Tea Party, Charles Coughlin, and “Social Justice”

James Taranto’s Best of the Web (link to latest edition available) always eminently worthwhile, has a few items today that I cannot resist commenting on.

AOL News reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is backing away from a USA Today op-ed he penned with his boss, Nancy Pelosi, last August (which we criticized at the time):

Hoyer said [yesterday] that he regretted calling vocal opponents of health care reform “un-American” but compared the angry rhetoric of some Republican leaders who goad them on to the fiery rantings of a controversial Depression-era priest sympathetic to the Nazis.

Hoyer just got carried away and misspoke. He doesn’t think you’re un-American. He’s the first to acknowledge you’re as patriotic as any red-blooded Nazi-sympathizing priest!

The priest in question is, of course, none other than the infamous Father Charles E. Coughlin. Coughlin’s radio show, at its peak, reached an audience of as many as 40 million listeners — in the age before television, he was truly a mass media phenomenon.

However, Steny Hoyer might want to be careful with trying to paint him as the Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh of his age:

  • Coughlin started out his career as an enthusiastic New Deal supporter, before throwing his weight behind Huey Long. His disagreements with FDR had nothing to do with distaste for intrusive government or belief in laissez-passser capitalism — quite the reverse.
  • his main slogan, and the title of his newspaper, was, get this: “Social Justice”.
  • Coughlin was a virulent antisemite by any definition of the word. While antisemitism is today a marginal phenomenon in the Conservative movement (to the point that even L. Ron Luap’s son, Rand Paul, feels compelled to repudiate his father’s crackpot ideas on Israel), it has sadly become — fashionably disguised as “anti-Zionism” and Third-Worldism — at the very least respectable on the liberal left. [I hasten to point out that Steny Hoyer himself, whatever his faults, is a vociferous supporter of Israel.]
  • Coughlin was on the other side“anti-war”. Enough said.
  • In sum, Coughlin would find more in common with today’s Loony Liberal Left than with your average Tea Party demonstrator.

Claiming Charles Coughlin and the modern Tea Party movement have anything in common is like saying Jack Russell Terriers and Great Danes are very similar, since they both bark as well as have four legs, two ears, and a tail.

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