The Birchers Are Back at CPAC

It’s CPAC time again—the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual Washington cattle call begins Friday. This year, they’ve attracted an all-star lineup in a bid for renewed respectability: a half-dozen GOP presidential hopefuls (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, etc.), conservative congressional leaders, a keynote address by Glenn Beck. And co-sponsorship by the John Birch Society.

Wait, what?

The John Birch Society—a stridently anti-communist, paleo-conservative group—was exiled from the mainstream conservative movement back in the 1960s because of its penchant for conspiracy theories. The group had a starring role in Richard Hofstadter’s classic The Paranoid Style in American Politics, and founder Robert Welch infamously described President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a “dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.”

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