Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bennett - Party of Fear

Bennett, David Harry. The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

Bennett periodizes extremist Right movements in American history. He argues nativism was the unifying trait until the 1921 immigration quotas closed the door to the flood of immigrants. In the 1930s, inverted nativism attacking elites began to appear, culminating after World War II with McCarthyism. Throughout the Cold War, communist conspiracy theories most prominently the John Birch Society abounded on the extreme right, though never taking up the nativist strains that they had in 1919. Bennett charts the rise of the New Right, particularly the Religious Right of Buchanon, Falwell, et al - their brief decline and the end of the Moral Majority in 1990, and their reemergence as the Christian Coalition during the Clinton Presidency. The religious right warned that the govt was being steered in an amoral and evil direction away from tradition family values. More anti-govt were contempoary the militia movements. The book ends on the verge of the 1996 election.

Thus, we see a broad period of Nativism (Know-Nothings to first Red Scare to 20s KKK), followed by inverted Nativism (Father Coughlin, Gerald LK Smith) stretching into the Cold War (McCarthyism). Cold War conspiracy theories morphed into anti-govt conspiracy theories (John Birch Society), blending with the rise of the religious right lead to movements ranging from the mass movements of the televangelists to neo-Nazis to Militias to the tiny movements of Christian Identity (Jesus was not a Jew, Americans are God's true chosen people).

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