The Values Voter Summit, the annual event that brings together social conservatives and GOP politicians, has welcomed the far-right John Birch Society to sponsor a booth at the event’s exhibit hall this year, according to a list on the event’s website.
JBS has long been at least nominally exiled from the conservative mainstream thanks to its history of paranoia and racism, but has recently begun to get a toehold in some conservative establishment events. The group was allowed to sponsor a table at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2010 but was booted from the event in 2012 amidst criticism.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in 2013, “Once considered by the right and the left as the political equivalent of an addled uncle sent down to the basement rec room to drink, rant and hopefully pass out before saying anything too nutty in front of the guests, in recent years the John Birch Society has been invited back upstairs and has even hosted a dinner party or two.”
JBS is probably best known for its decades-long obsession with fighting the communist infiltration of America, at one point even accusing President Dwight Eisenhower of being a communist agent. The group is still fighting what it sees as stealth communist infiltration, but in a different form; JBS CEO Arthur Thompson told SPLC in 2013, “While we’re sitting here proclaiming communism is dead, it’s growing everywhere and rapidly. It’s flourishing under different names, like the Muslim Brotherhood.”
SPLC provides some highlights of JBS’s troubling history:
Charges of racism and anti-Semitism have dogged the John Birch Society since its earliest days. It opposed civil rights legislation in the 1960s, saying the African-American freedom movement was being manipulated from Moscow with the goal of creating a “Soviet Negro Republic” in the Southern United States. The society was a close ally of Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace and reportedly had 100 chapters in and around Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, as well as chapters across the rest of the state. Thompson, the group’s CEO, said the society has never been either racist or anti-Semitic, going so far as to add that once a member is discovered to harbor such views he or she is immediately “booted out.’’
In 2009, Rachel Maddow went into depth on the group’s record, including its opposition to public water fluoridation. More recently, JBS’s magazine, The New American, published an article that blamed the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting on “the assault on white men” in America that includes offenses from “‘affirmative action’ to massive Third World immigration.”
The Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council and sponsored by the American Family Association, American Values and others, is the premier social conservative event of the year and often attracts leading GOP politicians, including presidential candidates. Now, along with mingling with some of the most extreme anti-gay, anti-choice and Christian nationalist activists in the country, these politicians will now be standing side-by-side with the John Birch Society.