GOP base. In analyzing this phenomenon it is important to remember that politics is really history in the present tense. To better understand the hate-fueled protests directed at President Obama we need to examine an earlier period of history when hyper-partisan extremists were out of control and threatened to destabilize our democracy.

FDR Quote on Social Security
FDR Quote on Social Security
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President. During this darkest hour of our history, FDR was entrusted with the monumental task of turning the country around after more than a decade of failed GOP economic policies. The nation had struggled through three consecutive Republican Presidents along with a House of Representatives and Senate firmly in the hands of the GOP. First, Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920, followed by Calvin Coolidge, and finally Herbert Hoover. All three of these Republicans contributed to the eventual crash of the American economy. The GOP's unwillingness to regulate banks and the stock market stripped millions of hard working Americans of their life savings.

During the perilous days of the Great Depression and World War II, voters elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House in 1932, 1936, 1940 and again in 1944. Roosevelt responded to the economic crash with a bold program of direct relief to American households. He believed that capitalism was a bottom to top economic system, while the Republicans were only concerned with the top of the economic food chain. FDR's program of recovery was based upon the fundamental belief that American households are the foundation of our economy thus many of his New Deal programs focused on this vital segment. It is often said that President Roosevelt responded by not only saving our capitalist system but also our American democracy along with it.

Admittedly, FDR's recovery and reform measures were aggressive, yet they still preserved a free market economy. The New Deal created millions of jobs and sponsored massive public works projects that touched every corner of our nation. Federal protection of our bank deposits sheltered us from dangerous and risky banking practices. Abuses of the stock market were more clearly defined and monitored to prevent future collapses like the one that occurred in 1929. The vast majority of Americans felt FDR was moving our nation in the right direction.

Even as our nation was recovering from the crash, the conservative base of the Republican Party bemoaned the recovery efforts. At the same time, a hate-filled conservative fringe appeared on the political landscape and the term "Lunatic Fringe" entered American lexicon. The hate fueled reaction from the Lunatic Fringe during the Great Depression is similar to the right-wing backlash that first appeared during Obama's campaign for President in 2008. Both represent hate-filled protests of historic perspective.

Today's Obama-hating fringe has an array of mouthpieces, including Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann. In the 1930's, FDR had his own group of haters including radio personality, Father Coughlin, William Pelley, founder of the "Christian Party", Gerald L. K. Smith, leader of the America First Party, Elizabeth Dilling and her Red Network radio, and John Bricker, who believed by electing FDR Americans proved they were not able to govern themselves.

In the end, the conservative fringe in America is becoming a partisan cult that is disrupting our ability to fix problems and confusing compromise with disloyalty to the forces of fear and paranoia. Franklin D. Roosevelt did have it right when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

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Bob Griffiths has been a progressive writer and blogger for the last 15 years. He has contributed numerous Op-Ed Articles on the topics of education and politics. As a freelance writer he has contributed to Yahoo News, OEN, and local news (more...)

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