In recent weeks the thundering Ron Paul freight train has kind of derailed. Even though Paul announced that he was ending his campaign on March 8, his supporters are apparently convinced that he's still a viable candidate, despite his repeated public statements that they should move on and try to do some good working within the GOP. Nonetheless, many of them are pushing for a final surge and a surprise (and entirely delusional) victory at the GOP convention this summer. Admittedly, Paul is still making a lot of speeches and pushing his agenda, so maybe that's contributing to their confusion, but he's made it pretty clear he's campaigning for his ideas not an office.
Yet if anyone had any question about the viability of Paul as a national candidate, the issue ought to be put to rest by his recent decision to leap boldly onto the electrified third rail of politics and accept an invitation to be the keynote speaker at this fall's 50th annual convention of the John Birch Society.
For those not already familiar with the John Birch Society, it is a secretive and rather paranoid extreme-right organization which was originally founded in the era of Joe McCarthy's witch hunts to help root out the communist infiltrators who infested American society. Those communists were easy to spot because they were all immigrants or blacks or Jews, plus the occasional homosexual. The Birchers have always been big on 'real' American values and good at finding imaginary windmills to joust at. They borrowed a lot of ideas from their enemies in the process, including much of the methodology and organizational structure of Soviet covert operations of the Stalinist era, with a well developed propaganda machine, multiple front groups, and a cell-like organization.
The Birchers kind of lost their way during the 1980s and 1990s, eclipsed by the rise of the religious right and losing focus with the fall of communism, but today they are back and stronger than ever, riding a wave of conspiracy fanaticism which has grown from seeds they've been nurturing for years. They're still racists and anti-Semites and nativists and isolationists and conspiracy obsessed. Their followers are fanatics and the organization has a lot of the characteristics of a cult. Many participants are intensely religious and the membership has a lot of overlap with groups like Christian Identity. I give them credit for putting up a fairly reasonable seeming front on their website, but if you read their publications, email lists or blogs you see what issues really excite them.