By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The contest for the 30th Congressional District of Texas has taken Dallas back to its cuckoo-town roots in a way nobody here has seen since 1963.
First, U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, the incumbent Democrat, went on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and insisted she had done nothing wrong by diverting scholarship money from deserving students to her own grandchildren, arguing in her own defense that there aren't that many deserving kids in her district.
Second, The Dallas Morning News, proud author of the scholarship exposé, got so mad at her for being unrepentant in an editorial board meeting that it endorsed her Republican opponent, Pastor Stephen F. Broden, about whom it admitted it knew little.
Way too little.
Broden, a black political neophyte with strong Tea Party ties, was best known for serving as Glenn Beck's racial beard before he went postal in an October 21 interview with WFAA-TV reporter Brad Watson and advocated violent revolution.
The shock waves from Broden's to-the-barricades speech went national instantly, caused the Morning News to withdraw its endorsement and gave Dallas the kind of political attention it hasn't enjoyed since people were downtown spitting on Adlai Stevenson.
Lost in all of the excitement, perhaps, is another important reality: Even with Broden self-crippled, the 30th District race is still absolutely upside down from where it should have been.
It should have been "Broden who?"
Broden's previous political experience was limited to a stint as a Republican precinct chair in suburban middle-class DeSoto, where he lives with his wife. He is the parent of three adult children.
He has always had strong ties to white conservative Christians. It was not surprising he was invited to address a rally called "America's Awakening" in North Richland Hills on June 11, 2009—part of a national political organizing effort spawned by conservative Fox TV pundit and talk-show host Glenn Beck.
In his address, Broden made the inflammatory statements that came back to bite him in the Brad Watson interview. Even though Watson gave him some chances to back out, Broden nevertheless insisted in the interview that, "Our nation was founded on violence."
When Watson asked him if he still thought violent overthrow was a legitimate option in 2010, Broden said, "The option is on the table. I don't think we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedom."
The remark came at the tail-end of a long, sometimes dry, even wonkish speech in which Broden first went on at great length about the need for citizens to seek change through constitutional means.
After the WFAA interview hit the fan, Broden and his campaign sought to pull it back with some instant revisionism. He only invoked violence, they said, as a philosophical and historical reference, as if the whole thing had been a lecture on John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government."
But no amount of revisionism can erase a key perspective from Broden's larger view of America. It's a thing The Dallas Morning News editorial board would have spotted, by the way, had it surveyed his views on abortion before endorsing him. (More on that later.)
Stephen Broden preaches that all of the nation's ills are the product of conspiratorial plotting by an evil "other," which he variously describes as Marxists, Fabian socialists, atheists and "Darwin atheists."
An interesting but overlooked aspect of his North Richland Hills speech is that he was almost as hard on elite Republicans as on elite Democrats. He blamed everything bad that has happened to America in recent years short of Hurricane Katrina on "the Godless imagination of Saul Alinsky" (a pioneering community organizer in the 1950s and '60s) and on "a godless elite...a power elite who will arbitrarily determine for us what is right versus what is wrong and what we should be doing at their behest."
In speeches and in person, Broden comes across as a person always trying to contain himself but always letting the cat out of the bag anyway. In the North Richland Hills speech, for example, he started by repeatedly invoking America's "Judeo-Christian heritage," but at key moments the Judeo part bit the dust. Instead he talked about "The Christian worldview, which is evident in the Declaration of Independence and the framing of our government," all of which would have been news to the framers. After all, it was Thomas Jefferson, whom the Tea Party loves to quote, who said, "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
In the North Richland Hills speech, Broden offered an off-the-cuff version of the Holocaust in which he said Jews died in German furnaces because of their own passivity and naivete, which he compared to American society today:
"It is almost that we are stunned in amazement at what they [the elites] are doing. Let me tell you, that is something that happened in Germany when the Jews were walking into the furnaces, and they walked in there and didn't even try to stop or fight their way. They walked in, because they did not believe that this was happening. They didn't believe that humanity could be so evil, so downright ugly, and they just walked into the furnaces believing that the people would do right. I am submitting to you that that's where America is right now."