Aren’t They All Dead?
When I talk about my experiences inside the John Birch Society, people often tell me, quite emphatically, that the Birch Society has absolutely no influence contemporary politics. Republicans, in particular, can be really hostile when I suggest that GOP Senators, Representatives, and Governors sound very John Birch.
“No way,” they say, “Birchers are all dead, aren’t they?”
I try very hard to burst their bubble. I remind them that they have a very, very right-wing (I would say radical) majority in the House. The Senate has their own group of right-wingers on the GOP side of the aisle. The proof of their radical views is not hard to find. In fact, they’ve embraced so many John Birch policy ideas, I can hardly keep count.
Birch Ideas Embraced by the GOP
I’ve written extensively about the John Birch Society policy ideas that are now mainstream talking points for the Republican Party. Here are a few that define today’s right-wing GOP:
- Tax cuts and more tax cuts: everything will be perfect when government revenue is cut.
- The IRS is unconstitutional. All they do is rob the people of what they earn.
- Progressive legislation is socialism. It must be repealed if we want to be free.
- The right to bear arms is essential to protecting all of our other rights.
- Guns are the ultimate defense against a tyrannical central government.
- Abortion is wrong in all circumstances. Roe v Wade must be overturned.
- Public (government) schools brainwash children.
- Labor unions hurt workers and the economy by forcing employers to pay high wages for little work.
- Climate change is a hoax.
- The United States is a Christian nation.
- Most government programs should be given to the states to administer or privatized entirely.
- The free market works without government interference or regulation
Government Assistance Makes Poor People Lazy
In the last few election cycles, the Republican candidates have proposed dramatic cuts to programs that help poor people. Legislation to slash food stamps and reduce unemployment compensation, and reduce Medicaid has passed the House in each of the last few sessions. Paul Ryan has declared his own version of a “War on Poverty” which worries that assistance programs become hammocks that keeps able-bodied people from working enough to climb out of poverty.
Ryan embodies the principles that dominate Republican understanding of poverty:
- Poor people create their poverty by being lazy, uneducated, and morally irresponsible.
- Poor people will have more money when wealthy people have more money. Trickle down, as usual.
- Government programs don’t really work. Block-granting programs to the states and/or privatizing services are more efficient.
Ryan, and his GOP allies, insist that government programs have failed to move people out of poverty. But, they ignore the fact that they opposed, blocked, or refused to even consider the vast majority of legislation that would have increased assistance, created jobs, improved educational opportunity, and reduced childcare cost.
Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, sounds like a good Republican
Welch, who wrote extensively about American history (his version of it), heralded the turn of the 20th century (1900s) as the golden days of the United States.
He was delighted that in those great years, the US had not been poisoned by the abominations of the New Deal. Businesses could do as they pleased without those pesky labor unions or minimum wage laws. No one had ever heard of pollution, women’s rights or civil rights. And, best of all, the government was tiny and no one paid those dreaded income taxes.
Listen to Welch’s description of the first decade of the 1900s. “The spirit of growth, of adventure, and of opportunity permeated the very atmosphere which everybody breathed,” he wrote. He went on:
“There was still plenty of poverty in many areas, of course. But it was a HEALTHY KIND OF POVERTY, where every man took for granted that relief from dire want was entirely his own problem and responsibility. . .. And even the poverty was thus offset by the enormous blessing of freedom.” (John Birch Society Bulletin, July 1976).
The GOP Parrots Welch
Robert Welch called Social Security “a gigantic embezzlement.” His words are echoed today by such anti-social security men as Charles and David Koch, Rick Perry (GOP governor of Texas), Ron Paul (Libertarian darling and former GOP congressman from Texas). A whole gang of Republicans dream of privatizing Social Security–making the bankers happy and leaving Americans at the whim of Wall Street. As usual, the right-wing of the GOP is now parroting the views of Robert Welch and the John Birch Society.
In 1964, Robert Welch wrote about the necessities of life. “While food, shelter and clothing are necessities for an individual in a civilized community, the guarantee that he will always have them is not.”
