The Dead Hand of the Junior Mints King–Robert Welch Takes Over in Texas

Birch Society founder Robert Welch is, "posthumously, having the last laugh. His ideology has taken over a large segment of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News pundits are advocating the same sorts of ideas that the US laughed at in the latter days of the Eisenhower administration. ..."

May 27, 2009

Yesterday I saw an article in my local paper, titled Republicans Argue over Who They Are, that ran originally in the Houston Chronicle. It listed the major planks in the 2008 Texas state Republican Party platform. It "sought to abolish the IRS, repeal the minimum wage, privatize Social Security, end the corporate income tax, mandate 'American English' as the nation's official language, evict the United Nations from U.S. soil and 'dispel the myth' of a constitutional separation of church and state."

Back in the late 50s and early 60s a fringe political group called the John Birch Society attracted a lot of media notice. It still exists today, although its fifteen minutes are long over. It was named after John Birch, an American soldier and missionary killed by the Chinese in 1945. The group was founded by Robert Welch, heir to the Welch candy fortune. He published, at his own expense, a book called The Politician, which advanced the thesis that Dwight Eisenhower was either an agent or dupe of the Communist Party.

The JBS official agenda included items like getting the US out of the UN and radical reform to the tax code. JBS bumper stickers included "Support Your Local Police," "Impeach Earl Warren," and "US out of UN."

When the media first discovered the JBS many mainstream republicans distanced themselves from it as an extremist organization. Democrats condemned it. Comedians made jokes about it.

Welch is, posthumously, having the last laugh. His ideology has taken over a large segment of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News pundits are advocating the same sorts of ideas that the US laughed at in the latter days of the Eisenhower administration.

I guess I've become fixed in the mind set of my childhood. I still feel the peculiar mixture of fear and amusement those ideas elicited from me in 1960. On one hand I'm frightened that people can take this sort of nonsense seriously and on the other hand I can't help seeing its absurdity. Makes me wonder if time has passed me by. ...

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