Anti-immigrant groups like the “Minutemen” vigilantes are not only proliferating, but are rapidly beginning to resemble the white-supremacist and anti-government militias that have populated the netherworld of the Radical Right since the early 1990s. Adding insult to injury, the farcical conspiracy theories that circulate among both extreme nativist groups and right-wing militias are now being mainstreamed by commentators on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. Although the various strains of far-right extremism have by no means coalesced into a single movement, the ideological lines that once distinguished them have begun to blur.
As a result, it is not uncommon to find Minutemen deriving ideological succor from Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, and Glenn Beck as they stockpile weapons to defend against what they believe to be a secret plot by the Mexican government to “re-conquer” the southwestern United States—and another secret plot by the U.S. government to impose socialism under the leadership of a president who they believe to be an “illegal alien” from Kenya rather than a native-born U.S. citizen from Hawaii.
That is the portrait that emerges from a report released yesterday by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) entitled The Second Wave: Return of the Militias. The new SPLC report comes on the heels of a June report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, Confronting the New Faces of Hate, which details the recent rise in hate crimes directed against immigrants, Latinos, and racial minorities in the United States, as well as the role of mainstream media commentators in fanning the flames of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino hatred. The SPLC report also provides details which supplement the findings of an April report by the Department of Homeland Security on the growing threat posed by right-wing extremists who are driven by white-supremacist and anti-immigrant ideology.
The image presented by these reports of heavily armed white supremacists being cheered on by a CNN commentator is terrifying enough, but even more terrifying in many respects is the fact that some Members of Congress are cheering them on as well. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) plays to delusional yet typical far-right conspiracy theories in warning that the Obama administration is engaged in a “final leap to socialism” and plans to put young people in “re-education camps.” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) attempts to appease the so-called “birther movement” by saying that it “has a point” in claiming that President Obama is not actually a native-born citizen of the United States.
Other politicians would do well not to follow the example set by Bachmann and Inhofe of pandering to the radical right-wing fringe and validating its ideology of hate. As a new report from the Immigration Policy Center details, the ranks of Latino, African American, and Asian voters grew by nearly 5 million between the 2004 and 2008 elections. Moreover, the rapid rise of Latino and Asian voters in particular occurred in electorally important states such as Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina. These newly mobilized voters are unlikely to be impressed by candidates whose campaign rhetoric is more attuned to the membership of white-supremacist militia groups than to the demographic realities of the modern United States.