Pay attention to drumbeat against assistance for those in need and you’ll hear Robert Welch. He’s Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump. Of course, these men will never need food stamps or unemployment compensation. They are, like most of our politicians, financially prosperous.
And, let’s not forget, these men take home big salaries and enjoy the best benefit package available. Some of these anti-government guys have spent most of their career working in the government.
Today’s GOPers are hell-bent on returning us to those glorious days when healthy poverty was everywhere and the government had no authority to do anything. In those halcyon days, the rich ruled and everyone else scratched whatever living they could.
Make no mistake: today’s Republicans are as radical as the John Birch Society and even more dangerous. This time around they have media support and corporate money–lots of it.
Find out more about poverty in the US and the way politicians talk about the problem . . .
Dave Johnson dives into GOP ideas to ease poverty. But, will they work? Check out his article here.
Coalition Against Hunger dispels myths about food stamps.
Joan Walsh looks at the GOP opposition to labor laws in her article “The Right’s Crusade Against Overtime Pay.”
Jane Mayer looks at the Kochs, their John Birch Society ties, and the right-wing opposition to minimum wage, unions, and labor laws. Plus, much more in this interesting New Yorker article that became the basis for her subsequent Koch Brother reporting and her new book, Dark Money.
Robert Hodge says
Thank you Claire for your recent update/post! Again, you’ve got them exposed to the light of truth, and like cockroaches they run for cover. Hopefully – and soon – (NOV. 4th!!) we will see these ideologues relegated to the proverbial ‘dustbin’ of history as what should have been the case after Obama trounced McCain in ’08 while pointing to the disastrous bush years.
In your posting above you mention that ‘politicians are financially prosperous’. I would add that they are financially prosperous SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE they graze at the public trough (174 thousand dollars per year,… to START?) to feather their own nests. Can you imagine if any one of them actually had to go to WORK and do a JOB?? I wonder just how many of THEM actually amassed their ‘fortune’ PRIOR to coming into “office”? We can pretty much be clear as to how they became ‘prosperous’ AFTER they arrived there…
Michael Fitch says
Claire, This is some of the most preposterous propaganda Ive ever seen. I cant believe anyone would even take it seriously. No one in the Republican Party has ever suggested, “We go back to the good ole days of child labor.” Your blog is a gross distortion of the truth. I don’t even believe you believe your own rhetoric. People like you and the John Birch Society create an atmophere of fear and distrust. Is there any wonder why the people of America and their representatives are so divided. I believe, much unlike yourself, that there can be common ground between conservatices and liberals. But that will probably never happen when supposed intelligent people lie and distort the truth for political gain. The only people that will agree with you are those people that are already drinking the liberal Kool-Aid. There may even be some of them that dismiss your propaganda. Tell the truth Caire, its good for your soul. I doubt you will have the courage to leave this comment up but you have to know your public stance will be confronted by those that seek truth regardless of politics.
Claire Conner says
“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.” JFK, 1960
Claire Conner says
I’m waiting for that “common ground” between conservatives and liberals. Where is it?
Taxes? Minimum wage? Healthcare? Gay rights? Civil rights? Voting rights? Food stamps?
Education? Infrastructure repair? Unemployment compensation? Unions? Equal pay?
Reproductive rights? Citizens United? Hobby Lobby? Medicare? Social Security?
Benghazi? Impeachment? Gun safety? Immigration?
Government shutdowns? Judicial appointments? EPA? Climate change?
Usually when the right cries about “common ground,” they mean — you do what we want and then we’ll agree.
