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Facing a 'Groundswell'

If you've ever found it curious that far-right media activists all seem to say the same thing at the same time about the same issues, it's not your imagination.
Ginni Thomas
Ginni Thomas

If you've ever found it curious that far-right media activists all seem to say the same thing at the same time about the same issues, it's not your imagination. David Corn offers an explanation.

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington -- including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner -- has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for "a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation," according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell -- including aides to congressional Republicans -- cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and "clueless" GOP congressional leaders.

There's quite a bit to Corn's scoop, including the fact that Groundswell really has no use for Karl Rove's effort to protect more electable Republicans in GOP primaries.

There's also quite a cast of characters at play, led in part by Ginni Thomas, and including an ignominious assortment of cringe-worthy clowns, including former ambassador John Bolton, former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Ken Blackwell, Frank Gaffney, Jerry Boykin, and Capitol Hill staffers, including a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Groundswell has collaborated with conservative GOPers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Cruz and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a leading tea partier. At its weekly meetings, the group aims to strengthen the right's messaging by crafting Twitter hashtags; plotting strategy on in-the-headlines issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, and the sequester; promoting politically useful scandals; and developing "action items."

That may make Groundswell sound kind of scary, but there's reason to believe these right-wing activists -- surprise, surprise -- aren't especially sharp.

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics: "We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, 'GOP,' 'Tea Party,' 'Conservative' communicate 'racism.'" The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: "Fredrick Douglas Republican," a phrase, the memo noted, that "changes minds." (His name is actually spelled "Frederick Douglass.") The meeting notes also stated that an "active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them" with "vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight."

The right's preoccupation with manufactured fake scandals, however, is coming into sharper focus.

The notes from the March 20 meeting summed up Groundswell griping: "Conservatives are so busy dealing with issues like immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts there is little time left to focus on other issues. These are the very issues the Left wants to avoid but we need to magnify. R's cannot beat Obama at his own game but need to go on the offense and define the issues." The group's proposed offensive would include hyping the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking controversy, slamming Obama's record, and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal.

To be sure, there's nothing illegal or necessarily untoward about this kind of coordination, but the fact that these folks feel the need to get together to plot and scheme, as part of their perceived "war" with the left, explains quite a bit about the problems with much of the political discourse.