Frameworks for Conceptualizing the US Political Right

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1 Portions of this section first appeared in "Three Models for Analyzing Conspiracist Mass Movements of the Right," in Eric Ward, ed., Conspiracies: Real Grievances, Paranoia, and Mass Movements, (Seattle, Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment [Peanut Butter Publishing], 1996. ).

2 The paranoid conspiracist feature of the US right is described by Richard Hofstadter in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (and Other Essays), New York: Knopf, 1965.

3 As discussed throughout, social movement theory is a broad popular term for a collection of analytical models which examine the mobilization of groups of people seeking to change the social or political system. The term "social movement theory" is used in the generic sense to encompass the basic elements of several academic schools including, "Resource Mobilization Theory," the "Political Process Model," and "New Social Movements Theory," among others. Apologies to those in academia for this amalgam, but the paper is aimed at field organizers confronting bigotry and hate.

4 Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance: The Aims & Methods of America's Political Intelligence System. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1980; p. 14. See also generally: Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Political Repression in Urban America, Berkeley: University of California, 1991.

5 A seminal work in shaping the Cold War theory of the front is William R. Kintner, The Front is Everywhere, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950, in which Kintner lays out his analysis of the communist style of subversion as that of a "Communist Fifth Column" involved in otherwise legal "political activity."

6 Donner, Age, p. 14.

7 Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F. D. R. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. , Random House, Inc. , 1955); Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963); Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, Danger on the Right. (New York: Random House, 1964); Daniel Bell, ed., The Radical Right: The New American Right Expanded And Updated, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc. , 1964); Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965); Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970).

8 Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, p. 278.

9 Lyons, "Liberal/Centrist Responses to the Far Right," working paper for Too Close for Comfort, 1994; citing Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. II, The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947-1950 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp.109-17.

10 Diamond, "How `Radical' Is the Christian Right?" The Humanist, (Watch on the Right column), March/April 1994.

11 Fred W. Grupp, Jr., "The Political Perspectives of Birch Society Members;" and James McEvoy, III, "Conservatism or Extremism: Goldwater Supporters in the 1964 Presidential Election;" both in Robert A. Schoenberger, ed., The American Right Wing: Readings in Political Behavior, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969). Charles Jeffrey Kraft, A Preliminary Socio-Economic & State Demographic Profile of the John Birch Society, (Cambridge, MA: PRA, 1992).

12 Himmelstein, To The Right: p. 5.

13 James A. Aho, "A Library of Infamy," Idaho Libr. Vol. 41 No. 4, p. 86; citing to his then forthcoming book, The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism, (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1990).

14 Abbe L. Ferber," Reconceptualizing the Racist Right," in Ward, Conspiracies.

15 Raphael S. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, (New York: Viking (Penguin), 1995), p. 321.

16 Ibid. p. 321.

17 For criticism of the original academic idea that a conspiracist "radical right" is somehow far outside the electoral system (called centrist/extremist theory or the pluralist school), see Michael Rogin, The Intellectuals and McCarthy: The Radical Specter, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967), pp. 261-282; Curry and Brown, eds., "Introduction," Conspiracy, pp. vii-xi; Ribuffo, The Old Christian Right, pp. 237-257; Margaret Canovan, Populism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981), pp. 46-51 179-190; Jerome L. Himmelstein, To The Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 1-5, 72-76, 152-164. Diamond, Roads to Dominion, pp. 5-6, 40-41; Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion: An American History. (New York: Basic Books, 1995). pp. 190-193; William B. Hixson, Jr., Search for the American Right Wing: An Analysis of the Social Science Record, 1955-1987, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 10-48, 77-123, 273-292.

For statistical data that refutes claims made by centrist/extremist theory about the social base of the "radical right," see Rogin, The Intellectuals and McCarthy; Fred W. Grupp, Jr., "The Political Perspectives of Birch Society Members;" and James McEvoy, III, "Conservatism or Extremism: Goldwater Supporters in the 1964 Presidential Election;" both in Robert A. Schoenberger, ed., The American Right Wing: Readings in Political Behavior, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969); and Charles Jeffrey Kraft, A Preliminary Socio-Economic & State Demographic Profile of the John Birch Society, (Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates, 1992). See also: Diamond: "How `Radical' Is the Christian Right?" The Humanist, (Watch on the Right column), March/April 1994.

18 For an introduction to various contemporary academic views, see: Aldon D. Morris and Carol McClung Mueller, eds., Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992); and Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); John Lofland, Social Movement Organizations: Guide to Research on Insurgent Realities, (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996.

Christian Smith, "Correcting a Curious Neglect, or Bringing Religion Back In," in Christian Smith, ed., Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social-Movement Activism, (New York: Routledge, 1996), p.3.

19 The four elements of social movement theory described here are based on language developed by John C. Green of the Ray Bliss Center at the University of Akron, Ohio, and presented as a paper in New York City in 1995 at a symposium hosted by Lumiere Productions.

20 Michael Rogin, The Intellectuals and McCarthy: The Radical Specter, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967. Rogin was not the first to propose a new analytical model to replace pluralist/extremist theory, but his influence in the debate is clear.

21 Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford, 1995.

22 Examples of other groups and persons who use social movement theory include, The Data Center, The Resource Center, Political Research Associates, Coalition for Human Dignity, NACLA, Applied Research Center, and progressive analysts such as Holly Sklar, Ward Churchill, and Adolph Reed, Jr., etc.

23 The author is indebted to Matthew N. Lyons for permission to draw from a working paper, "Liberal/Centrist Responses to the Far Right," (1994), relating social movement theory to radical analysis of right-wing movements. Lyons' paper is woven into a chapter in the forthcoming book: Chip Berlet & Matthew N. Lyons. Too Close for Comfort: Rightwing Populism, Scapegoating, and Fascist Potentials in US Political Traditions, Boston: South End Press, 1996.

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