Whats a Wingnut? Its someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum - the professional partisans and the unhinged activists, the hardcore haters and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. Theyre the people who always try to divide us instead of unite us. Wingnuts looks at the outbreak of extremism in the opening years of the Obama administration from the unprecedented government spending that spurred the Tea-Party protests to the onset of Obama Derangement Syndrome. John Avlon explains how hate-fueled rumors take hold (one section is called How Obama Became Hitler, a Communist and the Antichrist), looks at the hunt for heretics that is taking place inside both parties and details the rise of hyper-partisan media. Avlon profiles preachers who are praying for the presidents death, goes inside the growing Hatriot movement and parallels the Birthers and the 9/11 Truthers. The book compares current merchants of political paranoia with past fear-mongers and finds that divisive demagogues have sold this snake oil before.
But the two parties increased polarization and the echo-chamber of the internet are helping the fringe blur with the base, making the Wingnuts more powerful than ever before. We are allowing paranoids, hysterics and hyper-partisans to hijack our politics but it doesnt have to be this way. Avlon asserts that centrists need to stand up to the extremes on both sides and declare their independence. The book ends on a hopeful note the conclusion is How to Take America Back from the Lunatic Fringe.
John Avlon is senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He lives in New York City.