Rachel Maddow and WSJ Columnist Paint Tea Party Revelers as Secessionists

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow thinks “it’s beginning to feel a little like 1860” after some participants of an Austin, Texas tea party shouted “Secede!”

On “The Rachel Maddow Show” April 16 Maddow and her guest, author,Wall Street Journal columnist and Huffington Post blogger Thomas Frank, lumped tea party protesters together as “extremists.” Frank even called them “lunatic fringe.”

“One of the surprising things about these tea parties – surprising to people like you and me -- is how mainstream extremism is in the Republican Party. And in the conservative movement.” Frank said. “You, know this goes back quite a ways, this goes back to, to, well  –  when the conservative movement discovered populism. Discovered how to start marketing itself to a mass audience it sort of took this extremist bent and it never looked back.”

Maddow asked Frank why “ambitious” politicians like Texas Gov. Rick Perry are “flirt[ing] with this stuff now.”

“Obviously Obama and the stimulus package and the deficit stretching, you know, from here to eternity, you know. Republican rank and file is not happy about this and they’re of course pandering to the base, they’re pandering to the kind of people that turn out for primary elections,” Frank replied as video footage of Perry was shown onscreen. “Look, they’re, they’re  – they they’re trying to speak to the movement.”

But after criticizing Perry for “pandering,” Frank elaborated his views on the tea party protests and delivered unnamed criticism to FOX News for “embracing” right-wing extremists.

Sarcastically, Frank said: “You know Rachel, I don’t know if you know about this but there’s this competitor of yours that has come out -- there’s this other network  –  that’s you know, really, really, really strongly in embracing the tea parties [Frank was trying not to laugh] and this kind of, you know, lunatic fringe. [Footage of Rick Perry shown onscreen again] And they want that network  –  they want really, really badly they want that network to like them.”

Maddow then asked “if there is not a risk of being called un-American here. I mean they do literally want to break up the country, right?”

According to the April 17 Austin American-Statesman, Perry “stuck by his earlier statement that Texas can secede,” but the Texas governor has not “endorsed” the idea.