Robert Hodge says
Claire. While this man may be entitled to his own opinion, he’s NOT entitled to his “own” facts. The ‘TRUTH’ is out there and you have detailed it. Just YESTERDAY, the senate blocked the ‘bank on student loans act’ which should tell this person a thing or two if he’s paying attention. He has not provided one ounce of proof for his position, and the proof of the liberal position(s) with regard to the abysmal state of CONservative politics is there for anyone with eyes to see! (I JUST gave an example – the bank on student loans act.) My message to Michael Fitch would be to PROVE your case, to me or any other. SHOW some examples (credible ones please, we get enough ‘examples’ from Faux Noise to fill a ball pit!) Unless you’ve buried your head in the conservative meme of late, you know the CONS have blocked any meaningful change since Obama took office. Just look at the debate/blocking of Obamacare from CONS all over the map as just another example. Want more? How about blocking the Equal Pay act, Voter Suppression, Union busting tactics in Wisconsin…? So called “CITIZENS” United which should be called ‘Corporations’ United….remember the ‘Corporations are people my friend’ from that shill Rombot? Should I go on? or did I make my point. The only ‘propaganda’ (or voter fraud for that matter) is coming from the “wrong” wing of the CONservatives. Read a book Mr. Fitch. Preferably NOT one from a Faux Noise vapid “news” anchor.
Sorry Mr Fitch, you are wrong Republicans have indeed started a return to the “good ole days of child labor”:
“The child labor changes range from a Wisconsin law ending limits on 16- and 17-year-olds’ work hours to an Idaho law letting 12-year-olds be hired for manual labor at their school for 10 hours a week. Lafer notes that a Idaho school district spokesperson said that would both cut down on labor costs and teach kids “you have to be on time” and “do what you’re asked …”
Additionally, the Governor of Maine, last year said:
“Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Tuesday that state regulations governing child labor are hurting the state’s economy, according to the Portland Press Herald.
“We don’t allow children to work until they’re 16, but two years later, when they’re 18, they can go to war and fight for us,” LePage said at an agricultural trade show, according to the paper. “That’s causing damage to our economy. I started working far earlier than that, and it didn’t hurt me at all. There is nothing wrong with being a paperboy at 12 years old, or at a store sorting bottles at 12 years old.”
Try again, Mr. Fitch. Do YOUR homework. Don’t make others do it for you. I found these with a simple Google search. Grow up, open your eyes, and realize that the Republican Party you remember is no more. It has been taken over by the likes of the Kochs and the Dominionists and repackaged John Birch Claptrap.
Thank you Claire for ringing the bell!
One more thing, Mr. Fitch…
How EXACTLY can there be common ground between you reasonable and right thinking conservatives and liberals if you believe that liberals are “drinking the Kool-aid”? Please. You’ve already decided that liberals are crazy.How can there ever be common ground?
You are drinking the Kool-aid. Child labor was never outlawed, and it would seem such laws only respect lame catholic parochial schools who want a student voucher subsidy.
“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid…These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school.” —Newt Gingrich on abolishing child labor laws
cynthia curran says
Well, I have been on the right and some have argued for child labor. Anyways, the lady that started the birther movement and I mention she was a Bircher, a conservative went on the truthers about 9-11. Actually a lot of the far right like Ron Paul and the John Birch said I was a racists. Minimum wage is definitely a placed for middle ground. The Blue states can be rise to 10 or more per hour and the cheaper cost Red States in the south can at least pay the workers at 9.00 hour. In fact Bush did a deal for the current minimum wage since the Democrats wanted one and he got his tax credits for the restaurant business and so forth but the current Tea Party thinks is a sin to rise minium wage period. I recently got employed again and needed food stamps and medicaid extension. My state of Arizona went for the extension by giving medicaid back to childless single adults while the Tea Party wanted a petition to reverse this. Another reason for me to leave the right.
Larry Retzack says
As I mentioned previously, your memoir is one of THE best I’ve ever read, on a par with Mary Johnson’s Unquenchable Thirst. All of the public policy issues that you mentioned and which need attention have been crushed by the GOP necon/radical right. People like Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, et. al. As I’ve aged–I’m 73–my political stance has moved a bit rightward, making me a social liberal but fiscal conservative. The amount of money America wastes on war/police actions, etc. is truly mind-boggling and pretty much since Vietnam or even Korea & WW II, has really done nothing to support justice, embrace morality, or anything of the sort. Claire, keep up your good work. If/when you write another book, I’ll be eager to read it.
