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In his October 18 Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne discusses the Republican's "three-level campaign this year," which provides GOP candidates with "a wealth of advantages." The "first level" of the campaign strategy, according to Dionne, is "the party's candidate," the second level is "the outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists," and the third level consists of "Glenn Beck and his allies" who "cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate." From his column:
The Republican Party is running a three-level campaign this year that gives its candidates a wealth of advantages -- in flexibility, deniability and determination.
At the first level are the party's candidates, who can be as reasonable or as angry, as moderate or as conservative, as their circumstances require.
Next come the outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists. They are doing the dirty work of pounding their Democratic opponents in commercials for which no one is accountable. The Republican candidates can shrug an innocent "Who, me?" Deniability is a wonderful thing.
And then, on the far right, Glenn Beck and his allies cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate.
Their crackpot ideas, as the historian Sean Wilentz documented in the New Yorker recently, originated in the 1950s and '60s, in the paranoid theorizing of the John Birch Society. But whereas responsible conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. denounced the Birchers and the rest of the lunatic fringe back then, Republicans this time are riding the radical wave. In some cases (think Sharron Angle in Nevada), the extremists are their standard-bearers.