Blaine Berhsad says
Larry & Claire,
I a bit younger, but it appears we are all in the same age group. I wonder about how quickly the country forgets Joe McCarthy and the House Unamerican Committee. I was born in 1952, but saw and heard many whose lives were negatively altered by these characters. I see the same thing coming alive again so I question the quality of our history courses..
Claire has the solution: we all need to teach!
Larry, I urge Claire to right more, but maybe we have to as well?
Our stories have different intonations, but are important for the youngsters to hear.
These demagogues can’t be allowed to gain an upper hand.
Dear Claire, what an amazing woman you are. I have been studying the Koch Brothers for some time. While saying they are anti communistic I believe they have adopted Stalin methods and combined it with Hitlers in the way her influenced and too\k over an unsuspecting country. I believe all their nonprofit think tanks provide them with expertise and opportunities the common man does not have. We need to organize and watch the people we do elect because we have seen the Dems hold blue till they get their seats and vote with the XL pipeline. We must ve vigilant. thankyou for helping to expose the beasts.
Robin Beelen says
Claire, I thank you for your book. My mother grew up in Marshfield, WI and my cousin knows your sister. I say all that because half of my family who still live in Marshfield and a few others who have moved have the same beliefs as the tea party. My cousin Cathy is the one who recommended your book to me. I was a liberal but even more so now. I am really scared because it seems like your message is vastly overshadowed by the money the Koch brothers are spending. I can’t even get many of their followers to read your book. Do you have any ideas how a regular citizen can change what is happening? I tell so many and they turn a deaf ear. Education in Arizona is being slashed again and more charter schools are being supported(I am a teacher). Anything you can tell me would help. I pray a lot for our country because it feels like our only hope and people like you who come out in the open to tell the truth. THank you,
Julia Jones says
Robin, I am afraid too for exactly the same reasons as you are. I come across the same roadblocks. I get on social media and I make my case for Claire Conner’s message. I use her link to this website so people can see. I’m becoming somewhat of an sleuth in identifying, investigating and calling out these Bircher extremists on FB. They never argue; they disappear. Were it not for Claire Conner, I would probably just ignore it and be in constant confusion. (All this absurd talk on the right about communism and socialism was driving me to drink!)
People ARE beginning to take note. Bernie Sanders is leading a political revolution. He often speaks of the Koch Brothers being “hell bent” on destroying the middle class. I’m supporting him financially and I don’t have a lot of resources. I’m going to work for Bernie in any way I can. I think I would be willing to risk my life to reverse this.
These Birchers are very smart and they are not crazy. They know exactly what they are doing. Ms. Conner, You are a great thinker of your time. You were somehow able to overcome the indoctrination of your parents and you are giving humanity a chance to survive. Global warming is looming over us; we haven’t any time to waste.
Robin Beelen says
Thank you Julia for what you are able to do. I find that usually when I list facts, the arguments stop. There are many fear mongers and that’s how they grab people. However,I see many are waking up. My concern now is what they have managed to do to education. They are running the show. President Obama did believe when he was elected and before that competition would really help our education in this country. Obviously it has not and greed and fraud have set in with privatization. He was trying to stop the funding for vouchers in D.C. but I don’t know if he held his ground or gave in. I know he said there has to be accountability with the money received which was not expected of charter schools before. I even saw a video that I believe was put out by ALEC and it is so disturbing and misleading. It is absolutely demonizing public education.
Just found your site after a friend mentioned reading your book. I’ve been saying for a few years now that the GOP has been taken over by the JBS. The Koch’s father was one of its earliest members as well. Fear of the UN, attacks on unions, fights against minimum wage and worker’s rights, repeal of meaningful regulations whether environmental or financial; really the list is too long to enumerate here. The point is, these are all either explicit JBS positions, or ones with which they would be on board with, and all in the name of freedom.
We used to dial the 800 number back in the 70s and listen and laugh at the silly “Let Freedom Ring” recordings. The positions sound silly to me today, however with the backing of several traitorous billionaires (and a few common run millionaires as well) the forces of reaction have purchased a train car of lip stick to slap on the pig of their philosophy.
Your voice will be an important one in bringing to light how dangerous and vacuous their ideas.
However, it is going to be a very long, very hard, uphill slog to turn the country around. Democrats for the most part seem to have had spine-ecotmies. And our media is by and large a product of the same corporations which we need to split up and regulate.
We are living in strange times indeed, the subject of one of the most extensive, well financed (apparently bottomlessly) social and political experiments in this history of the world.
Good luck with this.
Robin Beelen says
I agree Keith and have known it also for a long time. I attempt to explain to people, suggest they read Claire’s book, show them what is being done to education and unions and they don’t see what I am talking about at all. What will make them see? It is not just the Democrats…. many Republican friends of mine see this as normal right now. I think there must be something in somebody’s water. The Tea Party (AKA JBS) really has a well-oiled propaganda machine. They have an answer for any and all criticisms that makes perfect sense to many. Very scary for me.
Thank goodness I have found you and your experiences. At tiimes I have felt like I’m going crazy, connectiong John Birchers, the Koch Brothers, the Gop..and more. In the 1960’s my fathers best friend was a JB, and always at our house spouting his ideologies about minimal government control, and the Communist conspiracy.
My fatther eventually went to several meetings, finally he concluded this group is dangerous and nutty.Believe me, dad had many of his personal problems of his own,still he could see through the rhetoric.
As a teenaged girl, I overheard plenty and saw a multitude of JB material. I would listen to my dad and his friend heatedly debating for hours. Then I didn’t understand the full extent of the JB movement and ideology. Until the Tea Party and the Sarah Pallin’s of the world submerged. A bell went off..and the rhetoric was the say old lies, just reconstructed into a more pallative message for the time, and following the fears of 911. When President Obama was elected the flood gates of racism, and JB opened. Thank you for writiing your book. I have family and friends that have fallen for the BS and I am sure they think I am the one who is overreacting. How in the world does one educate someone that will not even open their own mind, and investigate on their own. They seem all to satisfied to listen to ideas that even will and have effected them negatively. Thanks again, Anita
Claire, Thanks so much for taking the time to share your life experiences in your book which I am not in the process of reading. In my way of thinking the JBS is as much a cult as several other organizations one of which I’ll name the LDS church which has among its members many John Birchers. Clean Skousen wrote the The Naked Communist and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there has been a long time working relationship between the John Birch Society and the Mormon Church. One thing for certain when ti comes down to who is going to rule the world there should be some interesting fireworks between the secular cults and the religious ones that are basically using the same rhetoric in their diatribes against liberals and progressive. I hesitate to use the left because as a liberal I don’t consider myself particularly leftist. I do consider myself to be very progressive and refuse to go back to those old days of rampant poverty and very little education. I refuse to pay for the same real estate twice and have no intention of watching the good people put on the streets when they reach the age where they can no longer work and thanks to the rabid right and their draconian policies have lost their homes. These people are more than scary because they are paranoid and delusional. I’m going to recommend your book to everyone I know. Keep up the good work and thank you for giving a voice to the dangers We the People are facing from men like the Koch boys.
I agree with one thing: we all (liberals) have to do whatever it takes to stop the radical right wing. One thing I’ve learned in life is that anything extreme never turns out well. I am basically a buddhist and that means walk the middle path. What we are looking at here is a group of people being controlled by their own fear. Fearful people look at the other and make them an enemy because they are different. I would invite these people to simply get more educated. Socialism sounds scary? Go study it, find out what it really means rather than relying on past programming from the fifties. Gay people scare you? Make friends, talk to them. Blacks scare you? Poor people? Liberals? Women? Feel powerless? Find out why. Don’t just attack life thinking you can wrestle the ‘bad’ stuff to the ground and win. And don’t (like us liberals) just run away from the issues or try and fight fear with fear. Understanding people! That’s what will gain us the advancement we are looking for. Understand the issues then speak out about it like Claire does. Good stuff!
Robert Hodge says
Thank you! Very well put. I couldn’t have said it better!